Acclaimed Author Leila Slimani’s New Novel Launches Trilogy on Dilemmas Faced by Biracial Families
The author of the Prix Goncourt winner “The Perfect Nanny” (2016), as well as “Adele” (2014) and “Sex and Lies” (2017), Leila Slimani returns with the first installment of a promising trilogy highlighting the struggles of living in between two worlds that both reject you. “Le Pays des Autres” (In the Country of Others), set for an English release on August 10, 2021, is the story of an interracial couple grappling to make ends meet between the Second World War and Morocco’s independence in 1956. Settling in Meknes, Mathilde, a Frenchwoman, and Amine, a Moroccan soldier, face the ire of both French colonizers and Moroccans for their marriage.
Dedicated to cultivating his land into a farm, Amine grafts the branch of a lemon tree onto an orange tree. The resulting fruit — “lemange,” as named by their daughter Aicha — is inedible and bitter. This fruit will also feature on the cover of the novel’s English release. "We can see that this strange fruit is not right — the orange color is dripping...How can you be two things at once? Are you obliged to choose one side over the other?" Slimani told Entertainment Weekly.
This fruit represents the frustrations the family experiences as Morocco approaches independence. Aicha is taunted by her French classmates for her second-hand clothes and unruly hair. Mathilde, who continually becomes more isolated as the French colonizers look down on her for marrying a Moroccan man and Moroccans reject her for being French, begins to offer medical services to the rural population, not just as an act of defiance against the country’s gender norms, but as an expression of autonomy. Amine is secretly proud of his wife, though also “ashamed by her refusal to be subjugated,” said the Arab Daily News.
“In the Country of Others” is the first of three novels drawing from Slimani’s personal history, inspired by family experiences over multiple generations. This title calls upon the story of her grandmother, Anne Reutsch, who fell in love with Lakhdar Dhobb, a colonel in the French colonial army. According to the Guardian, the next books will delve into her mother’s story, and finally Slimani’s own story.
Al Jadid previously published an essay on Leila Slimani. To read the essay, click on the link below:
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