A blind man searches for his wife in the dark; a missing boy roams the desert; a djinn appears out of a skull; a sick nomad returns to his home town; a brother and sister arrive in an unfamiliar town at the stroke of midnight……..
When author Samantha Herron visited Morocco for the first time, it changed the course of her life. On her return to London she abandoned a successful art career in order to study Arabic. She went on to spend time living with a family of former nomads, in a small village in the Draa Valley on the edge of the Sahara Desert in Morocco. Here she immersed herself in the language, culture and traditions of the country.
She became captivated by the ancient art of storytelling, which she found to be living and thriving informally amongst the community in which she was living. She began collecting stories that she was hearing and then found herself imagining and composing her own Moroccan stories.
This debut collection of stories, all set in contemporary Morocco, takes the reader on a journey into the hearts and minds of ordinary Moroccans and offers a glimpse into life in this magical and ancient land.
Tahir Shah, author of The Caliph’s House and In Arabian Nights, comments: ‘Samantha Herron has succeeded triumphantly in doing what many Occidental writers have failed in for centuries – showing Morocco from the inside out. The stories she has so eloquently told are part of the ‘real’ Morocco, a kingdom that is so often invisible to visitors. This magical realm has traditionally been received orally, and not through written text. It exists, not in the grand touristic sites, but in the ancient fabric of places like the Draa Valley, from where her stories come. A wonderful collection, highly recommended.’
Tim Mackintosh-Smith, Arabist and author of Travels with a Tangerine: A Journey in the Footnotes of Ibn Battutah, comments: ‘Samantha Herron found some of her Moroccan stories ready-made. Others she imagined or dreamed. In size they are miniatures; but they all express big things on a small scale. Reading them is like peering through a series of keyholes – and, each time, glimpsing something momentary but momentous, instants with life-long consequences. They will make you smile, and shiver. And they will tell you as much truth about their Moroccan setting as a shelf-full of ethnologies.’
Annette Kobak, author of Isabelle:The Life of Isabelle Eberhardt comments: ‘These spare and haunting stories, so similar in tone to those of Isabelle Eberhardt over a century ago, lead us to surprising places, where djinns cohabit gently with mobile phones, and death cohabits subtly with life.’
Richard Hamilton, author of The Last Storytellers: Tales from the Heart of Morocco comments: ‘These stories have an authentic feel of Morocco and are clearly written by someone with a deep affection for the country and who has become embedded in its culture.They have all the props and scenery that a traveller to the Maghreb will recognise: the hospitality over sweet tea and pastries, the donkeys, palm trees, sandy paths, taxis and bus stations, beggars and brides. But above all they are true to the spirit of Morocco. These simple yet slightly haunting stories are seen through the eyes of ordinary people; peasants, farmers and families whose lives are touched by the desert, djinns, death and despair. But they also show the warmth and humanity of a God fearing world that still exists beyond the cliches of the travel brochures. At the end of each of these tales, like all great short stories, you are left thinking about them for a long time after you have put the book down.’
Samantha’s previous work includes the English and Arabic publication Dardasha: Testimonies of Migration by Moroccan Women (Soul Bay Press 2011) which was produced in association with Al Hasaniya Moroccan Women’s Centre and featured at Nour Festival 2013.
She presented stories from The Djinn in the Skull: Stories from hidden Morocco as part of The Storytelling Circle at Nour Festival 2014. This is her first work of fiction.
The Djinn in the Skull: Stories from hidden Morocco is due to be published in October 2015. We are taking advanced orders now for delivery in October.