Stolen Lives Hardcover – Large Print, Sep 2001
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Oprah Book Club® Selection, May 2001: At the age of 5, Malika Oufkir, eldest daughter of General Oufkir, was adopted by King Muhammad V of Morocco and sent to live in the palace as part of the royal court. There she led a life of unimaginable privilege and luxury alongside the king's own daughter. King Hassan II ascended the throne following Muhammad V's death, and in 1972 General Oufkir was found guilty of treason after staging a coup against the new regime, and was summarily executed. Immediately afterward, Malika, her mother, and her five siblings were arrested and imprisoned, despite having no prior knowledge of the coup attempt.
They were first held in an abandoned fort, where they ate moderately well and were allowed to keep some of their fine clothing and books. Conditions steadily deteriorated, and the family was eventually transferred to a remote desert prison, where they suffered a decade of solitary confinement, torture, starvation, and the complete absence of sunlight. Oufkir's horrifying descriptions of the conditions are mesmerizing, particularly when contrasted with her earlier life in the royal court, and many graphic images will long haunt readers. Finally, teetering on the edge of madness and aware that they had been left to die, Oufkir and her siblings managed to tunnel out using their bare hands and teaspoons, only to be caught days later. Her account of their final flight to freedom makes for breathtaking reading. Stolen Lives is a remarkable book of unfathomable deprivation and the power of the human will to survive. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
While accounts of the unjust arrest and torture of political prisoners are by now common, we expect such victims to come with a just cause. Here, Oufkir tells of the 20-year imprisonment of her upper-class Moroccan family following a 1972 coup attempt against King Hassan II by her father, a close military aide. After her father's execution, Oufkir, her mother and five siblings were carted off to a series of desert barracks, along with their books, toys and French designer clothes in the family's Vuitton luggage. At their first posting, they complained that they were short on butter and sweets. Over the years, subsequent placements brought isolation cells and inadequate, vermin-infested rations. Finally, starving and suicidal, the innocents realized they had been left to die. They dug a tunnel and escaped. Recapture led to another five years of various forms of imprisonment before the family was finally granted freedom. Oufkir's experience does not fit easily into current perceptions of political prisoners victimized for their beliefs or actions. In fact, she was the adopted daughter of King Muhammad V, Hassan II's father, sent by her parents at age five to be raised in the court with the king's daughter as her companion and equal. Beyond horrifying images such as mice nibbling at a rich girl's face, this erstwhile princess's memoir will fascinate readers with its singular tale of two kindly fathers, political struggles in a strict monarchy and a family's survival of cruel, prolonged deprivation. (Apr.)Forecast: A bestseller in France, where Morocco is always a hot issue, this oddly gripping book should also do well here thanks to Oufkir's appearance soon on 60 Minutes and a five-city tour. Film adaptation is a distinct possibility, especially given the book's publisher.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
Malika Oufikir, aided by writer Michele Fitoussi, recounts the plunge from the heights of an extremely privileged, if secluded, life, mostly lived at the Royal Moroccan court, and a life which later landed herself and her family into gaol, in 1972. A drastic change for everybody -but "drastic" is almost a diminishing adjective for what they went through-, including the two family retainers who had volunteered to share their fate. This was the result of a failed military coup against King Hassan II, led by Malika's father, General Oufkir, who was shot immediately after. Wife Fatima and their six children, aged between 19 (Malika) and 3 and a half (Abdellatif) were sent to prison. Deprivations, humiliations, isolation -even among themselves, they were not allowed to see each other for many years- lack of hygiene, food, water, medicines and contending their space with various rodents, cockroaches, scorpions, in the chilling cold or the most stifling heat, inability to see the light -they were kept in almost total darkness-. Up until the day when, 15 years later, with the resilience of the totally desperate, some of them managed to escape, Malika included. The tale of their evasion is chilling from beginning to end. But it also led to the liberation of the others left behind. Nobody could believe that the Oufkir children had reemerged from nothingness, but they managed to alert the relevant authorities, international press and word went out. They were all subsequently moved to a different location where they were still imprisoned but at least with more dignity -if one may use this term in the circumstances-. This went on for another 4 years. And then... freedom finally knocked at their door.Read more ›
Their jailers had their instructions: " Subdue the Oufkirs. King's orders".
"Stolen Lives" is Malika's story of 15 years incarceration in some of the worst hell-holes on earth, where the family endured cold, near starvation, vermin, petty jailors, disease and despair. Realizing that they would never be released; that they would die there, forgotten, the now grownup children dug a tunnel, using little more than their bare hands, and four of them escaped. Pursued by police and rebuffed by old friends, they reached Tangier and broke their story to the foreign press. Eventually the authorities were embarrassed into freeing the entire family.
This is a story of ingenuity, perseverance and unbelievable courage in the face of horrific odds. The events described are beyond shocking; it is considered inhumane to confine animals or the worst criminals in such conditions. It is unspeakable that these acts were perpetrated on children, and incredible that they survived.
What kind of regime imprisons children for the sins of their father? "That kind of thing can't happen here", you say. After all, "Liberty" and Freedom" is enshrined in our Constitution/Bill of Rights.Read more ›
It was interesting to learn about the traditions in Morocco. It's amazing that she was basically just taken away from her parents at a young age in order to become an adopted daughter of the king, since he had a daughter the same as as Malika and the daughter needed a playmate. Malika gives an interesting account of the ways of the court- the traditions, the festivals, the reverence paid to the king and the concubines. As a child, she never had a normal life- she was essentially a prisoner inside the court. I would have liked to have read more vivid and detailed accounts of the court- not gossipy, just from a cultural standpoint. I had a hard time picturing many of the scenes she described due to vagueness.
After her father, a revered military man, was executed after leading a coup against the king, he was executed and the family sent into exile, even though the family had nothing to do with the coup. The conditions were incomprehensibly inhumane. I'm amazed that Malika is able to talk about it so freely, for she even admits she's haunted by the demons. It's difficult to even empathize despite her account, for I've never experienced anything like she went through. It's a story that sounds more like 15th century Europe than 20th century Morocco. Her youngest brother was only 3 when they were imprisoned. She describes how amazed he was with the world when a few of them were able to escape. For instance, he finds something hard on the ground but didn't know what it was- it was simply asphalt.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
If this had been a book of fiction, I would have found it hard to believe, but as it is not, that makes it all the more remarkable. Read morePublished on March 4 2012 by Mackenzie
This is one amazing book. I don't want to give the plot away. Suffice it to say that it is a story of one incredibly brave family who faced incredible odds and managed to... Read morePublished on Sept. 18 2009 by Tara
What happened to this moroccan princess and her family is horrific. People should know and understand that this type of thing still happens. Read morePublished on June 2 2002 by Victoria
I loved this book sooooo much. Even though it was an Oprah book, which I normally get bored with. I immediately sent it off to my mom. I felt her pain, lonliness and fear. Read morePublished on May 21 2002
First of all, I do not want my negative review of the book and my following statements to be misconstrued as support for the inhumane conditions that Ms. Read morePublished on May 1 2002
This is a very well-written account of a fascinating life. The story really stuck in my head. To live through such torture and still be able to have a positive outlook is... Read morePublished on April 25 2002