Moroccan writer wins France’s top literary prize

Chanson Douce is based on real-life story of Dominican nanny facing trial on charges of killing two children she was looking after and loved in New York in 2012.

Leila Slimani smiles after winning the 2016 Goncourt literary prize for her book Chanson Douce (Sweet Song), in Paris, on November 3rd.


2016/11/06 Issue: 80 Page: 22


The Arab Weekly
Saad Guerraoui



Marrakech - Moroccan-born Leila Slimani has won the Prix Goncourt, France’s top literary prize, for her novel Chanson Douce (Sweet Song).

“I am moved and happy but I wonder if all this is real. I cannot be­lieve it,” said Slimani, 35.

Slimani is the second Moroccan writer to win the award. Tahar Ben Jelloun, who now serves on the pan­el that chooses the Prix Goncourt winner, was picked for his novel La Nuit Sacrée (The Sacred Night) in 1987. Slimani is the 12th woman, and fifth in the last 20 years, to win France’s prestigious literary prize, which was first given in 1903.

“Usually, the Goncourt Academy awards books of the past. This year it rewards a book about the present, the daily life and its problems, like this question of delegating author­ity and love to someone stranger to the family. Many couples will recog­nise themselves in this book,” said academy Chairman Bernard Pivot of the jury’s choice.

Chanson Douce is based on the real-life story of a Dominican nanny facing trial on charges of killing two children she was looking after and loved in New York in 2012.

“I also wanted to tell the fate of an invisible and also show how the nightmare, the horror can arise from the mundane, the everyday, small misunderstandings, repeated small humiliations. Show how we must remain vigilant on all the lit­tle details that can lead to tragedy,” Slimani said.

“I found inspiration in my own life. I, myself, looked for a nanny and I discovered a world. It is a book about the daily life of a woman torn between her role as a mother and her desire to work. Today, it is more on the side of the mother that we will find guilt. The mother always has the feeling of not quite doing well.”

Slimani dedicated the prize to her parents: “My father who died ten years ago and my mother, who ar­rived from Morocco this morning, had an intuition that I would win at 4am… and to the people who taught me the love of literature, the love of freedom and who always told me that I could always get there,” she said.

Slimani made headlines with her daring debut novel in 2014 about a nymphomaniac, Dans le Jar­din de l’Ogre (In the Garden of the Ogre). The book won the Prix of La Mamounia, which is considered the Moroccan equivalent of the Gon­court.

Other finalists for the 2016 Gon­court literary award were Catherine Cusset for L’autre qu’on adorait (The Other One We Loved), Gael Faye for Petit Pays (Little Country) and Regis Jauffret for Cannibales (Cannibals).

French writer Yasmina Reza, best known for her play Art, won the Prix Renaudot for her novel Baby­lone.

“I like the authors’ writing style that the prize awards each year,” said Reza. “In my opinion, one should not react with too much vanity. This prize is above all a great opportunity for the book.”

Renaudot jury member Franz- Olivier Giesbert said that for him every new book by Reza is a classic.

“I think that’s a good thing that the world of literature is interested in this magnificent writer,” he said.


Saad Guerraoui is a regular contributor to The Arab Weekly on Maghreb issues.


As Printed
MENA Now
Editors' Picks

The Arab Weekly Newspaper reaches Western & Arabic audience that are influential as well as being affluent.

From Europe to the Middle East,and North America, The Arab Weekly talks to opinion formers and influential figures, providing insight and comment on national, international and regional news through the focus of Arabic countries and community.

Published by Al Arab Publishing House

Publisher and Group Executive Editor: Haitham El-Zobaidi, PhD

Editor-in-Chief: Oussama Romdhani

Managing Editor: Iman Zayat

Deputy Managing Editor and Online Editor: Mamoon Alabbasi

Senior Editor: John Hendel

Chief Copy Editor: Richard Pretorius

Copy Editor: Stephen Quillen

Analysis Section Editor: Ed Blanche

East/West Section Editor: Mark Habeeb

Gulf Section Editor: Mohammed Alkhereiji

Society and Travel Sections Editor: Samar Kadi

Syria and Lebanon Sections Editor: Simon Speakman Cordall

Contributing Editor: Rashmee Roshan Lall

Senior Correspondents: Mahmud el-Shafey (London) & Lamine Ghanmi (Tunis)

Regular Columnists

Claude Salhani

Yavuz Baydar

Correspondents

Saad Guerraoui (Casablanca)

Dunia El-Zobaidi (London)

Roua Khlifi (Tunis)

Thomas Seibert (Washington)

Chief Designer: Marwen Hmedi

Designers

Ibrahim Ben Bechir

Hanen Jebali

Published by Al Arab Publishing House

Contact editor at:editor@thearabweekly.com

Subscription & Advertising: Ads@alarab.co.uk

Tel 020 3667 7249

Mohamed Al Mufti

Marketing & Advertising Manager

Tel (Main) +44 20 6702 3999

Direct: +44 20 8742 9262

www.alarab.co.uk

Al Arab Publishing House

Kensington Centre

177-179 Hammersmith Road

London W6 8BS , UK

Tel: (+44) 20 7602 3999

Fax: (+44) 20 7602 8778

Follow Us
© The Arab Weekly, All rights reserved