"In my writing I can be an old man in another century. I can totally invent myself," said the French Moroccan writer, whom the audience took to their heart.
Slimani told a harrowing story of how her father, once a successful government employee, was sacked, prevented from ever working again, and thrown into jail aged 60, where he died of depression and grief. Beyond the tragedy, it ironically made her determined to speak out and do anything she wanted to do, regardless of the consequences. "It set me free," she said. "If you can lose everything, then I decided I would be attached to nothing", except her son, daughter and husband, she added.
She has enemies in Morocco where she was brought up and in France where she now lives. As Moroccan, Muslim and French-speaking, those of her own faith in Paris detest everything she says and stands for. She writes about private matters in a very public way, specifically about sex. "When I write I feel no fear," she said.
"I write feel-bad books. I love Munch paintings and I love to be disturbed."
"In real life you have to wear a mask and be polite," she continued. "But when I write I don't care."
The protagonist in her latest book Adele, is, she says "a hunter with a very nice and very boring husband. She searches out excitement in her life, even though it may destroy her."
Slimani won the Prix Goncourt, France's equivalent of the Man Booker, and was offered, but refused, a cabinet post by President Macron. She did accept, however, the role of his personal representative for the promotion of French language and culture.
Picture by Chris Athanasiou
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