Lead Review

  • Book: The King’s Fool
  • Location: Marrakech
  • Author: Mahi Binebine

Review Author: Tina Hartas



“..the ultimate aim of my strange existence is to make the King happy. I live for that. Nothing gives me as much joy and satisfaction as seeing Sidi’s face light up.” Thus says Mohamed ben Mohamed, a man from impoverished circumstances, who was born with the talent to remember everything he hears. With aplomb Mohamed gets to the heart of King Sidi’s chamber and becomes his entertainer and in some ways confidante, who develops a talent for anticipating what the King might desire next.

Once within the closed and hallowed walls of the palace, a new life develops, an all consuming and pervasive routine for those confined within its walls. Mohamed calls it a pact of darkness as he morphs into the marionette who performs at the drop of a hat. Yet, of course, his proximity to the sovereign also brings him power.

The King is ill and the interdependency between these two very different men is challenged. The author explores their relationship and the workings of court, all set against the extravagant backdrop of the palace in Marrakesh, and he does so with a sultry, colourful and painterly hand. He populates the court with a terrific array of characters and delights his readers with astute observations. There is a wry humour, too, as he observes the machinations of court protocol, procedures … and frankly, whims. It has the feel of an old world story but it is squarely set in modern time, where political manoeuvring is an essential skill.

The translation is wonderful, with thanks to Ben Faccini.

Wonderful cover, also.

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