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One-way Paperback – 1 Oct 2005

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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars 3 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At Home in the Universe 2 Jun. 2004
By Lee Armstrong - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Van Caulwelaert's novel reads well in its English translation from the original French. It is a magical tale with its own sense of reality, one where truthfulness takes a back seat to practicality & imagination. The irony of circumstances that send the book spiraling out of control are hilarious. I often found myself laughing aloud, something I rarely do from the written word. For example, once in Morocco, Aziz tries to impress the hotel that he has papers from King Hussein, only to be corrected by the travel guide that King Hussein is in Jordan while King Hassan is from Morocco. Aziz's false bravado throughout the tale makes him a fascinating protagonist.
The twist of fate that results in the baby being rescued from a burning car in Marseilles, given fake papers by his Gypsy rescuers with an Arabic name that proclaims him a citizen of Morocco, and then to be apprehended by the French government at his engagement party at age 19 to be repatriated to a country to which he has never been, whose language & customs he doesn't know, befriended by the French agent Jean-Pierre Schnieder and bedded by tour guide Valerie in Rabat is an engaging plot that keeps us waiting for the next unexpected development page after page. The gypsy customs are also hilariously odd as Aziz makes love to his girlfriend Lila by the back door so as to preserve her virginity for her fiancee Rajko. The episodic foray into the untamed Atlas Mountains is a journey of wonderful stupidity as Aziz bluffs his way further and further into the unknown toward his imaginary home of Irghiz.
While a translation, I found the dialogue and description riveting that made the pages zoom. The dust jacket proclaims that this book won France's highest literary prize. I found it to be wonderfully endearing and was sorry to let the characters go. Enjoy!
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Surreal Quest 18 Dec. 2003
By Louis N. Gruber - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Aziz Kemal is not his real name. He lives in Marseilles, France, with the Gypsies who rescued him from the car crash in which his parents died. He carries fake Moroccan papers and he's not sure who or what he really is. His specialty is stealing car radios and he is very good at it. He has a brief shot at happiness when he is to be engaged to Lila, but then, at the engagement party, he is arrested, and soon he will be deported as an illegal alien.
Where will he be sent? Why, Morocco of course, a land he has never visited and knows nothing about. The government has thoughtfully provided a "humanitarian attache" to accompany Aziz and help him get settled in his "homeland." So far, strange enough, but now things quickly get stranger and stranger. Asked to identify his home town he is forced to invent one, and the two of them set out earnestly trying to find it.
From the first page, the author makes it clear that he is not dealing in ordinary reality. This is a mythic book, a surrealistic allegory about identity. A person is nothing more or less than the stories he tells about himself, so it seems to be saying, stories that may be based in reality or made up out of whole cloth. Maybe even stories that belong to someone else. Author Cauwelaert explores this concept in flowing, readable prose.
Although the story begins in delightful absurd whimsy, it gradually becomes more somber, more convoluted, more self-consciously significant. In fact, it begins to drag. Although One-Way is a short book, it was a bit of an effort for me to finish it. I would recommend it with some reservations, a novel that is enjoyable, intriguing, but flawed. Reviewed by Louis N. Gruber.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Strangers in Strange Lands 15 Jan. 2011
By David Island - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It's been a long time since I read Robert Heinlein's "Stranger in a Strange Land," a science fiction novel, published in 1961, about Valentine Michael Smith, orphaned son of an astronaut who returns to earth in early adulthood after being raised by Martians. Didier van Cauwelaert's tidy little novel "One-Way" is not only fascinating (and beautifully translated from the original French by Mark Polizzotti), but its allegorical messages about the human condition -- no matter where we come from or where we live --speak volumes to readers as did Heinlein's novel.

This humorous, insightful novelette is about racism, immigration, emigration, aloneness, expatriation, alienation and love. Life is in fact a one-way ticket, and in the end we're all just visitors. Here, Aziz Kemal, the primary character and voice of the novel, is a 20 year old orphan in Marseilles who was raised as an Arab. He had perfect fake papers, identifying him as a Moroccan (which he was not), and so when snared by French authorities for a crime he did not commit, he was deported (accompanied by a French government attache) to - where else - Morocco, his "homeland." Hence, the story line.

"One-Way" is very funny, touchingly sad and greatly fanciful. I liked the episodes in France much better than those in Morocco, where our tolerance for the author's flights of fancy stretch our willingness to stay with his story. Aziz is a master at invention (and falsehood). His mastery of manipulation by untruth and creativity remains undiluted right through to the last page. After all, he grew up in the slums of Marseilles stealing car radios --- and survived to become a writer.

The structure of the story is unique and creative. Aziz eventually writes in first person the very story you are reading.

It's clever, fun and entertaining. Occasionally it is wise, and at all times it makes you think, such as when Aziz speaks to us on page 129, "I was no longer sure I wanted what I had chosen, but it was too late to turn back." Now isn't that just the awful truth more often than we would admit?

It's a solid 4.
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