The young girl lowered her eyes, a sign of respect. Respect shown to her father and her mother. But at the same time this young girl, Fathima, is exploring a new world, a world that is kept at a distance by her mother and that is only explored on the surface by her father.
Fathima is raised in a very small village in the North African country of Morocco. Her father and an uncle have moved to France, the former colonizer, to find work, send home money and prepare for a future with the ones of the family.
Fathima has a troubled youth. Her brother Driss is killed. An aunt is a constant pain in the neck. The family moves to France to reunite with father. In Paris Fathima discovers a new world. She attends school and wants to learn, she wants to learn so much. The area where they live in Paris is an area of violence and racism. In the summer of 1973 (Fathima is 13 years young) the family moves to a suburb, that reminds Fathima of a village. She becomes indespensible to her parents, who find it hard to find their way in this other world.
At summerholidays the family travels to their village of origin in Morocco. The village gets depopulated, people moves to cities to find work and a living. To Fathima it gets more and more difficult to lower her eyes, to show respect. She has discovered a new world and finds it hard to adjust to the old places and the old ways.
At the age of 20 Fathima start her studies at University. At night time she starts writing, mixing her past and her present and the dreams that people have dreamt about her and a treasure that has been buried in the hills of Morocco. She marries a western man. But she travels between the western world and her Moroccon world, chasing dreams and treasures. She finds it hard, very hard to find her roots.
In the end she is left with empty hands: her dreams, her roots, her village, her husband, it all passed by.
Tahar ben Jelloun has managed to write a story of a lifetime in between-worlds. He weaves the past and the present, dreams and stories, worlds of birth and worlds of growingup. A captivating story of dislocation.
Tahar ben Jelloun – Les yeux baissés – Paris 1991