This Blinding Absence of Light, Hardback Book

This Blinding Absence of Light Hardback

4 out of 5 (2 ratings)


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This is a truly haunting tale, recounting an 18 year imprisonment for one of less than a dozen mid-level soldiers involved in an attempted coup attempt. The book is historical fiction, but tells a true tale that was secret until the 1990's when public pressure escalated that ended up forcing the regime to free the prisoners. The authoritarian regime in Morocco that foiled the coup engaged in some very brutal techniques and isolation underground of the prisoners.The book is really a tale of survival, mental, physiological, spiritual, and psychological competence and survival strategies. The author manages the common challenge when writing a 1st person recount of a many year history of how to jump from year to year by interspersing vignettes of the past and what led the participants to their current imprisonment.

Review by

Tar Ben Jelloun listened to the stories of one of the survivors of Tazmamart and then crafted those stories into a first person account of one man's experiences during his nineteen years of incarceration in the prison. A year after a failed coup d'état, 58 men were transferred from their normal prison to a new facility built underground as "a dungeon designed to be in eternal darkness." There they were placed in 6' x 3' cells where they could not stand upright, with a 4" hole in the floor as a toilet and a tiny pipe to the surface (shielded against light passing down it) for air.They were rarely tortured—instead, the intention was to let them die as slowly as could be contrived from the conditions in their cells...most of the original inmates obliged, as well as many political prisoners who were added later. They had no protection against the bitter cold and damp. They were given one small meal a day of watery starch noodles. They were given no medical treatment regardless of what happened to them. Men died from tuberculosis, starvation, scorpion bites (the cells were infested), eating tainted food and infections. The guards even watched as one man was even eaten alive by insects once he developed gangrene. Efforts were made to prevent them from committing suicide as an escape. All in utter darkness. Those who survived were crippled physically as well as emotionally; several went insane.Only after decades did a guard's leaked information lead to Amnesty International's intervention and the closing of the prison.The resulting novel is disturbing and moving, a testament to inhumanity and endurance. If you have a tolerance for reading this, I strongly recommend this book.

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