Dreams of Maryam Tair: Blue boots and orange blossoms

Dreams of Maryam TairDreams of Maryam Tair: Blue boots and orange blossoms
ALAOUI Mhani
Interlink, USA, 2015 , 341 pages

Summary

Summary

Dreams of Maryam Tair brings readers to a Casablanca of myth and metaphor, of curses, witches, djinns and demons. But it is also a very present-day Casablanca: a raw, pitiless landscape of crumbling urbanism and rusty ports, of bureaucrats and student revolts, and of a deep human solitude. During the Casablanca Bread Riots of 1981, a child is born to a mother surveilled and detained. She is born with the scent of orange blossoms and a body filled with pain. They call her Maryam Tair. A special, singular child, she is prophesized to carry three perfect gifts—and one relentless curse. Richly evoking a world where magic abounds and age-old secrets are revealed, Mhani Alaoui seamlessly interweaves stories ancient and forgotten with a sprawling multigenerational family saga.

Outside of time, the legendary queen Sheherazade tells a little girl a story that has happened, and is yet to happen :

“The world would have been a different place, had it not been dominated by men. Ever since Eve was created from Adam’s rib, the world has been a place where greedy men do not hesitate to destroy in order to gain even more power. But Eve is not the first woman to have existed; she is not the archetype. Before Eve, there was Lilith, created equal with Adam, at the same time as him. Lilith and Adam loved each other so much, they loved each other above God himself. The latter did not tolerate this subversion and asked for their submission. While Adam bowed to him, Lilith did not. Adam was given Eve, a docile companion, and Lilith was banished with her daughter, treated like an evil demon.

Yet, time has come for a new world order, the order of Lilith and her daughter, a time of rebellion instead of submission. A world of justice, where women are truly the equal of men, and as a result, a world where life in all its forms prevails.”

Sheherazade, a godlike yet so very human character, is the narrator of this story, she is the one the reader listens to, as well as the one who unfolds for us the universal narrative of women’s quest for justice, through the story of Maryam Tair.

Casablanca, in the 1970s, Leila (the Arabic for Lilith) and Adam Tair move back to Morocco after several happy years spent in Paris. For reasons she cannot explain, Leila felt the urge to go back to Morocco, but life there was harder than she thought. Their marriage was not well seen, she, the daughter of an old renowned and rich family, and him, the orphan boy who thought mathematics would save him. A few years after their return, in the early 1980’s, during the Bread Riots, Adam and Leila are arrested. Adam is released a broken man, and Leila a pregnant fearful woman.

Upon her release, as she is thrown out in the wilderness, Leila is sheltered by Zohra, and old woman who believes in magic and unspoken truths, a witch, according to many. Zohra has been waiting for Leila, and believes that the baby girl that lies in her womb is most special, a child against all odds, the One they have been waiting for, the daughter of Adam and Lilith. “She will change the world”, says Zohra.

Leila, physically recovered, finally goes home to her parents’ house, drawn by the scent of the orange tree in the inner courtyard. The scandal of her pregnancy is concealed, and it is announced that Leila is pregnant with her husband, Adam’s, child. Though Adam recognizes the child and gives her his name, he decides to marry Shawq, Hawa, or Eve, of her real name, without however granting Leila the divorce she requests and begs for. Leila kills herself. She leaves Maryam in the care of Zohra and of her old parents.

A different child with crooked legs, Maryam is indeed special. After an adventurous life, where Maryam always sought truth and truthfulness, she is arrested.

The year is 2011. The whole country is on fire. Maryam is being tried for subversion. Maryam is however no ordinary woman. Her trial will witness the triumph of justice, as the long ignored story of Lilith will finally be revealed.

[More details available upon request]

Excerpt

Excerpt

Summers were always hot in Casablanca. And that summer of 1981, the summer of the Bread Riots, was one of the hottest the city had ever known. Wave upon wave of heat hit the city, the price of bread soared, and the balance tipped.

While the old Centre Ville tried to slumber through its remaining days, students and factory workers, dreamers and the unemployed raised their banners and voices in front of its white walls and gardens. They rose against a world that had forgotten about them. They left behind them their blackened homes in the slums and working-class districts, in the Old Medina, the Sultan’s Hub, the Prophet’s Cave, and in the Central Quarries, where nothing was ever mined, and they marched into the city. And so the city burned.

There was no joy and barely any hope in their uprising. In Casablanca’s streets, raw life was at stake. This was not a celebration of a world to come but a grim march against a failed way of life. And the riots—because this was Casablanca— were doomed to fail. For this was a city where history surprised itself, a city that never saw a triumphant victory or a clear defeat.

Grey were the days, years, and eras. Ups and downs, climaxes and nadirs were all suppressed under a monotonous rhythm that could kill time itself. Things simply disappeared or ceased to be relevant.

Casablanca was a city of shades and shadows aspiring toward forgetfulness and dreamless sleep. Already, since that morning, the cracks on the elegant prewar buildings had deepened, and an ashen residue had settled on the facades. In a matter of hours, a dark green moss had grown on the newly formed crevasses.

Soft and inviting from afar, the decaying Centre Ville had aged a hundred years in one day.

 

Rights

Rights

RAYA has world rights to this title.

Check Mhani Alaoui‘s page for an updated rights situation.

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