by Aziz BineBine
Translated by Lulu Norman


‘For all the suffering, this isn’t a depressing book. On the contrary, it is compulsively readable and even uplifting, because the lesson BineBine imparts is one of love and dry-eyed compassion. Faultlessly translated by Lulu Norman, Tazmamart is a deeply moving testament to the strength of the human spirit’  Jason Goodwin, The Spectator 

‘It is hard to imagine anything more hellish than the experiences BineBine describes. What nonetheless makes his memoir life-affirming is the determination it reflects to remain human under inhuman circumstances’ Fiona Graham, European Literature Network

‘Tazmamart is far more than a vital document: it is a powerful tribute to human fortitude and imagination – and perfect reading for incarcerated times.’ Toby Lichtig, The Guardian

Tazmamart is the poignant and profound account, immaculately translated from the French, of an arbitrary incarceration…’ Amanda Hopkinson, The Tablet

Praise for Tazmamart:

‘A beautifully composed memoir that chronicles twenty years of death and degradation in a secret state prison that yet also reads as the spiritual pilgrimage of an ascetic. It is a historical document too, formed from BineBine’s compassionate testimony of the loves and aspirations, childhood memories and adult ambitions of those buried at Tazmamart, be they rebel officers, innocent careerists, young idealists or well-connected courtiers, condemned to a prolonged act of royal vengeance in the aftermath of two failed military coups.’ (Barnaby Rogerson)

‘Aziz BineBine spent 18 years in the now infamous secret prison of Tazmamart in the Moroccan desert, and it took him a further 18 years to write about it. His chronicle about his fellow prisoners, most of whom died, is both terrible and generous; BineBine wanted to pay homage to the dead, rather than the survivors.The unspeakably brutal years are punctuated by his love for literature, his faith, and empathy for his fellow prisoners. His account joins the ranks of timeless prison literature and is a rich testimony of astounding human resilience.’ (Olivia Snaije)

‘Lulu Norman’s fine translation brings alive this firsthand account of brutality, injustice and survival.’ (Michèle Roberts)

‘The hellhole of Tazmamart–Morocco’s notorious secret prison–has been the crucible for many a searing story. Aziz Binebine’s account is one of the finest: forensic in its detail of the sheer horror of the place, with flashes of pure poetry and deep humanity in his own tale and that of his fellow inmates. Storytelling during his long years in Tazmamart kept Binebine alive; his book will keep readers engrossed–and aghast–from start to finish.’ (Shereen El Feki, author of Sex and the Citadel: Intimate Life in a Changing Arab World)

‘When you read this true story, in which both horror and humanity mingle, you will realise that the truth is sometimes far worse than the most unlikely imaginings. This is a detailed account of Tazmamart, one of the worst political prisons in world history. King Hassan II of Morocco and his collaborators built it to quash the people’s will to resist despotism, but this book proves the opposite. It shows that human resilience is more powerful. As BineBine puts it so well, the only cause of all this suffering and this long struggle for survival was that, one day in 1971, Fate’s finger was pointed at him. This book is both a thriller and a song to the glory of the human that resides in each of us. It’s a cry of despair against the evil of men. But no matter how sombre his words, the writer has no lack of humour or humility.’ (Maati Monib, historian, journalist, and human rights activist in Morocco.

‘In a jumble of rumours, one passed almost unnoticed.

It concerned a military prison being built in the desert. Its name was Tazmamart.’

This is the true story of Aziz BineBine who, unwittingly entangled in a failed coup against King Hassan II, found himself locked in a small, underground cell in a prison thought to be a mere horror story: Tazmamart. For 18 years, no one knew where the prison’s inmates were. No one knew if they were even alive. In many ways, they hardly were: confined for 24 hours a day, with the barest rations, no hygiene or medical help, and accompanied by cockroaches, scorpions, and tarantulas. One of the few to survive, Aziz writes not only to tell his own remarkable story but to remember and honour the men that lived – and died – alongside him. Against the backdrop of this unimaginable suffering, Aziz shows the strength of the human spirit to keep going against all the odds, to smile in the face of misery, and to forgive rather than condemn. Set to become a cult classic of survival literature, Tazmamart is a hellish journey through the abyss of despair – and out the other side.


Translator's Note

It’s many years now since Aziz BineBine shyly and politely handed me – his brother’s translator – his book. I knew (but only vaguely) what had happened to him, and I took it with some reverence. I assumed it was a present; I didn’t realise for years that he wanted me to translate it! Aziz has waited so long to see his book get some kind of proper reception… I so wanted, and want, to do him proud. It’s impossible, of course, to escape all the resonances with current events… But there are lockdowns and lockdowns, and comparisons are odorous. Tazmamart is important in the same way as One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich or De Profundis, because the lengths to which humans will go under circumstances of extreme cruelty – for good or ill – always teach us something new about how to live and what matters in the end.

Author Bio

Aziz BineBine is a Moroccan author and former army officer. He completed his secondary education within the French lycée system and then entered the Royal Military Academy. Appointed as an instructor to train cadets at Ahermoumou Military School, he was unwittingly involved in the 1971 coup d’état against King Hassan II. Judged and condemned, BineBine spent 18 years in Tazmamart prison. He now lives in Marrakech. 

April 2020 |£14.99| 190 pp| Hardback | 9781912208883

RRP £14.99

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E-BOOK available from these links:  KINDLE|EPUB