Leïla Slimani Has Written About a Sex Addict and a Murderous Nanny. Next Up: Her Own Family.
French colonization and the struggle for Moroccan independence, which took place in 1956, form the backdrop for the novel, and Slimani delves into the complex identities that emerged from that time. Aïcha, Métis daughter of Mathilde and excluded from her predominantly French Catholic school, is based on Slimani’s mother.
For inspiration, Slimani turned to American westerns and novels by William Faulkner, Carson McCullers and Flannery O’Connor. “There are many things Moroccans can identify with in Southern literature, from the relationship with nature – both hostile and sensual – to racial tensions, even if they are not the same as in the States. United, ”she said. “I wanted to build my own Alabama.”
Mathilde and Aïcha will be back: “In the land of others” is the first part of a trilogy. The second, which Slimani said last month was “one scene” from the end, will focus on her parents’ generation. Her mother was one of the first women to practice medicine in Morocco, while her father, a former Minister of the Economy, was embroiled in an embezzlement scandal and was left unemployed and disgraced in the 1990s. (He was briefly jailed in 2002, but exonerated posthumously in 2010.)
His fate deeply hurt the family and added to Slimani’s adolescent detachment from his country. At home, her relatives spoke French and valued the financial and intellectual independence of women, even though Moroccan society as a whole did not: “Everything that was going on outside went against this. that I was taught, ”she recalls. Like her parents and many upper-class children from the North West African Maghreb region, Slimani was later sent to Paris to study. The third book in her planned trilogy will resume when she settles there in 1999.
She only got to know Morocco better, she says, between 2008 and 2012, when she worked as a journalist for the magazine Jeune Afrique (“Jeune Afrique”), covering the Maghreb and, later, the Arab Spring. “It was wonderful, but I also realized how indifferent the Moroccan bourgeoisie is to the country,” Slimani said. “People know everything about France and the United States, but they don’t care what happens two streets away. “
Her reporting on youth and sexuality at the time was a stepping stone to “Sex and Lies,” a non-fiction book she wrote in 2017 about the sex lives of women in the Arab world.
Slimani has made it a point to defend the rights of women in Morocco and elsewhere over the years, especially their right to sexual freedom and to wear what they want. She recognizes a difficult relationship with her own body. “My editor told me that the word I use most often in my books is ‘shame’,” she said. “In Arabic, we say that someone who is well educated is someone who is ashamed.”
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