Moroccan Desire

Two autobiographical novels by Abdellah Taia are available in English in the US. The Salvation Army (2009) and An Arab Melancholia (2012) are both published by Semiotext(e) and distributed by The MIT Press.

The Salvation Army begins the story of a young boy growing up in a large, poor family in Salé near Rabat. He idolizes his older brother and is inspired by him to study French literature. His initial sexual experiences are with other Moroccan boys and men.

His meeting a visiting Swiss academic allows him opportunities to travel to Europe and a scholarship to study in Geneva.  His first days living abroad are filled with disappointment and emotional turmoil.


Abdellah’s story continues in An Arab Melancholia. He is now living in Paris pursuing his life goal of making movies. His career involves trips to the Middle East and he recounts painful incidents from his adolescence and a two-year relationship with a somewhat older Algerian man in France.

For additional background about the author, I recommend the PEN conversation available on YouTube.

copyright © 2014 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

Western Refuge

Individuals of various persuasions look to Western Europe as a place of refuge from war, poverty, and persecution. However those who manage to complete the journey frequently face new challenges and hostility.

Eastern Boys directed by Robin Campillo (France) 2013 begins with an encounter at Gare du Nord between a middle-aged man and a teen hustler.

The two agree to meet for sex the following day in one of the suburbs of Paris but what follows is unexpected and far more complex than either imagined.


Salvation Army directed by Abdellah Taia (Morocco) 2013 is adapted from his autobiographical novel of the same name. Most of it takes place in Casablanca, where he grew up as a young boy drawn to other males and accepting of their sexual advances.

His homosexuality was neither openly discussed nor denied by other members of his large family or others around him. He follows the advice of his older brother to escape the confines of his native environment.

Salvation Army plays once more Tuesday 6 May 2014 during the final week of San Francisco International Film Festival 57. Contact the San Francisco Film Society for more information and tickets.

copyright © 2014 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved