Messaouda, by Abdelhak Serhane. Translated by Mark Thompson. New York: Carcanet. 155 pp. $15.95. First published in France in 1983, this autobiographical novel is a poetic, disturbing, enlightening picture of a young Muslim boy's life in a small Arab town in Morocco in the 1950s.
``Messaouda'' is the first novel by Abdelhak Serhane, a professor of literature at Kenitra in Morocco. The story he tells - coming of age under the hand of a brutal father and a repressive society - is simple enough. The telling of the tale, however, is complex, exploring emotions, dreams, and nightmares in broken passages and bursts of lyrical images. ``Messaouda'' can be difficult to follow, and uncomfortable to read, but Serhane's voice is undeniably powerful.
Serhane charts the path of his childhood through a time when ``delicacy could not exist.'' Paralleling the young boy's personal struggles is the Moroccan struggle for independence from France.
This book will certainly not be for everyone, particularly those who are put off by explicit violence and rough sexual imagery. But Carcanet has done a service in publishing this book in English translation. Serhane has opened a window on a landscape that is well worth trying to understand.