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Welcome to Paradise

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.

  • Page Count: 176
  • Direct Price: 12.00
  • List Price: 14.95
  • 5 x 7 3/4
  • Trade Paper
  • April 2012
  • 978-1-935639-27-5
Format Price

Price as Configured $0.00

Mahi Binebine was born in Marrakech in 1959. He studied in Paris and taught mathematics, until he became recognized first as a painter, then as a novelist. Binebine lived in New York in the late 1990s, when his paintings began to be acquired by the Guggenheim Museum.


Lulu Norman is a writer, translator, and editor who lives in London. She has translated Albert Cossery, Mahmoud Darwish, Tahar Ben Jelloun, and the songs of Serge Gainsbourg and written for national newspapers, the London Review of Books, and other literary journals. Her translation of Mahi Binebine’s Welcome to Paradise (Granta, 2003) was shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. Her translation of Binebine’s The Stars of Sidi Moumen will appear in 2012 (Granta, Tin House). 

"Seven Africans waiting to be smuggled into Spain by a shiftless traficker reveal their motives for fleeing in Mahi Binebine's brave, suspense novel..."

—Vanity Fair


"...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.”
Kirkus Reviews

“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.”
The Independent

“Binebine describes their plight in crisp elegant prose, which manages to convey compassion but avoids sentimentality.”
Camden Journal

“Mahi Binebine is the first Moroccan writer to give these lives an identity.”
El Pais

“Sober and unsentimental, Welcome to Paradise is a highly moving homage to the new wretched of the earth.”
Le Monde

“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.”
Literary Review

"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."
—Catherine Lockerbie,Scotsman

"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."
Financial Times 

"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."