L’Olivier Bleu, inspired by North Africa, was born of a fascination with a hyper-structured traditional world, in which violence against women emerges. It is dedicated to the winner of the first Nobel Prize for Literature in the Arabic language in 1988, the Egyptian writer Naguib Mahfouz, himself a victim of fundamentalist violence. It was first published by the publishing house JC Lattès in Paris in 1996, then by Le Fennec in Casablanca in 1997.
« From the outset the novel met with widespread acclaim. With it, I established my credentials as a writer. It was shortlisted for the Méditerranée des Lycéens prize. At the time of sending the novel to French-speaking North Africa, I fought to have a Moroccan publisher republish the text in French – so making the book affordable. In the Casablanca Book Exhibition in November 1997, I signed my name alongside Fatima Mernissi, for the Le Fennec publishing house of Casablanca. I was thrilled to see the veiled women students shelling out 25 dirhams to buy L’Olivier Bleu.”
L’Olivier Bleu summarised in Elle :
« History in slow motion, still frames in Azrif, a Moroccan village: women in the hammam, hennaed fingers, the souk full of boisterous men. And, in close-up, the adolescent Mouna and Rachid madly in love with each other, the joy of their young bodies which come together in secret. The still frames and the slow motion speaking volumes about the sensuality of this forbidden passion. Mouna is the daughter of a prominent family, Rachid is only a musician. The atmosphere is unsettling, ill-fated, dogged by the evil eye, with the ever-present threat of physical violence. This is a new Romeo to a contemporary Eastern Juliet, and five seasons, five chapters deliver powerful insight. It makes you shiver. » Isabelle Lortholary, September 1996