November 27, 2022

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Leila Slimani's new novel, Look How We Dance

Leila Slimani’s new novel, Look How We Dance

DrIn the New Yorker, Leila Slimani once told a short story she wrote from the perspective of a rapist that she was writing about what frightened her the most. This self-perception certainly applies to her second novel, Then You Sleep Too, made famous by the Rabat-born author in 1981 and which was not only awarded the Goncourt in 2016 but was produced on the spot. Minister of Culture by President Macron, but she politely refused. In this horror story about governess Louise, who murders children entrusted to her in Paris, Slimani overturns classic intersections of class and ancestry in a provocative manner, as the domestic worker is not from North Africa, as is often the case. In France, but the mother, in whose service Louise was. In retrospect, the latter will prove to be a forerunner to the French left behind, who two years later made a name for themselves in Paris with their yellow jackets.

Sandra Kegel

Editor in charge of the feuilleton magazine.

While this tale is characterized by short, dissonant sentences that torment its readers through drama, the trilogy that Leila Soleimani has been working on since The Land of Others (2021) is of a different nature. The history of the family and the experiences of three generations, the second volume “Look How We Dance” has been published. Right from the first pages, the densely atmospheric camel catches the eye, it is multi-layered and shiny like an oriental rug. Unlike “Then You Sleep Too”, limited in time and space like a chamber play, in this epic, the author masterfully goes horizontal, by following the fate of countless people, and into the past.

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The “lemon tree” in the garden of the Belhadj family, who operates a farm in Meknes in northern Morocco, is the central metaphor for the first volume. They are like this tree, half a lemon and half an orange, said Amin, who is married to Frenchwoman Mathilde, to describe their multiple identities. The new novel tells of this internal struggle in the great political structure as well as in private life. Initially in April 1968, the hybrid plant was cut first. You must make way for the swimming pool.

Laila Soleimani:


Leila Soleimani: “Show us dancing.” Romanian translated from the French by Emilie Thomas. Luchterhand Literaturverlag, Munich 2022. 384 pages, hardcover, €22.
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We urge freedom in three or four times
Photo: Luchterhand Literaturverlag


The garden, with shrubs of lavender, rosemary, lilies, and dahlias, has always been a shelter for Mathilde, yet she insists on the pool as it symbolizes prosperity, modernity, and a bright future. It wouldn’t be long before Amin, who resisted with all his might but is now full of money and contentment, celebrates the most lavish party out there and cheats on his wife.