“The Arab Trilogy was long in the making, interweaving my personal history with that of the world. It starts with a fascination with the traditional Moroccan way of life and ends with the misery of a Tunisian dictatorship.
Strangely, as soon as I started to write about the Arab world, I was asked to change my name – as if the speaker needed to be in keeping with her subject. But the thing that makes a person into a writer is precisely her ability to project herself into many different cultures, and to identify herself with characters who appear to have nothing in common with her – to link up with the humanity that resides in all of us; the brain is unconstrained and the boundaries of the mind are permeable. A much bigger mark of respect was still needed, however – that of the Arabic language. At the 2010 book exhibition, I had the good fortune to meet the Lebanese printer and translator Nassib Aoun, a charming and erudite old gentleman. L’Olivier Bleu and 2028 are now available in Arabic. Nador is in the process of being translated.”
THE ARAB TRILOGY
The Arab Trilogy starts with the Arab world of yesteryear with L’Olivier Bleu [the blue Olive tree], then leaps forward into the world of the future with 2028 and ends up returning to the present time in Nador.
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
L’Olivier Bleu in the Plurielles review
L’Olivier Bleu on the radio :
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L’Olivier Bleu on television :
Éditions Scali published this futuristic novel by Thérèse Fournier in 2006. It presaged the events that were to unfold in the Muslim world: the Arab Spring, the rise of Islamic State, the recruitment of young people, worldwide terror campaigns. In 2016, Mirza Publishing produced a digital version so that everyone can appreciate its incredible visionary genius.
“With L’Olivier Bleu, I was launched into a world of unsuspected developments. Between L’Olivier Bleu and 2028, I certainly wrote other novels, not published, but the Arab world had got under my skin. In spring 2003 in Sicily, while I was cooped up in my ship in dry dock and after the shock of the twin towers, I watched the declaration of war on Iraq playing itself out. It was a time of intense emotion and international tragedy. I gave birth to 2028 in the vast solitude of visionaries – because 2028 foretold the Arab Spring and the Islamist violence ten years before they happened – in embryonic form in L’Olivier Bleu from which Boualem Sansal drew great inspiration when writing 2084.”
Sana is a model revolutionary of the Islamic republic, the Rip Wasa, formed after the revolution of 2013. However, she finds out she is on the list of dissidents. Who is scheming her downfall? In a very Orwellian atmosphere, from Saturday to Friday, we find out about this world of hyper-surveillance and the heroine’s growing awareness of it.
Visit the 2028 site :
Nador is currently being adapted for cinema.
It will be brought out soon by Mirza Publishing.
“During my stay in Tunisia, in the middle of the 2000s, in Bizerte, on the hill overlooking the harbour, there was a haunting presence in the green. It was the Nador high security prison, built into an old French fort. Oddly enough, Nador means “fine view” in Arabic. That indefinable sense of unease hung over me throughout my time in Tunisia, and it gradually grew along with my deep interest in the country. I laid down the broad outlines of Nador among the buttresses of the Saint-Vincent-de-Paul Cathedral in Tunis where I had my office. I completed the book in 2011. Today, the co producer ACF Films (Paris 8), the film-maker and scriptwriter Philippe Calderon, along with the CNC (National Cinema Centre) have taken up the baton. The film script is ready – now for the casting.”
In Tunis, under the dictatorship of Ben Ali and on the eve of the Arab Spring, four destinies intertwine in a stormy thriller: that of Houria Bencheik, secretary of the European delegation to Tunis, that of Kaïs, a dilettante French-Tunisian engineer, and a family of expats: Gabrielle and Charles Duquesne, and their children.