By Annamarya Scaccia (SexHerald.com, 2005)
Title: The Almond
Publisher: Grove Press New York
Publish Date: 2005; English Edition
What would it be like to wake up every morning next to a partner who gives you no pleasure? How would it feel to let go of everything you thought you knew about life and love and finally give into your own pleasures? What would you do when faced with your own sexual awakening?
The Almond, originally written in French by Nedjma and translated to English by C.Jane Hunter, concerns itself with answering these questions. An autobiographical work of erotic ecstasy and sexual appetites, The Almond confronts restrictions, obligations, religion, rebellion and passion.
Nedjma, a pseudonym for the book’s author, is in her forties and lives in the Maghreb region of the Middle East. An amazingly gifted writer, she recounts her life as a repressed Muslim woman in graphic detail, tinted with a taste of lust and pain. Although drenched in scenes of lust, sensations, passions and raw sex, The Almond is defined more by its heartbreaking relationships and emotional restraints than by the erotica displayed. The main character, Badra, a youthful Muslim woman, uses sex as a way to love, not knowing which way is up or down, only knowing the pleasure she receives from a simple lick and a warming kiss. Physical stimulation means the world to Badra and for her, “happiness is making love because of love”.
At seventeen, Badra was forced to marry the notary Hmed, a forty-year-old man with a taste for flesh and power, and suffered under the hands of his family. Watched, raped, pulled apart and scrutinized for a ‘frozen’ womb, Badra had to live with a raging husband searching for a woman to bear his child. Tired and weary, Badra finally flees her hometown of Imchouk for Tangiers, a small town influenced by Western ideas, and take refugee in the house of her Aunt Selma. Not only does Badra never lose her faith and learns that both sexual fulfillment and religious observances can be linked in the same sentence, after her escape she realizes the power of her vagina and her heart.
After she has fled, Badra meets her first real love Driss, a wealthy doctor who opens Badra up to her ‘almond’, which is what Badra compares her vagina to: a delectable nut that needs to be peeled and tasted in order to be appreciated. Unfortunately, Driss’ sexual desire and cheating overpowers their growing relationship, and though their love remains, the realtionship itself expires. Along with reminiscing of her love for Driss, Badra talks about her past, her first encounter with female and male genitalia, her desire to have the “most beautiful cunt in the world”, her sexual experiences with women, and her family’s abandonment, with looming heartache. All Badra really wants is for you to understand the past she has lived with and how it has influenced the present she is living.
Nedjma does a splendid job of fusing the past with the present and does not miss a beat. The Almond is beautiful in its tragedy and undeniably delicious in its sexual rendezvous. With convincing emotion, Nedjma has written more than a book of erotica–this is a book that links love to lust, sex to pain, heartbreak to maturity, and desire to religion. The Almond is more than a tale of mere rebellion; it is acceptance of oneself physically, spiritually, emotionally and mentally. After reading such a fantastic piece of literature, one is left with their own questions to ask and explore. An absolute must-read, The Almond will teach you how to love yourself and your partner, and to enjoy what you have.