The Arch and the Butterfly
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A moving novel of identity, extremism, culture and generational change set in modern-day Morocco.
earth-shattering deal, Al-Firsiwi bought the city’s only petrol station (manually pumped), the Al-Ghali mansion, Qatirah’s house, and seven rundown houses in the Hufra, Tazka and Khaybar quarters. He was paving the way for his rural kin to enter the city as conquerors. Barely a year had passed before the Idrissis and those referred to as the wealthy burghers of Fes – traders in cloth, foodstuffs and grain – had become mere servants in the nouveau-riche network led by Mohammed al-Firsiwi.
a century with the same woman– my wife, Bahia Mahdi, who I had met one winter morning in the 1970s, married the same evening, and realised before midnight that I had made a fatal, and irreversible, mistake. Before I lost my sense of smell, I could tell important details about the life of every woman I met based solely on the mix of scents I picked up. I could pinpoint her ambivalences, and their gradations. I would, for example, know roughly her age and the colour of her skin, the cosmetics she
Yacine laughed and asked me, ‘And the arch? Do you think it could save the toiling masses?’ ‘Yes, it would.’ ‘From what?’ ‘From getting used to killing imagination.’ He said, ‘You’re joking. The arch would only redeem a minor thing of concern to you, nothing else.’ Fatima arrived and Yacine withdrew, leaving a cruel sentence hanging in my mouth. She might have noticed its effect on my face, for she asked, ‘Are you just emerging from the heat of battle?’ ‘No, not at all. I was only arguing
I, which razed many of your cities. Consider the creative fertilisation between intersecting ruins. ‘German prisoners of war, among them Hans Roeder, my wife Diotima’s grandfather, excavated Walili from the bowels of the earth with the help of the local inhabitants of this mountain, descendants, most certainly, of extinct Roman lines. All that matters is genealogy. All the destruction and the extinction that befall civilisations do not matter, as long as there are descendants to one day remove
times to the present. ‘During the times of Severus, the district of the public buildings and the temple, in other words the Capitol, dedicated to the divine trinity of Jupiter, Juno and Minerva, was added to the city, as were the courthouse and the public plaza. ‘Watch your step. I apologise for drawing your attention to things I do not seem qualified to help you with, but the warning is mentioned in the guidebook. In other words, it is part of my responsibility. ‘We have arrived at the