Saber Mansouri: Je suis né huit fois [I Was Born Eight Times]

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The latest addition to my website is Saber Mansouri‘s Je suis né huit fois [I Was Born Eight Times], a Tunisian novel published last year. Sadly, it is not about the Tunisian Arab Spring, as it is set entirely in the last century, though there is a certain amount of satire on and criticism of corruption and dirty dealings in the Ben Ali administration. Mostly, it is about Massyre, the youngest of eight (he has seven older sisters). Massyre has to work various jobs to help the struggling family (his father lost his job when his public corporation was privatised to the benefit of the rich). We get a detailed account of these various jobs, including goat herding, collecting and selling rare snails, which are a delicacy, selling newspaper for wrapping paper and selling used clothes. But Massyre is intelligent and he is able to go to school, where he does well, except in maths and with the opposite sex. He manages to go onto university and become a teacher himself, teaching history and geography but his love life again goes awry. It is not a bad novel, even if Mansouri too often gets carried away in his descriptions and it certainly mocks and criticises the Tunisian government, but only mildly. It has not been translated into English and, frankly, I do not think that it will be.

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