by Tahar Ben Jelloun
translation by Linda Coverdale
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There is very little under the sun one can tell a Moroccan about sex if, as is likely, he or she has been exposed to an uncensored edition of The Thousand Nights and One Night. The fabled collection is full of forced coupling and pimps, swords used for erotic purposes, “kisses, bitings, huggings, twistings, great strokes of the zabb, variations, first, second, and third positions, and the rest.” It’s not just a carnal cornucopia; sex is the great nexus for jealousy, longing, and love. Sex, in these tales, is about power.
For the past thirty years, Tahar Ben Jelloun has managed to bring such a literary presentation of sex into a complicated, twenty-first-century context. Just as John Updike reminded Americans of the guilt and vertigo they sort out between the sheets, Ben Jelloun has chronicled the shame and secrecy
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