Ben Jelloun Profile

A couple of weeks ago, the Observer dubbed Faïza Guène the ‘voice of the suburbs;’ this week, the Guardian calls Tahar Ben Jelloun the ‘voice of the Maghreb.’ What’s with the fixation with voice? And in the singular? It’s funny, I’ve never seen profiles of, say, Juan Goytisolo in Moroccan newspapers calling him ‘the voice of Spain.’

In any case, the article on Ben Jelloun makes for a worthwhile read, recapping all the major milestones in the author’s life. An interesting tidbit:

“I didn’t like Bowles, the man or the writer. He loved young Moroccan boys and preferred them illiterate. He’d write books in their words; it was an ambiguous relationship.” He preferred the Beat poet Allen Ginsberg. “I asked him, ‘why Tangier in the ’50s?’ He answered, ‘boys and hashish – and neither is expensive’. But at least he was frank.” Later, in Paris, Ben Jelloun became friends with Jean Genet, who taught him “about everything – writing, politics”, and whom he depicted in a short story, “Genet and Mohamed, or the Prophet Who Woke Up the Angel”.

Among his inspirations are Cervantes, who was influenced by Andalucian Arab culture; Matisse; and Fernando Pessoa (“I read a poem every night, as others read a prayer”).

You can read the article in full here.

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