Book review : Salvation army by Abdellah Taia

Hi there internet buds,

After writing down my 2015 “to read” list, I thought i should probably make a review of each book on the list after reading it. So today’s post is about Salvation army by the talented Abdellah Taia. I read one of his books about two years ago, the book was called “Unfaithful” and I instantly fell for his pungent and scathing style. Salvation army is different since it talks about his own childhood, but what I admire about him is the ability to say the harsh truth just the way it is, without a single half measure, he doesn’t chew his words and lots of people around the world and in Morocco especially aren’t happy with it. I can understand their anger, to them he’s ‘filthy’, ‘zamel, ‘gay’… He talks about taboos and sex and reveals some of the cruel things that can happen to people in our society if they’re different. I don’t agree with all his ideas but I can totally understand his perception, what happened and still happens to him isn’t an exception, it happens to many people around Morocco and the world in general simply because they’re not following the society’s strict rules, because they don’t follow the group, because they’re from the LGBT community, divorced, single moms, handicapped… in one word: different.

“I am not saying here that my family didn’t love me, in their way. I am saying that Moroccan society always sacrifices the victim, the weak, the fragile, the poorest among the poor people … I understood one day that I would not be the victim they wanted me to be.”

“My childhood is also my mother screaming all the time, fighting all the time, dominating our world, trying to get us food to eat. She didn’t protect me but I am still in love with her. I admire her. She is everything I do.

“In my head, I am still in this atmosphere of sex and war between my mother and my father … I am fascinated and horrified, attracted and repulsed. And I know that this has influenced my life, my loneliness, my intelligence, my books.”

The guardian

One of the reasons why I like Abdellah is because he’s totally on a different planet, he’s starting a revolution, he’s creating awareness about the horrible homophobia going on in our society. Being a rapist, a harasser, a thief, an aggressor, an animal abuser… is better than being homosexual in homophobic people’s brains. Morocco is very homophobic in general, not everyone, especially the youth who’s more and more aware, but the society still has lots of narrow-minded people who bully others and see homosexuality as a horrible disease. “I would rather die than be gay, I’d rather be a dog” I think that’s the worst resentful idea a person can hold. When we look down on people, start making assumptions about their lives, start hating on them just because they’re different from what we would want them to be or just because they don’t fit inside our pre-made book called ‘how to be good according to X belief’… then we’re doing something way worse than just having a twisted sexual preference. “Being gay isn’t a choice. Hate is.” This poster was made by one of my classmates and friend called Marouane during a workshop at our school (ESAVM), and I liked it a lot so I thought I could share it. Thanks for the poster bud.

Poster by Marouane Hafit

When it comes to same-sex marriage or homosexuality, the only answer I can give when I’m asked if I’m with or against it is that what other people do or decide to make with their lives is their decision, not mine. I’m happy for anyone  looking for happiness, even if what makes him happy doesn’t necessarily fit the doctrines and visions I endeavour. As long as he’s not attacking me or challenging my own happiness and safety, he has my blessing. If your religion says that being gay is a sin, then don’t be gay, that’s it. Since you aren’t going to burn in hell and rot with the devils (z3ma), why would you have a problem with someone who probably will according to your narrow belief system (the belief itself isn’t perforce narrow, but the way you see it is)? Just let it be. All religions agree on one thing : faith is personal, and nothing we do must be obliged to others. Only God can judge, all we have to do is be the best version of ourselves and forget about other people’s lives and problems. Doesn’t life give us enough problems to worry about on our own? It’s almost like the motto of nowadays is “take everyone else’s problem and make it your own”. Excuse me to say this, but no, minding our own business should be the motto, taking care of our flaws should come first. If we’re selfish and arrogant enough to think that we have the right to start judging others, then we are saying that we are perfect, it’s like we turn ourselves into gods and angels, which we’re obviously not. The person who never sined can throw the first stone. We are humans and every human being is a sinner according to all religious beliefs. We all have things to work on, mistakes to forgive ourselves, flaws… So in the end, can we throw stones at people we think are ‘bad’ ? No.

Salvation army was released as a movie, i didn’t watch it but I’ll definitely look for it on the internet (it has been banned in Moroccan theaters for obvious reasons) and from what critics say, it’s very interesting. I don’t doubt it. The book is a shock, in all kinds of way, it talks about pedophilia, homosexuality, incest, sex, prostitution… but at the same time it’s an insight into Abdellah Taia’s vision of life and experience. Even if you’re against his ideas, or doesn’t approve all his positions, you’ll definitely feel something while reading the book. They say a book that gives feelings and emotions is a good read, anything that makes people talk and discuss and argue is worth talking about. That’s what I think about Taia’s work : he writes things to start discussion, to get us wondering, asking questions…It’s well thought, he wants people to change the way they see, think and judge homosexual people so he creates the buzz. Or maybe, he’s just sick of society, of people ‘throwing stones’, of judgments, of being treated differently because of his sexual preference… Either ways, i think he’s a genius.

Salvation Army was described in Out Magazine as “a gay coming-of-age novel” whose “perspective–rooted in the claustrophobic world of a poor Moroccan neighborhood–lends it freshness rare in English literature.” It was described by author David Ebershoff as one of the best gay books of 2009 and by Edmund White, who wrote the introduction to the American edition, as marked by “a simplicity that only intelligence and experience and wide reading can buy.” Variety called it “a bold coming out, unadorned by guilt or sensationalism and directly confronting Western expectations, at least in gay circles, of Arab youth as adornments rather than equal companions.


3 thoughts on “Book review : Salvation army by Abdellah Taia

  1. Nelly says:

    I like the poster and definetely agree with the message the slogan is delivering but I can’t help wondering if this is quite true : if love is not voluntay why hate should be ? I’m not sure how volontary are our emotions, but our acts do depend on us. What do you think ?

    1. Living simplyy says:

      Hate is most of the times under the influence of our pre-made judgements, faith system, religious beliefs, traditions… If we take away these influences, most people won’t have reasons to hate on homosexuals as an eg anymore. But you’re right, even if our emotions aren’t volontary, our acts and behaviors depend on us. So maybe all we can hope for is that people stop showing their hate, if they want to hate on someone, no one can stop them that’s for sure

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