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Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail

by Malika Oufkir

Publishers Weekly: While accounts of the unjust arrest and torture of political prisoners are by now common, we expect such victims to come with a just cause. Here, Oufkir tells of the 20-year imprisonment of her upper-class Moroccan family following a 1972 coup attempt against King Hassan II by her father, a close military aide. After her father's execution, Oufkir, her mother and five siblings were carted off to a series of desert barracks, along with their books, toys and French designer clothes in the family's Vuitton luggage. At their first posting, they complained that they were short on butter and sweets. Over the years, subsequent placements brought isolation cells and inadequate, vermin-infested rations. Finally, starving and suicidal, the innocents realized they had been left to die. They dug a tunnel and escaped. Recapture led to another five years of various forms of imprisonment before the family was finally granted freedom. Oufkir's experience does not fit easily into current perceptions of political prisoners victimized for their beliefs or actions. In fact, she was the adopted daughter of King Muhammad V, Hassan II's father, sent by her parents at age five to be raised in the court with the king's daughter as her companion and equal. Beyond horrifying images such as mice nibbling at a rich girl's face, this erstwhile princess's memoir will fascinate readers with its singular tale of two kindly fathers, political struggles in a strict monarchy and a family's survival of cruel, prolonged deprivation. (Apr.)Forecast: A bestseller in France, where Morocco is always a hot issue, this oddly gripping book should also do well here thanks to Oufkir's appearance soon on 60 Minutes and a five-city tour. Film adaptation is a distinct possibility, especially given the book's publisher.

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