Leïla Slimani

Portrait Leïla Slimani
© Catherine Hélie

Writer and journalist Leïla Slimani was born in Rabat in 1981 and grew up in a French-speaking family. She studied political science in Paris, then worked as a journalist for the magazine »Jeune Afrique«. In 2012, she left the editorial office to devote herself to literary writing.

After her first manuscript was rejected by several publishers in 2013, she completed an internship in the studio of French writer and Gallimard editor Jean-Marie Laclavetine. Her debut novel, »Dans le jardin de lʼogre« (2014; Eng. »Adele: A Novel«, 2019), devoted to the theme of female sexuality as a symbol of emancipation and defying convention, was a sensation, especially among readers in Morocco. Her second novel, »Chanson Douce« (2016; Eng. »The Perfect Nanny«, 2018), won the Prix Goncourt. Slimani tells her »dark fairy tale for adults« starting from the end: a nanny hired by a French middle-class couple has killed the children entrusted to her care. The text goes on to explore the underlying origins of this tragedy, which was primarily due to the employers’ lack of interest in the financial and psychological hardships of their domestic workers. With a sharpened eye, Slimani describes the reality of life in the Western middle class, shows the disparity of different social classes that remain alien to each other despite various points of contact, and gives »a detailed impression of the social malaise of contemporary France« (»taz«). Slimani’s most recent novel, »Le Pays des autres« (2020; Eng. »The Country of Others«, 2021), is the first part of a planned trilogy. The novel explores everyday racism in French colonial society through a love story between an Arab and a French woman at the end of World War II.

To date, Slimani has also published two graphic novels, most recently »À mains nues« (2020; tr: With Bare Hands), the biography of Suzanne Noël, a pioneer plastic surgeon who corrected men’s facial injuries after World War I, helped women with beauty constraints, and advocated for their right to reshape their appearance. In her essays, published in the volumes »Sexe et Mensonges« (2017; Eng. »Sex and Lies«, 2020) and »Le diable est dans les details« (2016; tr: The Devil is in the Details), she focuses primarily on Islam and feminism, as well as the rise of fanaticism worldwide. In 2017, Emmanuel Macron appointed her as his personal representative to the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie. In the same year, she became Officière de lʼordre des Arts et des Lettres. Leïla Slimani lives in Paris.