Leïla Slimani’s second novel Lullaby stunned the literary world with its chilling account of the death of two children at the hands of their nanny. Its deft prose and insight into the socio-political intricacies of modern French society earned Slimani the Prix Goncourt, making her the first Franco-Moroccan woman to be awarded France’s most prestigious literary prize. French President Emmanuel Macron appointed her Francophone affairs minister soon afterwards and her role promoting the French language and culture has consolidated her as one of the country’s most influential literary figures in recent years.
In August 2021 she came to Intelligence Squared to discuss her new novel The Country of Others. Inspired in part by the story of Slimani’s grandparents and the first in a planned trilogy, The Country of Others is set immediately after World War Two, and follows the life of Mathilde, a young French woman, who has just married Amine Belhaj, a Moroccan soldier she met while he was stationed in her town fighting for the French. Mathilde struggles with her new life alongside her husband in Morocco and the mounting tensions between her desire for freedom and the traditions she is forced to follow make for an explosive read.
In conversation with writer and cultural historian Shahidha Bari, Slimani shared her insights into the impact of colonialism and the ways in which women in particular find themselves othered, politically, culturally and historically.
Photo: Catherine Hélie ©Editions Gallimard
Speakers are subject to change.