Narrating the extremes: The language of suffering and survival in Laila Lalami’s The Moor's Account

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Abstract

In the 16th century, the tragic Narvaez expedition to the New World ended with only four survivors: three Spaniard masters and a Moor slave who had never been given a chance to give his testimony as his companions had. In the fictional memoir The Moor’s Account (2014), Laila Lalami gives voice to Mustafa/Estebanico to narrate the hardships they went through from his perspective, which reflects his Arabic and Islamic identity. His story depicts several forms of human suffering: deprivation and poverty in his home country Morocco under the Portuguese occupation, slavery and torment while in Spain, and eight years of privation and wandering in the wilderness of North America. The paper will employ postcolonial poetics to reveal the literary devices used to recount these forms of human suffering as they are represented through the ethnicity of the narrator. This in-text analysis will link linguistic and aesthetic signs in the text to their interpretative functions in cultural reconciliation. Therefore, it will highlight the ideological and aesthetic aspects which classify the novel as postcolonial writing. Then, it will focus on the suffering-survival dichotomy and its representation in the narrative discourse.

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