Tahar Ben Jelloun, the prolific francophone Moroccan author, has been promoting his newest book in which he reflects on Jean Genet, Genet’s work, and his influence on Ben Jelloun’s career.
Last Wednesday Ben Jelloun spoke at an event co-sponsored by the Institut Français and held at the faculty of letters of l’Université de Hassan II-Aïn Chock. I stood with a friend in the back near the doors, since the auditorium was packed with spectators, including plenty of students from the faculty. I’ve only read an article or two in the press about the new book, and I’m not a huge connoisseur of his work. I’d rather openly say that I just couldn’t resist the opportunity to go see a Moroccan celebrity author in the flesh.
I was first exposed to Ben Jelloun’s fiction in high school, when I had to read L’enfant de Sable in my French Literature class. Honestly, it went a little over my head.
In addition to his novels, Ben Jelloun is known for his works of social commentary, including Le Racisme Expliqué à ma Fille. It’s a short book that very simply, but artfully, describes and critiques racism in its various forms. During the talk, Ben Jelloun mentioned that he has been working for years to get the Moroccan ministry of education to add his book to the standard curriculum. His request has repeatedly fallen on deaf ears. And if this guy can’t be heard at the Ministry, it gives you an idea of just how difficult and resistant to innovation Moroccan bureaucracy can be.
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I mentioned Tahar Ben Jelloun in a previous post, Une semaine chez les français.