The translator reflects on Moroccan prison memoir

Jonathan Smolin, translator of Youssef Fadel’s A Rare Blue Bird Flies with Me, sets the political context of the novel in the foreword of the book.


On the morning Of 10 July 1971, General Mohamed Medbouh and Lieutenant-Colonel M’hamed Ababou led a convey of army cadets into the Skhirat Palace, located on the Atlantic coast some twenty-five kilometers south of the Moroccan capital Rabat. It was King Hassan II’s forty-second birthday and he was hosting hundreds of dignitaries, both Moroccan and foreign, to celebrate.

According to memoirs published years later, the cadets began that day thinking that they were participating in military exercises with live ammunition. As they approached the palace, Medbouh and Ababou told the cadets that the king’s life was in danger and that they had to shoot to kill in order to save the monarch. Following the orders of their superiors, the soldiers entered the palace and fired immediately, killing dozens in the ensuing chaos. According to the memoirs published later, the soldiers had no idea that they were participating in a coup.

Despite the high death toll, Hassan II survived the attack and outmaneuvered Medbouh and Ababou, both of whom were killed during the coup attempt. A number of captured soldiers were executed on live television and hundreds of cadets were arrested and tortured. After a farcical mass trial, seventy-four were given sentences ranging from less than two years to life in prison.

Posted on 24/02/2016 in FICTION Political, tagged as A Rare Blue Bird Flies with Me, fiction, Hoopoe, Middle East, Youssef Fadel


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