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The Forgiven

by Lawrence Osborne

Set at a bacchanalian-style house party in a remote Moroccan village, this is a timely exploration of the clash between European and Islamic cultural mores, as the hedonistic excesses of the rich ‘infidel’ visitors expose their flimsy veneer of civilised behaviour. The seductive, slow-paced narrative is so richly atmospheric you can taste the sand and smell the aromas, but the morally ambiguous tone is unsettling and increasingly foreboding.

Extract

There was stupefaction in David’s mind for a few minutes, but in truth he had been expecting something of this kind all along. Of course they wouldn’t just take a handout. They’d extract as much out of him as they could. They’d hold him in some village until he agreed. It was pathetically predictable, with their bandit mentality and their extort-the-infidel ethic ... The idea in some way offered him relief. Since everyone seemed to tacitly think he was guilty anyway, it would actually be a relief to be forgiven in some way. And nobody could forgive him except this shabby, stony old man in his dark brown burnouse. If this implacable father didn’t forgive him, no one could. Being forgiven and being exonerated by the authorities were two very different things, and it was because the people themselves felt that difference that he was forced into doing as Abdellah asked. It was a way out, and it was the only way out.
Unforgiven, he thought, I’ll be a marked man.

Parallels

The Comfort of Strangers by Ian McEwan
The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles
A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh
 

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