cover image The Hospital

The Hospital

Ahmed Bouanani, trans. from the French by Lara Vergnaud. New Directions, $13.95 trade paper (128p) ISBN 978-0-8112-2576-2

Moroccan filmmaker and writer Bouanani’s newly translated mind-bending 1990 work about secluded, chronically ill patients blurs lines between history, Islamic folklore, and nightmares. The unnamed narrator is admitted to a labyrinthine hospital for treatment of an unspecified disease. To survive the tedium of endless days and unexplained but gentle treatments, the narrator chronicles his slightly detached interactions with fellow patients. A timid young man known as Rover drifts through the hospital and into the narrator’s nightmares. Another young patient, Guzzler, embellishes his thuggish exploits to cover up his vulnerabilities. The narrator increasingly loses his sense of reality, seeing himself in the afterlife and his own past and overhearing possibly imagined conversations. Moments of irreverent humor, such as old men debating whether medicine is permitted during their Ramadan fast, cut through the genuine terror of patients’ sudden deaths and uncertain futures. An ample introduction by Anna Della Subin provides context on Bouanani’s life and Moroccan history to help readers understand some of the allusions. The layers of metaphor and surreal imagery create a atmospheric, unresolved tension for fans of compressed, unsettling narratives. (June)