More than a quarter of a century after independence, the Maghrib’s Francophone literary output is flourishing. If one adds to this the Beur literature produced by second and third generation immigrants of North African heritage, Maghribi literature in French appears to be the single most important literary and aesthetic phenomenon permeating French culture today. One of the most important exponents of this literature is Tahar Ben Jelloun, the Moroccan recipient of the prestigious Goncourt Prize in 1987. The warm critical reception of his two novels, The Sand Child and The Sacred Night (translated by Alan Sheridan, published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovitch, 1987 and 1989), epitomizes the increasing popularity and success of Maghribi literature in French.
The Prix Goncourt, always the biggest literary event of the year in France, became even more so in 1987, when the venerable Goncourt Academy named Moroccan writer Tahar Ben Jelloun as its eightieth laureate. In French literary circles, reaction to the selection of Ben Jelloun’s novel, La Nuit saerde, contained an unmistakable current of relief, as if to say that the situation of the Arab community in France really could not be so bad if a North African received the Prix Goncourt. Within that Arab community, the optimism was somewhat more guarded (about the book as well as the prize), but certainly no one regretted the increased visibility that the award brought to French-language North African literature.
Bruno Etienne, L’islamisme radical (Paris: Hachette, 1987.)
Gilles Kepel, Les banlieues de l’islam: naissance d’une religion en France (Paris: Seuil, 1987.)
France is finding out that being a “Little Satan” can be more uncomfortable than being a big one. Whatever the outcome, the Gulf war threatens to end in political and economic disaster for France, which has become number two demon in the eyes of the ayatollahs by selling Iraq more arms than it can pay for.
In early November 1986, just as the Iran arms story was breaking, Washington Times editor Arnaud de Borchgrave interviewed French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac. On November 7, de Borchgrave published a front-page story based on the interview highlighting Chirac’s suspicion, which the prime minister also attributed to West German leaders, that the well-publicized Syrian bomb plot against an Israeli jetliner was concocted by the Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad. Israeli and American officials and media were then playing up the London trial of suspect Nizar Hindawi in order to distract attention from the Iran arms scandal and the capture of American mercenary Eugene Hasenfus in Nicaragua.
Richard Lawless and Allan and Anne Findlay, Return Migration to the Maghreb: People and Policies, Arab Papers 10 (London: Arab Research Centre, 1982).
Philippe Adair, “Retrospective de la Reforme Agraire en Algerie,” Revue Tiers-Monde 14 (1983).
Jean Bisson, “L’industrie, la ville, la palmeraie au desert,” Maghreb-Machrek 99 (1983).