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The Fetishists

The Fetishists

This epic novel of Tuareg culture in the Saharan Desert is considered the greatest work of Ibrahim al-Koni, one of the most prolific and important writers in Arabic today.

Series: CMES Modern Middle East Literatures in Translation

Center for Middle Eastern Studies, UT Austin
November 2018
Active (available)
454 pages | 6 x 9 |

The Fetishists, originally published in Arabic as Al Majus, is considered the masterpiece of Ibrahim al-Koni, one of the most prolific and important writers in Arabic today. In The Fetishists, Al-Koni explores what happens when a writer asks the novel to speak of and for the Sahara, when rival cultures clash, and when communities seek to build a utopia on Earth as individuals struggle between a desire for material well-being (represented by gold dust) and a need for spiritual meaning. As the story opens, Sultan Oragh of Timbuktu, who has already lost most of his power to Fetishist Bambara leaders of the forestlands, fears he will lose his only daughter, Tenere, as a human sacrifice to their god Amnay. The sultan sends Tenere to seek refuge with fellow Tuareg nomads in the plain. But even in their traditional, nomadic community, a competition rages between jihadi militant Islam; moderate Anhi Islam, which is the ancient Tuareg Law; and the cults of gold dust and of traditional African folk religions.

In this epic novel, Al-Koni blends Tuareg folklore and history with intense, fond descriptions of daily life in the desert, creating a mirror for life anywhere. Through its tragic rendering of a clash between the Tuareg and traditional African civilizations, the novel profoundly probes the contradictions of the human soul as it takes the reader on a unique spiritual adventure inside the Tuareg world.


Salou, Spain

Al-Koni is an award-winning Libyan writer and one of the most prolific Arabic novelists. He has published more than eighty books, which have been translated into thirty-five languages. In 2015, Al-Koni was shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize.

Boone, North Carolina

Hutchins is a professor at Appalachian State University. He won the American Literary Translators Association National Prose Translation Award in 2015 for Ibrahim al-Koni’s novel New Waw.