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The Happy Marriage

Translated by André Naffis-Sahely

In The Happy Marriage, the internationally acclaimed Moroccan author Tahar Ben Jelloun tells the story of one couple—first from the husband’s point of view, then from the wife’s—just as legal reforms are about to change women’s rights forever.

The husband, a painter in Casablanca, has been paralyzed by a stroke at the very height of his career and becomes convinced that his marriage is the sole reason for his decline.

Walled up within his illness and desperate to break free of a deeply destructive relationship, he finds escape in writing a secret book about his hellish marriage. When his wife finds it, she responds point by point with her own version of the facts, offering her own striking and incisive reinterpretation of their story.

Who is right and who is wrong? A thorny issue in a society where marriage remains a sacrosanct institution, but where there’s also a growing awareness of women’s rights. And in their absorbing struggle, both sides of this modern marriage find out they may not be so enlightened after all.

TAHAR BEN JELLOUN is an award-winning and internationally bestselling Moroccan novelist, essayist, critic, and poet. Regularly shortlisted for the Nobel Prize, he is also a frequent contributor to Le Monde, La Repubblica, El Pais, Panorama, The New Yorker, and The Paris Review.

ANDRÉ NAFFIS-SAHELY is a poet, critic, and translator from French and Italian.

“This stately novel is cinematic in scope as it captures the explosive relationship between a painter in Casablanca left paralyzed by a stroke and the wife he refuses to see, though they live in the same house…Richly embroidered…this novel allows readers to sink in.” —Library Journal

“Set against the backdrop of Casablanca in the midst of an awakening women’s rights movement, The Happy Marriage explores not only the question of who’s right and who’s wrong, but also the very nature of modern matrimony.” The Millions

“The contrasts in how the married couple see the world provide the reader with ample food for thought…Important to this clash of wills is Ben Jelloun’s use of two distinct speaking styles for the main characters (excellently reflected in English by Naffis-Sahely).” Words Without Borders

Praise for Tahar Ben Jelloun

“A writer of social and moral acuteness.” —Los Angeles Times

”A writer of much originality, succeeds brilliantly in infusing his story with a melancholy that attaches itself not just to Ahmed but also to the Arab world.” —Chicago Tribune

“Hauntingly poetic and original.” —Times Literary Supplement