The Almond

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Author Nedjma recalls the painful years of her childhood, adolescence, and young married life in an Arab Muslim state where women are severely sexually repressed. Nedjma is clever and detailed when describing key scenes, such as the utter barbarity of her wedding night, when her own mother had helped tie her down in bed. Badra, as she calls her character, is wed just after her sixteenth birthday to Hmed who is forty. Their relationship is one of object (she) to owner (he). Hmed's primary goal is to produce a son.

Badra, after much physical and emotional suffering, emboldens herself and flees to her Aunt Selma in Tangiers. In that sophisticated city, which exists in sharp contrast to her isolated village of Imchouk, she meets Driss, a wealthy doctor with an extensive sexual background. While Driss introduces Badra to a world full of sexual pleasures, he withholds his heart. Their relationship lasts for about ten years; during this time, he keeps Badra in a fashionable apartment and finds her clerical work in a friend's office.

The style of the narrative is to contrast directly, in alternating passages, Badra's new sexual freedom with the humiliations of her early years in Imchouk. The latter portions of The Almond rather too quickly sum up the fourteen years that have passed since her breakup with Driss. Badra continues on a fruitless path of sexual activity, until Driss contacts her when he is dying of cancer. Badra takes him back to her original country home for his final days.

The phraseology in this text sometimes borders on the cliché. The sexual scenes are graphic and detailed to a point. The characters lack full dimension and are usually introduced as players in Badra's life; they merely move the plot along. However, the reader will admire Nedjma for her courage in writing this novelized account of her personal life.