Los ojos del tuareg

I read Los ojos del tuareg (Tuareg’s eyes) by Albert Vasquez-Figueroa.

The novel is a continuation of his previous novel, Tuareg, but it can be read independently, during the first pages we are introduced to the story. The characters are new and just slightly related. That being said, Tuareg’s eyes is about the life of a family who lives a simple life in the desert, about the rules in Tuaregs life, about honor and about tradition versus modernity.

We have a Tuareg family that has a very simple life in the desert, lonely, with barely enough water to survive. They even lose one of their family members in order to construct a well to get the water they need. They get stunned at the fact that when they offer someone hospitality, they are treated with hostility and they get their water reserves destroyed and face imminent death.

The find out that the western people decided to create a rally through the desert, a competition which they claim to be sportive, but in fact it’s done just for earning more money, creating advertising possibilities for companies willing to pay a lot of money, which they cannot do in a normal advertising slot.

Gacel , the main character and the leader of the Tuareg family, decides to follow the path of his ancestors, to seek justice for the injustice which was served to him, and to do that, he takes hostages, people who have no blame, and tries to force the owners of the Dakar rally to fix up his well, and surrender the criminal, so that his right hand is cut off, as it should be by the ancient law.

In here we can see the fact that Gacel wants to adapt to the new world, but he cannot give up his old ways, as he always claims that a Tuareg rather dies than loses his honor. He is being helped by a chopper pilot who understands him, and warns him that the rally owners would rather present history and facts using their own power: 6 innocent people killed by the Tuareg bandits, instead of telling the truth and trying to save the people’s life.

We can see the lack of moral interest from the owners, their interests, and the suffering which happens to everyone, including the people in the countries in which the rally takes place, the pilots themselves who may die or get hurt during the rally, and the people back home watching TV and spending their money and health buying more cigarettes as a consequence of commercials.

The action gets more cinema-like when a commando troop is sent in the desert to try to recover the 6 hostages, but only finding themselves at the mercy of the Tuaregs, after their water supply is being cut off, and facing extreme temperatures and sun.

Gacel manages to get justice done, and decides not to wound his criminal, but only by resorting to another big criminal, from Italian mafia, who helps him as thanks for letting his only son go, as he was part of the hostages.

However, life and the author does not let things unpunished, and sentences the criminal to a most likely death in the desert.

Los ojos del tuareg is an interesting novel, putting up some interesting ideas on the table, but very much a cinema-like story, which can be easily adapted to an action movie. I would have hoped to see more social aspects evolved, like the possibility of marriage for both boys and girls inside the Tuareg family, being alone in the desert is very unlikely; also with respect to the Tuareg traditions, except honor, I would have been interested to know more.

One interesting aspect is the effect of heat and desert on people’s life, which is very underrated in Europe, when looking at the nomads of Sahara.

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