(My review on goodreads)
This is a bleak story of a boy growing to manhood in Morocco in the 40s and 50s: an abusive and generally worthless father, extreme poverty, violence, alcohol, prostitution, police violence, and colonial occupation. This is written as an autobiography, and seems by turns naïve, surprisingly honest, and deeply insightful. The story covers the period from when the author was eight years old until he was nearing 20. In that time he witnessed the murder of his younger sibling and the death by starvation of another; was beaten repeatedly by his good-for-nothing father; was handed off to various family members and others; was set to work as a young child; learned to drink and to smoke both tobacco and cannabis by the time he was 10 or 11; became addicted to brothels at age 12; committed petty thefts his entire life; was frequently in danger of being raped; was never sent to school and was completely illiterate. In short: nothing about his life would suggest that he had any sort of chance. Only at the end do we see that he finally understands that he can make something of himself and escape his terrible surroundings which, presumably, he did.