‘The Canebrake’ by Mohammed Mrabet

The Canebrake by Mohammed Mrabet, 1969

The magic trick:

Reaching a familiar fable’s conclusion, but getting there in a surprising way

Difficult to know what to make of this one. It’s a fable that has a familiar conflict and conclusion. The means to the end are shockingly graphic, though. And the moral? Well, I think it thinks it’s selling a powerful feminist message. It’s… well, the popular word in 2018 as I write this is “problematic.” This story’s moral is problematic to say the least. But looking past any value judgments, we can certainly admire its ideas. Kacem’s wife gets what she wants. The way she manages that is remarkable and her actions generate debate, then embrace the debate. That’s the whole point of art.

And that’s quite a trick on Mrabet’s part.

The selection:

Kacem and Stito met every afternoon at the café. They were old friends. Kacem drank, and he had a wife whom he never allowed to go out of the house. No matter how much she entreated him and argued with him, he would not even let her go to the hamman to bathe. Stito had no troubles because he was a bachelor, and only smoked kif.

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