Can an almost perfect marriage withstand the test of time and the weight of family and tradition? It is around this question that the frame of Tahar Ben Jelloun’s new novel “Les amants de Casablanca” is built, which was presented Wednesday evening in Rabat.
During a meeting-debate organized by the Book Club Le Matin, the Franco-Moroccan novelist and poet said that he wanted, through the story of Nabil and Lamia, a bourgeois couple whose marriage is on the verge of implosion. , to criticize the “enormous weight” of the family and of social appearances which condemns to failure many unions which would nevertheless have everything to succeed.
“Les amants de Casablanca” (336 pages, Editions Gallimard, 2023) describes how routine and disillusionment, coupled with family interference, end up forming an explosive cocktail that shatters the union of Lamia, a brilliant pharmacist and ambitious and Nabil, a humanist and committed doctor, a bit too much.
Disappointed to see her husband take care of his disinherited patients more than of her couple, the disillusioned wife lives in silence a crossing of the desert which leads her to the winding path of betrayal. How could either of them have let things get so compromised? Tahar Ben Jelloun leaves it to his skillful pen and his training as a psychologist to describe the moods of Lamia and Nabil in all their ambivalence and complexity, while being careful not to take sides for one or the other. .
“I am a novelist, not a judge. The novelist is an observer, a witness of the time,” proclaims the writer in response to a question about this position of “neutrality” that he has adopted throughout the story.
Casablanca, a metropolis with a thousand faces and identities, serves as the backdrop for this story about the debacle of a young couple who appear to be exemplary but are plagued from within by their contradictions and inhibitions which are, according to the author, the lot many other contemporary couples torn between modernity and tradition.
Explaining this choice, Tahar Ben Jelloun indicated, in a statement to M24, MAP’s continuous news television channel, that “Casablanca plays a very important role in the novel because it is the lung, the heart of the country and it is a place of money, of power, of power but also of poverty and contradictions”.
The writer says he took advantage of this setting to “note all the contradictions of our society which has one foot in modernity and another in tradition”, adding that it is “a fiction featuring characters of daily life and their love story through which I also tell the Morocco of today”.
Novelist, poet and painter, member of the Académie Goncourt and winner of the Goncourt Prize in 1987 for “The Sacred Night”, Tahar Ben Jelloun is the author of numerous novels published by Éditions Gallimard, including “Le miel et l’amertume”. , “The punishment”, or even “The marriage of pleasure”.
The literary and artistic works of the native of Fez in 1944 are appreciated throughout the world. Tahar Ben Jelloun is best known for his Goncourt Prize-winning novel “La nuit sacrée” and his many educational essays, including “Racism explained to my daughter”, translated into more than 25 languages, and his latest book “Le miel et l’ ‘bitter’ (2021), edited by La Nave di Teseo.