This is a great book, and one that I would not have read if it hadn’t appeared on the New York Times Best Books of 2014. The author and the main character are both Moroccan, but the story takes place in the New World at the dawn of the 16th century.
Mustafa gives up his freedom for the sake of his family after his father’s death, and sells himself into slavery. The first quarter of the book is about the experience of slavery. Then Mustafa’s master sells him to a man who is going on an exploratory voyage to the New World to seek their fortune. The trip begins with several hundred sailors but after one thing and another, the crew is gradually winnowed down to a few remaining members, of which Mustafa is one and his current owner is another. At that point he is not exactly a free man, but his skills have earned him a certain amount of status. He is good with language, he liaisons well with the Native Americans, and he is clearly a survivor. It is a book that offers a glimpse of the invasion and occupation of the New World from the view of an outsider just trying to make a life for himself. Well written and thought provoking.