My current RDR1 is Mohamed Choukri's For Bread Alone -- an autobiographical memoir of growing up poor and hungry in Morocco, written in 1972. I am reading the Hebrew translation from the original, published by noble2 Andalus Publishing. The narrative is very readable, and the style is sparse, matter-of-fact, and pretty stark. So is the reality it depicts: poverty, depravity, near-lawlessness, and no hope. The descriptions are brief but vivid, and violence and abuse are disturbingly universal throughout.
At the time of publication in Arabic (1982, only after appearing in English and French translation), it was sensational, and rocked the Arab literary world by breaking taboos of style and content allowed in texts in classical Arabic (discussing prostitution, drug use, etc.); for me, today, that's of merely anecdotal interest, of course.
I knew next to nothing about Morocco before reading this book -- pretty much just what I've read and seen about WWII-era Morocco ("Casablanca" etc.), and that's obviously of very little relevance toward knowing today's Morocco, and understanding what "native" life is like there. Choukri's book certainly sheds a lot of light on customs and conditions in the Morocco of his childhood.
1 RDR = Random Defiant Reading -- books that are not in the top 20 slots in my reading plans (mostly academic reading these days), nor are likely to get there anytime soon, but which I pick up and read anyway; hence the defiance. I'm rebelling against my own priorities or something. I am large, I contain multitudes.
2 Andalus Publishing is noble because it publishes quality literature written in Arabic (and other dialects common in the Arab world) in Hebrew translation, despite the proven fact that Israeli readers, by and large, just aren't interested in that literature, usually without even trying it.
They do not, and cannot, make a profit, and only exist thanks to endowments and donations, which have sadly been reduced lately, thereby reducing the press's ability to publish new titles. In the recent Hebrew Book Week fair, I bought 9 of their titles, as part of a conscious decision to get to know Arabic literature, of which I am wholly ignorant so far.