Driven by famine from their home in the Rif, Mohamed's family walks to Tangiers in search of a better life. But things are no better there. Eight of Mohamed's siblings die of malnutrition and neglect, and one is killed by his father in a fit of rage. On moving to another province, Mohamed learns how to charm and steal, and discovers the joys of drugs, sex, and alcohol. Proud, insolent, and afraid of no-one, he returns to Tangiers, where he is caught up in the violence of the 1952 independence riots. It is here, during a short spell in a filthy Moroccan jail, that a fellow inmate kindles Mohamed's life-altering love of literature.
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