The Death of Murat Idrissi

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Two women on a journey through the land of their fathers and mothers. A wrong turn. A bad decision. They had no idea, when they arrived in Morocco, that their usual freedoms as young European women would not be available. So, when the spry Saleh presents himself as their guide and savior, they embrace his offer. He extracts them from a tight space, only to lead them inexorably into an even tighter one: and from…

The Death of Murat Idrissi is a breezy read that explores the dangers of traveling without proper preparation. The 112 page book tells the story of two Dutch women who travel to Morocco on a whim to explore the land of their heritage. When they realize that their freedoms as women are greatly restricted in the country, they rely on a semi-familiar face to serve as their guide. His guidance leads them down a dark path that results in the two women being left alone with the corpse of the book’s title character. 

While the premise of the book is certainly interesting and suggests a thrilling read, The Death of Murat Idrissi reads more as an existential exploration of guilt and blame. The book begins with a beautiful prologue with vivid descriptions of the characters’ passage on a boat, but unfortunately the meat of the book falls flat, failing to live up to the introductory imagery. The only visceral descriptions that appear later are of the deplorable stench of Murat Idrissi’s rapidly decomposing corpse, which, though uncomfortable, did serve as a successful demonstration of the protagonists’ increasing guilt. 

The book’s conclusion caught me off-guard and left me unsatisfied, resolving in a way that made the book’s happenings feel irrelevant in the grand scheme of life. While perhaps this was the author’s intentions, I did not feel that I gained anything from my time spent reading the book, despite its potential to provide commentary on a number of issues, such as gender inequity, immigration, wrongful death, poverty, and more.

Overall, I felt that the book had a lot of potential but that it didn’t live up to my expectations. Granted this could be a result of the translation, which maybe didn’t completely capture the nuances of the original. Regardless, given the book’s brevity, it did provide interesting insight into Moroccan culture from the perspective of an outsider that may be of interest to those interested in exploring cultural differences.

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