This article is also available in: Italiano
“La Vieille Dame du riad” by Fouad Laroui is a book that manages to tell the story of French colonialism in Morocco with metaphors and a smile, a real treat for all lovers of this country
La Vieille Dame du riad
Fouad Laroui tells the tragicomic story of François and Cécile, a wealthy, progressive and liberal couple who, indulging a whim and pursuing an unspecified desire for freedom, leave their Parisian life out of the blue to move to Marrakesh.
Will forced coexistence, which will force the couple to confront their own progressiveness of manner, be able to stimulate dialogue between the two worlds?
Discovering the Moroccan resistance
“La Vieille Dame du riad” is a novel by Fouad Laroui which, through the use of some interesting narrative tricks, will allow us to discover Moroccan history from the Algeciras Conference up to the Battle of Monte Cassino in 1944, a period almost always told by a extremely Eurocentric point of view. Arrived in Marrakesh, the two Frenchmen will in fact buy a beautiful riad, which will turn out to be inhabited by Massouda, the ghost of an old lady who will agree to leave only when the transalpine couple will bring home Tayeb, the son of the former owner, who it will turn out to be the real pivot of the story.
Through the life of the latter, Laroui will thus lead us to the discovery of the struggle of Abd el-Krim in the Rif, of the Dahir and of the relationship between the Moroccans and France during the Second World War. In the midst of a thousand unforeseen events with comic implications, the two Europeans will learn to respect and love this wonderful country and its people, giving them an incredible and unexpected gift.
Between the serious and the ironic
Fouad Laroui confirms himself as one of the best Moroccan pens of our times, staging a story that is not limited to uniting two continents, but also manages to be profound, full of meanings and narrative registers. In fact, unlike “Les Tribulations du dernier Sijilmassi” in which mostly playful (albeit full of meaning) tones could be observed, here the novel is literally divided into several parts, each of which with its own precise register.
We start with a light and carefree start and then move on to a more serious part in which we will come into contact with the history of Morocco and its vicissitudes of the early 1900s, experienced by Tayeb firsthand.
Shades of contemporary Morocco
This character is certainly the richest in details and nuances: of an Arab father and Amazigh mother, he will begin his life in Agadir, in southern Morocco, but then end it de facto in Europe, fighting first for the Moroccans and then for the French. His life is a metaphor to tell the evolution of the country and its inhabitants and every single action of him is carefully chosen to better narrate that period.
However, the entire novel is conceived to be able to express history and metaphors at the same time, so as to convey to the reader not only historical facts of the past, but also show him the relationship between ex-colonizers and Moroccans. Like all of Laroui’s works, “La Vieille Dame du riad” also proves to be an enjoyable novel in many respects, with the incredible strength of having a profound message that drives the story. If you are curious to discover Morocco better, this book can definitely be for you.
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