Mahi Binebine’s courageous novel takes place in Morocco, where seven would-be immigrants gather one night near the Strait of Gibraltar to wait for a signal from a trafficker that it is time to cross. While they wait, their stories unfold: Kacem Judi is an escapee from the civil war in Algeria; Nuara, with her newborn child, hopes to find her husband, who hasn’t been in touch for months since moving to France; and Aziz, the young narrator, and his cousin Reda are severed, in different ways, from their families in southern Morocco. They all share a longing to escape and a readiness to risk everything. Welcome to Paradise delves into a world that most readers know only from stories on the nightly news, delivering a compassionate and striking portrait of human desperation.
"Seven Africans waiting to be smuggled into Spain by a shiftless traficker reveal their motives for fleeing in Mahi Binebine's brave, suspense novel..."
"...A strong, unsparing novel..."
"...determinedly humanistic and profoundly touching..."
—Shelf Awareness starred review
“A masterful account of North Africans trying to sneak across the Straits of Gibraltar into Spain . . . A fine debut: richly atmospheric and evocative, at once a sharply narrated tale of suspense and a carefully constructed memoir of inner grief.”
“From often bleak material, Mahi Binebine has writeen a moving novel that is full of life and light, aided by a fine translation from the French by Lulu Norman.”
“Binebine describes their plight in crisp elegant prose, which manages to convey compassion but avoids sentimentality.”
“Mahi Binebine is the first Moroccan writer to give these lives an identity.”
“Sober and unsentimental, Welcome to Paradise is a highly moving homage to the new wretched of the earth.”
“Binebine writes with humanity...His is a rare voice, genuine, subtle and wry, even as it tells of private miseries and public suffering.”
“At once sympathetic to a people’s plight and angry with its self-delusions, this is a brave book to have written and a rich, unsettling one to read.”
"I was profoundly moved by a beautiful, necessary Moroccan short novel, Welcome to Paradise ...exquisitely written and a perfect antidote to quasi-racist hysteria over asylum seekers."
"Why are illegal African emigrants so desperate to gatecrash Western Europe? The answers are explored in Mahi Binebine's terse, bleak compassionate Welcome to Paradise which is both topical and rare in tracing the phenomena to its roots: to the poverty and cruelty the emigrants are escaping."
"The suspense is compelling, and the novel's lyricism assails a dehumanising anonymity. There is a Sisyphean epic unfolding in the endless effort to reach paradise and the repetitive cycle of failure and defeat."