A Book I Wish More People Knew About Vol. 1
From Phyllis Mann, a recommendation of a novel of adventure, snakes, and cannibals
Note to readers: This is the first of what I hope will be many installments in this series. Enjoy! - JW (The Biblioracle)
You don’t know it yet, but this is the book you want to read right now
by Phyllis Mann
You, whoever you are. Now, whenever this is. This is the book you will recommend to every person you know, and when they get around to reading it they, like you, will only wonder why they waited so long.
The Actual True Story of Ahmed and Zarga by Mohamedou Ould Slahi, Larry Siems
176 pages in paperback
Published Feb. 23, 2021, by Ohio University Press
Settle in under a cozy blanket on a lazy afternoon with your favorite cuppa and float away into the north African desert, by the campfire of your imagination, as someone tells the legendary Bedouin story of Ahmed the camel herder and his trek through the desert to recover his son Abdallahi’s favorite camel Zarga.
. . . God forbid, may all that I would wish to befall my enemy befall me if I’m telling you anything but the actual true story of Ahmed and Zarga.
I know you’ve heard the story. Everybody has. As God has watered our veins in the garden of happiness and dried the veins of all bad people in the place of sorrow and loneliness, so have wise and righteous men through the years related to us the story of Ahmed and Zarga. But what I’m about to tell you is the only true version of the story, the real and complete thing, as my sister told it to me. She heard it from our neighbor, old Aunt Aicha. You know Aicha, who knows everything about our old ways, who knows all the stories of the Bedouins and of the great Calife Harun al-Rashid and how he built his hanging garden at the shore of the sea at the end of the world. People say, and she doesn’t deny, that she is a direct descendant of Shahrazad, the greatest storyteller of all time, who saved her life by telling true stories to her husband for a thousand and one nights. Old Aunt Aicha entrusted to my sister the true story of Ahmed with the bone of her tongue.
And as my sister told it to me, I will tell it exactly that way to you. . . .
Along the way there are demon-possessed snakes, cannibals, jinn, and mirages, but also the always-welcoming tents of other nomads and the undying loyalty of the dignified camels who love and honor Ahmed as he loves and honors them.
Pepper and salt never hurt any story, as the Bedouins say, especially when the essential truth of the tale remains untouched and it is recounted around a fire. After all, it is around the fire that stories need to be the most beautiful and intense.
Perhaps you don’t have much time for reading fiction, so I hope you’ll trust me when I tell you this book will leave you happier and with no regrets for the time you spent with it. Perhaps your to-be-read books form mountainous regions throughout your home, and for you I give these many reasons to lift this novel out of your stacks today:
You’re reading your way around the world and need a book from or about Mauritania.
You love a road-trip travel story, with a twist because it’s on camelback.
You’re feeling nostalgic for the homespun wisdom and gentle hugs of your parents and grandparents.
You’re weary of the 24-hour news cycle and want to hang out for a really pleasant visit with an earnest man who loves his family and has a whale of a story to tell.
There’s nothing as good as a tall-tale fable told for adults.
It’s comforting to know that sometimes things do turn out okay in the end and folks survive the trials of their lives, both for Ahmed the camel herder and for Mohamedou the author.
You get a secret kick out of discovering the debut novel of a little-known author before they are a household name in literature.
You and your book club pals will have a blast discussing all of Ahmed’s adventures and which each of you loved the most.
It’s short – just 176 lovely pages.
Come on . . . you know you’re intrigued.
All affiliate income from book purchases through The Biblioracle Recommends go to Open Books in Chicago. I match affiliate income of either 5% of annualized revenue for the newsletter, or $500, whichever is larger.
Phyllis Mann is a legal researcher & writer for a national non-profit dedicated to ensuring the Sixth Amendment right to counsel to indigent people facing criminal charges. She reads because it is as necessary to her as breathing, and the walls & surfaces of her home in Texas are made up primarily of books, enhanced with a few plants.
I am definitely getting this and for all the reasons you share, Phyllis! And it may well appear on my Wayfarer Book Club list... :) It sounds perfect. Thanks for sharing!
This is the kind of book that delights me when it is recommended: offbeat, exciting and packed with adventure and weirdness! I am so ready for fun and unusual. Thanks, John and Phyllis!