AUTHOR: Saïd El Kadaoui
PUBLISHER: Editorial Catedral
READER’S NAME: Alisa Newman
DATE: April 27, 2017
An epistolary novel presented in the form of a series of letters sent by a Moroccan immigrant in Barcelona to a friend who has returned to North Africa.
I found this to be a unique and timely book, given the sensitivity of the topic of immigration in Europe and the United States. In contrast to most immigrant chronicles, which focus on the hardships of immigrants struggling to make their way in a new country, this novel is presented from the point of view of a man who has met with great success in his adopted land and come to reject the culture that spawned him.
The protagonist of “No” arrived in Spain as a teenager, has pursued a successful career, is in a relationship with a Spanish woman, and feels alienated from and repelled by Morocco, his countrymen, his religion, and even Spaniards who express admiration for the Islamic world. Nevertheless, he recognizes that a part of him will always feel Moroccan and somewhat of an outsider in Catalan society. He fights against being boxed in inside one ethnic, racial or religious identity, complaining, “Let me be a man without any baggage besides my own.”
Compounding the protagonist’s frustration is his midlife crisis as he turns 40. His partner is pressuring him to start a family, but he resists having children, lamenting instead the fact that he has most likely passed the high point of his sexual prowess and exploits.
Part of the power of this novel is that it feels very personal and connected to the author’s own experiences. At the same time it deals with universal topics such as migration, identity and aging.