Reader of the Tanners' Alley

Sufyan Rajab

Leila’s passion for reading leads her to Tanners’ Alley in Tunis, famed for selling of old books. There she encounters an eccentric man who dreams of founding an association for ghostwriters. She becomes unwittingly embroiled in his fantastical schemes, and one day stumbles across an unusual novel alternately written by a male and a female ghostwriter about the experience of a transgender person – purportedly a friend of the male writer. The individual characters and their genders become increasingly fluid, leaving questions about their true identity and that of the narrator, Leila. Although the novel’s apparent subject is gender identity, on a deeper level it tackles a deep-rooted fear inside us all, and the challenge of writing in the face of opposition from censorship, power and society. In a layered narrative, it plays on the trope of the ghostwriter to suggest that authors who do not reveal their true selves in their work become insubstantial and ghostlike themselves.




2024 Longlist