by Tahar Ben Jelloun

Penguin, $15.00, 183 pages

A simple man with an endearing character, Mohammed is content to be a good Muslim and a good worker.
At a time in life when most men are happy to turn their attention to their families, his upcoming retirement has him feeling displaced and despondent. He finds that he is sadly disregarded by his children and sets in motion a plan. He will leave France, and return to his homeland to build a fine house in which he and his grown children can all live together.

The perspective shifts from the first person to the third person, and then to another person entirely. No quotation marks are ever used, yet these shortcomings only mildly disrupt the continuity of the story. Translator’s notes found in the back of the book are instrumental in explaining cultural references which might otherwise be unknown to the American reader. A Palace in the Old Village is the story of one man’s effort to bridge the gap between family, generation, and culture as well as an insightful introduction to the Arab world.

Reviewed by Alicea Swett