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4.0 out of 5 starsExperience Morocco without actually going there.
Reviewed in the United States on August 23, 2017
I was actually in Morocco when I was reading it. That helped! The rhythm, method and pace of the storytelling perfectly defines the Moroccan experience. If an American is going to just pick this up and read it like an American novel, that reader may become frustrated with its lack of direct and constant forward moving action. But if the reader wants to immerse himself in Moroccan life, this is the book. For me, it was perfect. A couple of tourists appear in the medina (marketplace) one night, then disappear. Everyone sees these people differently and has different parts of the story to tell. The storyteller of the title weaves these disparate stories together to determine what happened. Why? His brother sits in jail convicted of murder. I would add, if I may, that a trip to Morocco (and not just the northern parts) is well worth the experience.
5.0 out of 5 starsLike the twisting alleyways of the medina
Reviewed in the United States on February 2, 2017
IIf you like ambiguity and mystery in fiction, you will like this book. It weaves varied views of the same occurrence in the main market square of Marrakesh, leaving you to decide what actually happened. The emphasis is on those who contribute to the storyteller's story. We get a feeling for the people regions, and attitudes of Morocco.
4.0 out of 5 starsA good introduction to metafiction
Reviewed in the United States on September 13, 2012
This novel is both a good introduction to metafiction and to the fictive world of its enormously gifted author. As the title hints, the interest of the novel is more in the nature of storytelling itself than in the particular tale(s) it tells--the bones of fiction more than the blood. It serves as a way of looking at the author's more compelling and substantial work such as his masterpiece (so far) The Watch. And it is entertaining in its neo -Arabian Nights way.
Absolutely a magical book. For anyone who has been to Marrakesh, and then to travel around Morocco this is a must read. The plot of the two strangers is simply an opportunity to give you the flavor of Marrakesh, and the Jemenna as he calls it. This if the large square where you see everything. For anyone traveling to Morocco this is also a must read. He gives you the flavor of Marrakesh, the oountry, and the way people think. A wonderful read.
3.0 out of 5 starsNeither a good bad book, nor literature
Reviewed in the United States on February 12, 2011
The Storyteller of Marrakesh is a mashup of influences, Arabian Nights being the most obvious, whose aim seems to be divided between producing a good bad book (that is like the Sherlock Holmes stories it exists solely for the merit of the story it tells) and literature.
The book can be divided into three movements: 1) narratives recounted around a story teller's fire about a mysterious couple who seem to have disappeared after causing a sensation in the Jemaa el Fna; 2) the reality 101 version of the truth; 3) the denouement of how the narrator - the story teller - reconciles the preceding phenomena, both "fictional" and "non fictional."
At the same time, Roy-Bhattacharya weaves into his narrative contemplations on life, love, dreams, reality, narrative, religion, eastern and western philosophies...you get the point. Too many spices for the undertaking. A more adept writer might have been able to pull this all off, but Roy-Bhattacharya needs to further develop his skills before hitting the bull's eye with such a difficult shot.
The strengthes of the story come when it riffs on Arabian Nights, where stories sprout from one another in a dreamy sequence that simultaneously calls to mind the waking and beyond waking worlds. The central location of the story, the Jemaa, is evoked beautifully and compliments the magical evocation of the Arabian Nights. The stories of the brothers at the center of the story and their father are rooted in the Jemaa, and those characters chipping in their descriptions of the mysterious foreigners are all authentic in their magic.
But the magic crumbles when the mystery woman (Lucia, or light) tells her story, which proves both pedestrian, improbable, and awfully hard to accept given the first half of the book. This feminine character, we are asked to accept, manifests qualities of the sea and Sahara. At this point of the story, I was reminded of the end of Life of Pi, when we are given two versions of the story to accept. The magical story (in Pi and Storyteller) works. The pedestrian deflates. Only in Storyteller, the reader is asked to continue after the mysterious feminine is revealed to be something less than ambiguous.
Roy-Bhattacharya, it seems to me, should stick with story telling, and let the literature emerge from that craft. Like many writers these days, he is guilty of telling when he should be showing. I'm glad to have picked up The Storyteller of Marrakesh, and hope Roy-Ghattacharya continues to develop his skills under the tuteledge of a demanding editor.
Is there such a thing as reality? If there is, how come people have such different recall if event? This wonderful book takes us into the exotic world of Marrakesh as, each year, a storyteller retells the events around the disappearance of a foreign couple. Did they really exist? Whose version is the true one? What is truth? This beautifully written book immerses the reader in these questions and it is fascinating.
For anyone who has traveled to Morocco and experienced Jemaa Al Fnaa the Storyteller of Marraech is quite an interesting proposition. Hassan, a storyteller in the Jemaa tells the story of a disappearance of a western couple some years ago. Though this isn't quite giving the narrative devices full respect in that description. He draws people around him who tell their version of the disappearance and this layering effect of others narratives is a confusing way of delivering the story and takes time to get used to - quite like the Jemaa itself. The narrative develops and eventually we are told the story of the couple, their disappearance and the legacy of that turn of events. Or so it seems on the surface.....
Hassan, our lead storyteller in this novel, declares very early on that he does not always tell the truth. Literary fiction is littered with examples of unreliable main characters and whilst Hassan may or may not be telling the truth, whole story or evading it you are never quite sure. However, somewhere in here is the truth of the story - teasing that out might be a bit difficult though as other narratives from other individuals are equally unreliable. So you are left with a story, with multiple viewpoints, that may or may not be truthfully told. This can be quite frustrating for some readers. It also seems, from my point of view, a lot of effort about not very much. I am sorry but the tale is well told (if you can keep with the literary devices used) but it doesn't really have a strong centre-piece.
This book will divide people. Some will love its approach, narrative and use of literary devices to layer a story that is rich and makes you feel like you are in Marrakech. Others will tire of its multiple viewpoints, start-stop narrative, diversions and less than reliable protagonists. I am somewhere in between. I enjoyed the book, it reminded me of my visit to Marrakech very much and also of the Jemaa and its narrative structure really does relay that experience to the reader. However, as I have already alluded to, I didn't quite feel there was enough meat in the central story to warrant everyone caring about the disappearance of two western tourists. I just didn't feel that it quite stood up to that scrutiny. I also didn't really feel that some characters could possibly feel the way they did after such a short time (you will have to read the book to understand that as I am trying to avoid spoilers). Its a very well written book, one that brings back memories and is to be admired for its style. It just didn't quite work for me as I hoped it would.
5.0 out of 5 starsA rich tapestry, as elegant as Arabic calligraphy
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 15, 2013
The storyteller of Marrakesh is a master embroiderer on the vast tapestry that is human history. Through one single evening's storytelling one may be merely fascinated by the way the events unfold, or one can go on to a deeper level of understanding to see how certain events can seed different perspectives on the tale, and how the threads are drawn together and overlaid to create a story worth hearing out. The artifact illustrates the storyteller's art. And while you read the book you are listening to the his voice! At the start we find a brief reflection on Truth. For most of us truth is absolute, black and white. Not here; and the leeway this perception creates allows conflicting testimonies to coexist and overlap through the evening. Which might puzzle some listeners, while fascinating others. Towards the end of the evening we are told, again concerning the absoluteness (or not) of truth: "The only thing that matters is the meeting of a man and his soul". While listening to the tale, magically - as a body absorbs health giving substances while soaking in a spa bath - we ourselves acquire perspectives that cure us of western civilisation's tunnel vision, and we can see all sides of the question simultaneously. Some earlier reviewers have claimed they found the text unrewarding, not worth reading through to the end. I am disappointed for them; they have missed a rare and precious opportunity. I hope you will feel swept on to the end, and emerge - as I did - enriched by the experience, by text artfully crafted as intricate and elegant as Arabic calligraphy.
5.0 out of 5 stars...know the Djemaa el Fna? ...then you'll like this...
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 7, 2013
...ever felt the swirling themes of the terracotta-wash heart of Marrakech mutating around you? ...the uncertain corner, the courtyard of mysteries, the rainbow fabric clouds? ...crowded the musicians, been glad you didn't need the tooth-puller, hoped the cobras were happy really, had the aromas drift through the bustle to rustle your curiosity? ...ever wondered what tapestry the storyteller was conjuring from his rickety seat on the old orange box? ...this is your chance to find out.
And if you know the Djemaa el Fna, cast your mind back. Were you there with an angel? ...and did you kill her? The Storyteller of Marrakech would like to know so he can weave your truth into the weft of his shadowy tapestry...
2.0 out of 5 starsBeautiful writing but no substance
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 26, 2016
Beautifully written, poetic... The trouble is that it's not enough for a novel to be beautifully written, if it has no substance. The writing should be at the service of the content, not an end in itself. I don't like abandoning books once I've started, and I did my best to keep reading, but when I saw how much of the book I still had to read I just couldn't be bothered going on.
Wonderful pictures of Marrakesh life are conjured in this slow paced collection of interwoven stories. I found the book hard work, but rewarding because of the vivid lanscape and the richness of the storytellers language and style. Wisdom and thruths are counterposed with myth and supposition againts red and ochre skies and the desert nights of Morroco. I look forward to reading more from this author.