In Golden Horseshoes by Farid Boughdir (1989) and Halfaouine (or Child of the Terraces) by Nouri Bouzid (1990), two protagonists, trapped in difficult passages and transitions, embark on quests toward self-realization. In Halfaouine, Noura, a young boy, undergoes the upheavals of puberty and probes the taboos associated with adulthood and coming of age. In Golden Horseshoes, Youssef, a previous political prisoner and leftist militant, bemoans the shattering of his dreams and struggles to cope with a society he feels distanced from.

My paper examines the struggle of the two protagonists against the boundaries imposed by political and socio-religious structures. By tracing analogies between these quests and rites of passage, my paper will equally discuss the (dis)empowering meaning of the protagonists’ quests, and the possible signs of emancipation associated with various religious symbols. The two plotlines significantly begin with two celebrations (Ashura in Golden Horseshoes, and the circumcision of the brother in Halfaouine) which carry deep religious resonances, but which also represent gateways toward symbolic transitioning into new beginnings. While circumcision symbolizes coming of age and passage into the social-religious complex that shapes the prototype of the adult Muslim male, Ashura, a communal commemoration of a shared calamity (often associated with the story of the flood and the liberation of the children of Israel by Moses) equally indicates an agonizing passage.