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“I decided to write for revenge. Against the injustice. I wanted to show what I had inside me.”
Meet Morrocan-French writer Leïla Slimani for a fascinating interview about her life, the world of books and finding a space in between cultures.
“We were trapped. We were put in that box – in the eyes of Western people and the eyes of Islamists. We were Muslim, Muslim, Muslim all the time even though we are not.”
Writer and journalist Leïla Slimani was born in Rabat in 1981 and grew up in a French-speaking family. She studied political science in Paris and then worked as a journalist for the magazine »Jeune Afrique«. In 2012, she left the editorial office to devote herself to literary writing.
“I don’t know why I write this book or another book or this story. It’s impossible to answer this question. And people who would answer this question they would lie. Because I think that we never know, it’s something really mysterious. It’s like being in the dark with your eyes open – and you get accustomed to the dark.”
“Now I see that I have some obsessions, themes that come back each time I write a book: Femininity, motherhood, social domination, racism, integration, all those themes. But they are not the beginning of the book. The beginning of the book is a character.“
After several publishers rejected her first manuscript in 2013, she completed an internship in the studio of French writer and Gallimard editor Jean-Marie Laclavetine. Her debut novel, Dans le Jardin de lʼogre, devoted to the theme of female sexuality as a symbol of emancipation and defying convention, was a sensation, especially among readers in Morocco. Her second novel Chanson Douce won the renowed Prix Goncourt. Slimani tells her »dark fairy tale for adults« starting from the end: a nanny hired by a French middle-class couple has killed the children entrusted to her care. The text explores the underlying origins of this tragedy, which was primarily due to the employers’ lack of interest in their domestic workers’ financial and psychological hardships. With a sharpened eye, Slimani describes the reality of life in the Western middle class and shows the disparity of different social types that remain alien to each other despite various points of contact. Slimani’s most recent novel Le Pays des Autres is the first part of a planned trilogy. The novel explores everyday racism in French colonial society through a love story between an Arab and a French woman at the end of World War II.
In her essays, published in the volumes Sexe et Mensonges and Le diable est dans les details, Leïla Slimani focuses primarily on Islam and feminism, as well as the rise of fanaticism worldwide. In 2017, Emmanuel Macron appointed her as his personal representative to the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie. In the same year, she became Officière de lʼordre des Arts et des Lettres.
Leïla Slimani was interviewed by Marc-Christoph Wagner at the French Embassy in Copenhagen in April 2022.
Camera: Jarl Therkelsen Kaldan
Edited by: Jarl Therkelsen Kaldan
Produced by: Marc-Christoph Wagner
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2022
Louisiana Channel is supported by Den A.P. Møllerske Støttefond, Ny Carlsbergfondet, C.L. Davids Fond og Samling and Fritz Hansen.
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