Tahar Ben Jelloun (December 01, 1944 - ..)
Born: 1st December, 1944
Nationality: French
Profession/Occupation: Poet
Region: Fes, Morocco, "The Sacred Night", "Les Amandiers sont morts de leurs blessures", "The Sand Child", "Moha le fou, Moha le sage", "Islam explique aux enfants, L'", "Harrouda"
Notable works: Prix Goncourt

Tahar Ben Jelloun Facts

Biography

Tahar Ben Jelloun, (born December 1, 1944, Fes, Morocco), Moroccan-French novelist, poet, and essayist who wrote expressively about Moroccan culture, the immigrant experience, human rights, and sexual identity.

While studying philosophy at Muhammad V University in Rabat, Ben Jelloun began to write poems for the politically charged journal Souffles. After publishing his first collection of poetry, Hommes sous linceul de silence (1971; "Men Under the Shroud of Silence"), he moved to France. There he continued to write poems, collected in Cicatrices du soleil (1972; "Scars of the Sun"), Le Discours du chameau (1974; "The Discourse of the Camel"), and Grains de peau (1974; "Particles of Skin"), but he started to focus on other forms of writing as well. His first novel was Harrouda (1973), an erotic poetic evocation of infancy, youth, and coming to manhood in Fes and Tangier.

In 1975 Ben Jelloun received a doctorate in social psychology from the University of Paris; his dissertation was published as La Plus Haute des solitudes (1977; "The Highest of Solitudes"). In 1976 he wrote a novel based on his research, La Reclusion solitaire (Solitaire), about the misery of the North African immigrant worker; it was also staged as a play, Chronique d'une solitude ("Chronicle of Loneliness"). In the same year, he published Les Amandiers sont morts de leurs blessures ("The Almond Trees Are Dead from Their Wounds")--poems and stories on his grandmother's death, the Palestinian question, North African immigration to France, love, and eroticism. A third novel, Moha le fou, Moha le sage (1978; "Moha the Fool, Moha the Wise"), is a satire of the modern North African state.

Much of Ben Jelloun's work in the early 1980s--notably the poetry collection A l'insu du souvenir (1980; "Unknown to Memory") and the semiautobiographical novel L'Ecrivain public (1983; "The Public Writer")--was admired for its ability to evoke reality through fantasy, lyric, and metaphor and for its author's conviction that his art must express the struggle for human freedom. However, it was not until L'Enfant de sable (1985; The Sand Child), an imaginative, richly drawn novel that critiques gender roles in Arab society through the tale of a girl raised as a boy, that Ben Jelloun was accorded widespread praise and recognition. Its sequel, La Nuit sacree (1987; The Sacred Night), won France's prestigious Prix Goncourt, a first for an African-born writer, and inspired a film adaptation (1993). The two books were eventually translated into more than 40 languages.

Later novels include Jour de silence a Tanger (1990; Silent Day in Tangier), a meditation on old age; Les Yeux baisses (1991; With Downcast Eyes), about an Amazigh (Berber) immigrant's struggle to reconcile her bifurcated identity; and L'Homme rompu (1994; Corruption), a gripping depiction of a moral quandary faced by a government employee. Cette aveuglante absence de lumiere (2001; This Blinding Absence of Light), a harrowing account of the life of a Moroccan political prisoner that was partially inspired by Ben Jelloun's own 18-month detainment in an army camp in the late 1960s, won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in 2004.

Ben Jelloun also received attention for his nonfiction, especially Hospitalite francaise: racisme et immigration maghrebine (1984; French Hospitality: Racism and North African Immigrants) and Le Racisme explique a ma fille (1998; Racism Explained to My Daughter), two provocative tracts that address the issue of xenophobia in France. The question-and-answer format of the latter was further employed in L'Islam explique aux enfants (2002; Islam Explained), written in response to the anti-Muslim sentiment that followed the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.

La Belle au bois dormant (2004; "The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood") is a retelling of the classic fairy tale about an enchanted princess who can be awoken only with a kiss. In Le Dernier Ami (2004; The Last Friend), Ben Jelloun traced the vicissitudes of a long friendship between two Moroccan men, and in Partir (2005; Leaving Tangier), he focused on two Moroccan siblings who must navigate an array of social and personal challenges after immigrating to Spain. Au pays (2009; A Palace in the Old Village) explores Muslim identity through the struggles of a Moroccan French retiree who returns to his homeland and begins building an enormous house in an effort to entice his family to join him. The unconventionally structured Le Bonheur conjugal (2012; The Happy Marriage) consists of an artist's secret log of complaints about his wife and her responses when she finds it.

In addition, Ben Jelloun was a regular contributor to Le Monde and other periodicals. In 2008 he was made an officer of the Legion of Honour.

Top 48 Tahar Ben Jelloun quotes

At 21, I discovered repression and injustice. The army would shoot students with real bullets.
Army
Bullets
Discovered
Injustice
Real
Repression
Shoot
Students
Would
In Morocco, it's possible to see the Atlantic and the Mediterranean at the same time.
Atlantic
Mediterranean
Morocco
Possible
Same
Same time
See
Time
Real friendship, like real poetry, is extremely rare - and precious as a pearl.
Extremely
Friendship
Like
Pearl
Poetry
Precious
Rare
Real
I liked Sartre's views but not his writing.
His
Liked
Views
Writing
I read a poem every night, as others read a prayer.
Every
Every night
Night
Others
Poem
Prayer
Read
The power of the word in Morocco belonged to men and to the authorities. No one asked the point of view of poor people or women.
Asked
Authorities
Belonged
Men
Morocco
No-one
People
Point
Poor
Poor people
Power
View
Women
Word
I'd thought sexuality was instinctive or natural, but it's profoundly linked to inner security and cultural context.
Context
Cultural
Inner
Instinctive
Linked
Natural
Profoundly
Security
Sexuality
Thought
I am a Moroccan writer of French expression.
Am
Expression
French
I am
Writer
The mistake we make is to attribute to religions the errors and fanaticism of human beings.
Attribute
Beings
Errors
Fanaticism
Human
Human beings
Make
Mistake
Religions
Religion has to stay in the heart, not in politics. It is private.
Heart
Politics
Private
Religion
Stay
Emigration is no longer a solution; it's a defeat. People are risking death, drowning every day, but they're knocking on doors that are not open.
Day
Death
Defeat
Doors
Drowning
Emigration
Every
Every day
Knocking
Longer
Open
People
Risking
Solution
My hope is that countries like Morocco will have investment to create work, so people don't have to leave.
Countries
Create
Hope
Investment
Leave
Like
Morocco
People
Will
Work
In the '70s I was in exile; every time I went back I wondered if they'd take my passport away.
Away
Back
Every
Every time
Exile
Passport
Take
Time
Wondered
I belong to a specific category of writers, those who speak and write in a language different from that of their parents.
Belong
Different
Language
Parents
Speak
Specific
Those
Who
Write
Writers
I don't feel guilty about expressing myself in French; nor do I feel that I am continuing the work of the colonizers.
About
Am
Continuing
Expressing
Feel
French
Guilty
I am
I feel
Myself
Nor
Work
I do not use the language of my people. I can take liberties with certain themes which the Arabic language would not allow me to take.
Allow
Arabic
Certain
I can
Language
Liberties
Me
People
Take
Themes
Use
Which
Would
For me, poetry is a situation - a state of being, a way of facing life and facing history.
Being
Facing
History
Life
Me
Poetry
Situation
State
Way
Poetry is not only a set of words which are chosen to relate to each other; it is something which goes much further than that to provide a glimpse of our vision of the world.
Chosen
Each
Further
Glimpse
Goes
Much
Only
Other
Our
Poetry
Provide
Relate
Set
Something
This universe can very well be expressed in words and syllables which are not those of one's mother tongue.
Expressed
Mother
Mother tongue
Syllables
Those
Tongue
Universe
Very
Well
Which
Words
I am a guest of the French language. My poems in French are born of my interaction with the French language, which is not the same as that of a French poet.
Am
Born
French
French language
Guest
I am
Interaction
Language
Poems
Poet
Same
Which
Poetry is a form of mathematics, a highly rigorous relationship with words.
Form
Highly
Mathematics
Poetry
Relationship
Rigorous
Words
Beauty is first and foremost an emotion.
Beauty
Emotion
First
Foremost
My sensibility steers me toward writers who are out on their own.
Me
Out
Own
Sensibility
Toward
Who
Writers
We do not have many intellectuals who can speak out for us internationally. We have no writers who are recognized, respected and loved outside the Arab world.
Arab
Arab world
Intellectuals
Internationally
Loved
Many
Out
Outside
Recognized
Respected
Speak
Us
Who
World
We have no Arab intellectuals of international stature because we live in a state of generalized mediocrity. We are suspended in the pit without touching the bottom.
Arab
Because
Bottom
Intellectuals
International
Live
Mediocrity
Pit
State
Stature
Suspended
Touching
Without
The world does not look to us in the Arab world out of a healthy desire for knowledge.
Arab
Arab world
Desire
Does
Healthy
Knowledge
Look
Out
Us
World
The intellectual, the man of thought, doubt and analysis, should give the best of himself.
Analysis
Best
Doubt
Give
Himself
Intellectual
Man
Should
Thought
What have we achieved since the end of the Second World War? We have allowed petty, bourgeois regimes in which everything is average, mediocre.
Achieved
Allowed
Average
Bourgeois
End
Everything
Mediocre
Petty
Regimes
Second
Second world war
Since
War
Which
Intellectuals try to keep going. But their situation is very difficult. Those who have had the courage to voice their opposition have often paid a very high price.
Courage
Difficult
Going
Had
High
High price
Intellectuals
Keep
Keep going
Often
Opposition
Paid
Price
Situation
A modern civilization is only possible when it is accepted that singular beings exist and express themselves freely.
Accepted
Beings
Civilization
Exist
Express
Freely
Modern
Modern civilization
Only
Possible
Singular
Themselves
An individual voice can be heard in a choir that otherwise sings in unison. This is something that is not excused.
Choir
Heard
Individual
Otherwise
Sings
Something
Unison
Voice
Egypt has suffered more ordeals than the other countries to get where it is.
Countries
Egypt
Get
More
Other
Other countries
Suffered
Than
Where
There is a gulf between the Arab peoples and Arab intellectuals.
Arab
Between
Gulf
Intellectuals
People
In the Arab world, there is no link between the cultural habits of peoples and the ways of thinking and creating of modern intellectuals. They are two separate worlds.
Arab
Arab world
Between
Creating
Cultural
Habits
Intellectuals
Link
Modern
People
Separate
Thinking
Two
Ways
To lead a country, you must periodically hold a national consultation in which people representing different programmes can make a bid for power.
Bid
Consultation
Country
Different
Hold
Lead
Make
Must
National
People
Power
Programmes
Representing
Which
People must insist on the right to say no, to be alone, to stand out from the herd. Creative artists can say all this in their own way and in their own field, by hard, rigorous work.
Alone
Artists
Creative
Field
Hard
Herd
Insist
Must
Out
Own
People
Right
Rigorous
Say
It is impossible to disregard such an important medium as television. We should know how to use it, learn to work in it and express new values in it.
Disregard
Express
How
Important
Impossible
Know
Learn
Medium
New
Should
Television
Use
Values
Work
New ideas should confront old ideas. We must refer to the example of Europe. People have fought to make Europe what it is today. Freedom is not something that is served up on a plate.
Confront
Europe
Example
Fought
Freedom
Ideas
Make
Must
New
New ideas
Old
Old ideas
People
Plate
Be vigilant, for nothing one achieves lasts forever.
Achieves
Forever
Lasts
Nothing
Vigilant
There are very few great poets in the world.
Few
Great
Poets
Very
World
We must stop posing as victims of the West and behaving negatively towards the West. We must participate with the West on an equal footing in the reconstruction of the world.
Behaving
Equal
Footing
Must
Negatively
Participate
Posing
Reconstruction
Stop
Towards
Victims
West
World
We must have our say, not through violence, aggression or fear. We must speak out calmly and forcefully. We shall only be able to enter the new world era if we agree to engage in dialogue with the other side.
Able
Aggression
Agree
Calmly
Dialogue
Engage
Enter
Era
Fear
Must
New
New world
Only
Other
It is through accepting other people in our own countries that we shall come to respect our neighbours and be respected in our turn.
Accepting
Come
Countries
Neighbours
Other
Our
Own
People
Respect
Respected
Shall
Through
Turn
I came to poetry through the urgent need to denounce injustice, exploitation, humiliation. I know that's not enough to change the world. But to remain silent would have been a kind of intolerable complicity.
Been
Came
Change
Change the world
Complicity
Enough
Exploitation
Humiliation
I came
Injustice
Intolerable
Kind
Know
Need
My characters are driven by a passionate desire for justice. They are rebellious and incorruptible.
Characters
Desire
Driven
Justice
Passionate
Rebellious
I have written about the dispossessed, immigrants, the condition of women who do not enjoy the same legal rights as men, the Palestinians who are deprived of their land and condemned to exile.
About
Condemned
Condition
Deprived
Enjoy
Exile
Immigrants
Land
Legal
Legal rights
Men
Palestinians
Rights
Same
I love life in spite of all that mars it. I love friendship, jokes and laughter.
Friendship
I love
Jokes
Laughter
Life
Love
Love life
Mars
Spite
I write about wounds, the eternal treasons of life. It's not very funny, but it's sincere. My commitment is to sincerity.
About
Commitment
Eternal
Funny
I write
Life
Sincere
Sincerity
Very
Wounds
Write

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