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My Torturess is the latest novel by Bensalem Himmich, Moroccan author and former Minister of Culture, to be translated by Roger Allen, who won the 2012 Saif Ghobash Banipal Arabic Literary Translation Prize for his Translation of Himmich’s A Muslim Suicide. A prolific and inventive author, Himmich weaves up-to-the-minute issues of extremism, corruption, courts, torture, rendition and suffering into a novel that is read with eyebrows almost continually raised in horror. The young bookseller Hamuda recounts in fast-moving detail how he was seized from his bookstore during Ramadan, drugged and helicoptered away to a single cell, falsely accused of being an extremist jihadist. He is hauled before a number of judges “for trials and examinations” and spends nearly six years in an unknown prison in an unknown country, suffering all manner of degradation and sexual depravity, interrogations – with his chief interrogator and debaucher a woman they call Mama Ghula (ghoul). All manner of cruelties are inflicted including mock executions, and he is drugged, raped, and brutally force-fed when he goes on hunger strike. Hamuda also appears to contract TB, and is forced to recite Qur’anic verses even though he is a devout Muslim. He takes part in a soirée-

cum-nightclub for all prisoners, and other activities that seem so outrageous they might even have been imagined by the bookseller as he tries to deal with his life turned upside down, all the while being totally innocent. A skilful novelistic judgement on the CIA special renditions after 9/11, there are also occasional shades of One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Translated by Roger Allen, Syracuse University Press, USA, April 2015. ISBN: 9780815610472, 225pp, Pbk, £18.50/ $19.95. M. Obank

Najwa Barakt’s Oh, Salaam! is set in an unnamed Arab country and revolves around three men and their relationship with a woman named Salaam. The three

202 BANIPAL 53 – SUMMER 2015

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