Posted by: Ele Quigan | September 7, 2010

‘Stolen lives: 20 years in a desert jail’ Malika Oufkir

I chose this as a ‘Oprah’s book club’ recommendation, as I’ve found a few great authors that way – Barabara Kingsolver for one – and have wanted to have read this for a while.

It’s not an easy read, particularly as at the start she comes across as a complete spoilt brat. By reading a few comments on Amazon, it looks like a few other readers considered this as well – however I’ve now changed my tune. To be able to acknowledge who you were previously and understand how spoilt or badly behaved you may have been is a huge thing. To then write it in a biography is even bigger. I can only imagine the pondering of this during 20 years in prison (or house arrest) and the thought that you possibly even deserved your treatment because of your previous behaviour.

It’s hard to understand that polar opposites of Malika’s world, as well as the view of the Moroccan aristocracy as it was previously. Concubines, women of the harem, princesses running around causing trouble, it was almost sounded like a fairytale – or moral tale or even fable around the ‘sin’ of pride…

I can’t comprehend the length of time they were imprisoned – 20 years. I’m 29 now – how much have I changed in the last 20 years – being a teenager, becoming an adult – and all that entails (credit card debt, moving into a flat, loves, losses, moving countries…) It’s impossible to think of all the Oufkir family have missed out on – and incredibly sad to imagine all the time they have lost from their own lives.

Two family ‘helpers’ were imprisoned with the family, and while it’s mentioned often that they suffered the most, many reviews I’ve read say that it doesn’t discuss this enough – or reflect on the sacrifice they made by joining the family in prison. I don’t really know if I have an opinion on this – the book is one woman’s view, and can’t be expected to be an objective reflection? or be more than a representation of the family?

It’s an incredibly interesting book, and well worth a read – I’m definitely interested in the sequel to see how the family managed to rebuild their lives and moved on beyond the terrible destruction of their lives over 20 years…


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