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Islam and Modernity in Public Debate at Bard, October 21 and 28

Distinguished French-Moroccan Writer Tahar Ben Jelloun Teaches Open Class
on October 21; Gives Public Lecture on October 28

Jennifer Wai-Lan Huang
ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.—The French-Moroccan writer Tahar Ben Jelloun, laureate of Prix Goncourt, the most important French literary prize, will discuss his novel Leaving Tangier in an open master class on Thursday, October 21, from 4:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at Bard College. The class, part of Norman Manea’s “Contemporary Masters” series, takes place in room LC 115 of the Olin Humanities Building. Ben Jelloun will also give a public talk titled “Le choc des ignorances” (The shock of ignorance) on Thursday, October 28, from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. in the László Z. Bitó Auditorium of the Gabrielle H. Reem and Herbert J. Kayden Center for Science and Computation at Bard College. Both events are free and open to the public.

Each fall, the “Contemporary Masters” course taught by Norman Manea, Francis Flournoy Professor of European Culture and writer in residence, invites such distinguished literary guests as José Saramago, Saul Bellow, Orhan Pamuk, Philip Roth, Ismail Kadare, Mario Vargas Llosa, Antonio Tabucchi, and Claudio Magris for a brief residency on campus. This year, the course will focus on “Islam and Modernity,” hosting the French-Moroccan writer Tahar Ben Jelloun, laureate of Prix Goncourt, in October; and the Somali writer Nurrudin Farah , laureate of the international Neustadt Prize, in December. The events represe nt an extraordinary opportunity to meet two of the world’s most important contemporary writers debating with an American audience the hottest topic of today.

Leaving Tangier tells the story of Azel, an educated young Moroccan man, who dreams of crossing the Strait of Gibraltar and making a new life in Spain. When Azel meets Miguel, a wealthy gay Spaniard, he leaves his girlfriend, sister, and mother, and decides to move with him to Barcelona. In this novel, Azel—along with a rich cast of other emigrant characters—grapples with seduction and betrayal, deception and disillusionment, and is reminded powerfully not only of where he has come from, but also of who he really is. “Artful and compassionate, Leaving Tangier evokes a milieu of self-exile and great expectations in relatively few pages,” writes the Washington Post. And The Guardian writes, “Ben Jelloun is arguably Morocco’s greatest living author, whose impressive body of work combines intellect and imagination in magical fusion . . . Leaving Tangier is a wholly original feat of form and imagination . . . There is unexpected humor jostling alongside the horror, in magical-realist passages illuminating the clash of traditional and modern.”

Born in Fez, Morocco, to a shopkeeper and his wife in December of 1944, Tahar Ben Jelloun is one of North Africa’s most successful postcolonial writers. Winner of France’s Prix Goncourt, Ben Jelloun moved at 18 from Fez to Tangier, where he attended a French high school until enrolling at the Université Mohammed V in Rabat in 1963. It was at the university where Ben Jelloun’s writing career began. Exposed to the journal Soufflés (Breaths) as well as the journal’s founder, poet Abdellatif Laabi, Ben Jelloun completed his first poems, publishing his first collection, Hommes Sous Linceul de Silence, in 1971. After completing his philosophy studies in Rabat in 1971, Ben Jelloun immigrated to France, where he attended the Université de Paris, receiving his Ph.D. in psychiatric social work in 1975. Along with providing material for his dissertation, La Plus Haute des Solitudes, Ben Jelloun’s experience as a psychotherapist is a source for his creative writing. His second novel, La Reclusion Solitaire (later Solitaire), is a fictionalized account of some of his patients’ dysfunction, which was written in 1976. Between 1976–85 Ben Jelloun published more than 11 books and received numerous literary awards, but it was not until his novel L’Enfant de Sable (The Sand Child), originally published in 1985 and since translated into 43 languages, that he became well-known and recognized worldwide. All of his novels since The Sand Child have been translated into English. The sequel to L’Enfant de Sable, La Nuit Sacree (The Sacred Night), is the work for which he received his most notable award, the Prix Goncourt, in 1987. Ben Jelloun has published more than 35 books including novels, novellas, poetry, plays, nonfiction, and works for children. He is a regular contributor to Le Monde, La Républica, El País, and Panorama. He now lives in Paris with his wife, Aicha, and his daughter, Merieme.



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This event was last updated on 10-06-2010