In 1971 disaffected student Salim took part in a failed coup to oust King Hassan II of Morocco. With sixty others he was incarcerated in a secret prison complex in the Moroccan desert ; they were to remain there for nearly twenty years. In starkly eloquent, beautiful prose, Tahar Ben Jelloun relates the prisoners' experiences as they struggle to survive. The son of a witty, feckless courtier who disowns him, Salim tells stories to keep sane - from the suras of his beloved Koran to the plot of A Streetcar Named Desire. Even in the darkest, most terrible conditions, sympathy, insight, the human quest for meaning and understanding never desert Salim. The resulting novel is a wrenching yet exquisite celebration of the human spirit and its determination to survive.