“When I walked through the large iron gate of the hospital, I must have still been alive…” So begins Ahmed Bouanani’s arresting, hallucinatory 1989 novel The Hospital, appearing for the first time in English translation. Based on Bouanani’s own experiences as a tuberculosis patient, the hospital begins to feel increasingly like a prison or a strange nightmare: the living resemble the dead; bureaucratic angels of death descend to direct traffic, claiming the lives of a motley cast of inmates one by one; childhood memories and fantasies of resurrection flash in and out of the narrator’s consciousness as the hospital transforms before his eyes into an eerie, metaphorical space. Somewhere along the way, the hospital’s iron gate disappears.
Like Sadegh Hedayat’s The Blind Owl, the works of Franz Kafka—or perhaps like Mann’s The Magic Mountain thrown into a meat-grinder—The Hospital is a nosedive into the realms of the imagination, in which a journey to nowhere in particular leads to the most shocking places.
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