Review: ‘La Prisonniere’ by Malika Oufkir

By oldenglishrose - Last updated: Friday, August 20, 2010 - Save & Share - Leave a Comment

Malika Oufkir was born into a proud Berber family in 1953, the eldest daughter of the King of Morocco’s closest aide. She was adopted by the king to be a companion to his little daughter, and at the royal court of Rabat, Malika grew up locked away in a golden cage, among the royal wives and concubines.  But when Malika was eighteen, in 1972, her father was arrested after an attempt to assassinate the king. General Oufkir was swiftly and summarily executed. Malika, her beautiful mother and her five younger brothers and sisters were seized and thrown into an isolated desert jail. For fifteen years, they had no contact with the outside world, and lived in increasingly barbaric and inhumane conditions.  La Prisonnière is a heart-rending account of resilience in the face of extreme deprivation, of the courage and even humour with which one family faced their tormented fate. A shocking true story, it is hard to comprehend that it could have happened in our own times.  (Goodreads Summary)

Reading this book, it’s hard to believe that the events it chronicles happened less than 50 years ago. The story of Malika and her family is shocking, and rightfully so, but is told in a way which is dignified and matter-of-fact rather than the tabloid style, deliberately provocative narrative it could easily have become. I was amazed at how a book which is essentially the account of twenty years of monotony in jail was never tedious or repetitive. The account was a bit slow to get going and the very straightforward writing style which works so well later on seems a bit dull at first when describing family history and Malika’s earlier opulent existence at court. Of course, this could be due to the translator rather than the author, and this section is short enough that it doesn’t detract too much from the rest of the book.

La Prisonniere by Malika Oufkir and Michele Fitoussi.  Published by Corgi, 2001, pp. 397.  Originally published in French in 1980.

N.B. This is an old review written in 2010 and posted on Goodreads and LibraryThing before I started keeping track of all the books I read here at Old English Rose Reads.  I’ve decided to keep copies here so that this remains a complete record of my reading since I started reviewing books for my own pleasure.

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