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What to think of Leïla Slimani's new novel?

Le Pays Des Autres

Since winning the Goncourt Prize in 2016 for Chanson Douce , each of his new novels is an event. With Le pays des autres , Leïla Slimani tackles a trilogy that begins in 1950s Morocco , directly inspired by the story of her grandparents: a mixed Franco-Moroccan couple confronted with a violent clash of cultures.

Why is this new novel (still) a success?

Once upon a time…

Mathilde , a whimsical Alsatian, falls head over heels for Amine , a spahi (high-ranking soldier of the Moroccan cavalry) sent to Alsace in 1944 during the war. Braving the fears of her family, the young woman in love gets married and leaves France for Meknes , Amine's hometown.

In this French protectorate of the 1950s, when the desire for independence grows in Morocco , Mathilde discovers a world far from her exotic fantasies. Isolated in a dark farm, rejected by Moroccans like the colonists, Mathilde, Aïcha's young mother, is reduced to boredom at home, trying to integrate the codes of the country ... Without losing any of her character of fire !

Strong women

Faithful to her writing, Leïla Slimani continues to draw magnificent and poignant portraits of women without falling into a Manichean story.

Faced with the denial of Moroccan women doomed to remain in the shadow of their husbands and with her loss of cultural belonging, Mathilde still knows how to make her voice heard. Amine going to a party reserved for men? Never mind, Mathilde makes a place for herself at his side, under the dumbfounded eyes of her husband's friends, even if it means taking a slap on the way home.

There is also Aïcha , their child, an explosive cocktail of two worlds perpetually in confrontation. As gifted as she is indomitable, the little girl, sent against her will to the French school run by nuns, alone embodies a radically different future, at a time when nationalism and the country's desire for independence are swelling. at high speed V.

A family biography

To write the uprooting and the history of her native country in its decolonization , the writer born in Rabat was freely inspired by the history of her grandparents. The author tells about the interbreeding of her grandmother Anne, alias Mathilde: neither entirely white nor entirely Arab. Mathilde is forced, by marrying a native, to reset the counters to zero. Far from the image she had of colonized and exotic Morocco, the young woman is engulfed in a family life tinged with misery and boredom.

How to find your place and build your life in the country of the other when you are a mixed couple? Perhaps by letting time and generations pass, as the writer suggests through the story of Aïcha . A character inspired by Anne, the mother of Leila Slimani !

Verdict

A mixed-race love story, historical upheavals, reflection on colonialism and decolonization, fluid writing and an addictive story: yet another winning combo for the author of In the ogre's garden who is trying her hand this time at a new genre, far from contemporary Paris. Hurray, the next two volumes of the trilogy are already announced for 2022 and 2024!

Couverture du Livre Le pays des autres de Leïla Slimani

The land of others - War war war by Leïla Slimani, Gallimard

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