18 Years in Morocco’s Secret Prison
By Aziz BineBine
Haus Publishing – £14.99
Children are children because our suffering protects them like a prayer.
I liked another sort of arithmetic: counting the raindrops when it rained. The roof leaked everywhere; every time, the cell would be flooded. A corner of the concrete block was the only place I could take shelter, bent double, my knees drawn up to my chin, wrapped up in my blankets, which were scant protection from the splashes. I’d sometimes spend a week like this, glued to my corner, motionless, frozen, paralysed, my only activity counting the raindrops, attempting to calculate the quantity of water pouring into the cell. Over one day, I’d reach dizzying amounts before losing myself in the maze of numbers and volumes. I’d give up for a while, the better to start again later; I counted to stop myself going mad.
[…] religion was so simple. There it was – beyond dogma and beyond men, who made it so complicated and so absurd.
Unwittingly entangled in a failed coup attempt against King Hassan II, Tazmamart – 18 Years in Morocco’s Secret Prison tells the true story of the author of this book, Aziz BineBine. And reading it, is oddly enough, akin to a kaleidoscopic journey of the most profound, introspective rendition of both poignancy and proportion.
Just one of the many reasons being: if you think we’ve got it bad having to live through (Britain’s shambolic) lockdown, then you really ought to read this book. Because economics aside, it will make you realise just how miniscule our realistic, everyday, yet intrinsically pathetic, purported problems are. Or, in the case of BineBine – who on page 83 states that ‘’happiness is relative’’ – are not.
The British author and television presenter, Barnaby Rogerson has since written that, Tazmamart is: ‘’a beautifully composed memoir that chronicles years of death and degradation in a secret state prison, yet also reads as the spiritual pilgrimage of an ascetic […].’’
The latter leaning towards ‘spiritual pilgimage’ being something of an idiosyncratic understatement, which, for all intents and solitary purposes, is surely all the more substantiated by the following: ‘’I was torn. I couldn’t bring myself to imagine the future. On the eve of momentous events, people usually surmise, imagine, hope. I could not. I clung to the present the way someone who’s been shipwrecked clings to his saviour. Was this common sense or terror? I had no idea. I adopted the pragmatism of ‘wait and see.’ It avoided so many questions and would spare me great disappointment in the end.’’
In the end, these 172 pages ultimately read as if some sort of unglamorous and unromantic version of The Shawshank Redemption, only without Morgan Freedman’s Red character to confide in or the ridiculously vile ‘Sisters’ to intrinsically despise.
All the more so because, life really ‘’is always reborn on the other side of despair.’’