The Country of Others, Leila Slimani’s First Volume in a Trilogy, Is a Love Story in Colonial Morocco

The novel has been praised for its “charged language.”
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Leila Slimani's The Country of Others. Credit: Hay Festival.

Leila Slimani's The Country of Others. Credit: Hay Festival.

The French-Moroccan writer Leila Slimani’s third novel The Country of Others is a gripping tale set during World War II. Its protagonist Mathilde is a young Frenchwoman who leaves her hometown for Amine, a Moroccan who fought alongside the French. Inspired by Slimani’s family history, the novel sustains an unflinching gaze at the instances of power dynamics, gender, and sexuality in a complicated social setting.

The novel, published in the U.K. by Faber and released in the U.S. by Penguin Books as In the Country of Others, is the first in a trilogy about race, resilience, and women’s empowerment.

Here is a description:

Mathilde, a spirited young Frenchwoman, falls in love with Amine, a handsome Moroccan soldier in the French army during World War II. After the war, the couple settles in Morocco.

While Amine tries to cultivate his family farm’s rocky terrain, Mathilde feels her vitality sapped by the isolation, the harsh climate, the lack of money, and the mistrust she inspires as a foreigner. Left increasingly alone to raise her two children in a world whose rules she does not understand, and with her daughter taunted at school by rich French girls for her secondhand clothes and unruly hair, Mathilde goes from being reduced to a farmer’s wife to defying the country’s chauvinism and repressive social codes by offering medical services to the rural population.

As tensions mount between the Moroccans and the French colonists, Amine finds himself caught in the crossfire: in solidarity with his Moroccan workers yet also a landowner, despised by the French yet married to a Frenchwoman, and proud of his wife’s resolve but ashamed by her refusal to be subjugated.

All of them live in the country of others—especially the women, forced to live in the land of men—and with this novel, Leila Slimani issues the first salvo in their emancipation.

A review in The Guardian lauds “Slimani’s charged language,” how her “feeling for the fracture lines inside individuals and between them, and between different cultures, prepares us for the worst: which comes close, but never quite comes home.”

Leila Slimani. Credit: Penguin Random House.
Leila Slimani. Credit: Penguin Random House.

“The writing feels more subtle than in Slimani’s previous novels,” read a review in the Standard UK. “The sentences are longer, more descriptive and less designed for impact.”

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Leila Slimani has published two previous novels. The first was Adele. She earned international acclaim with her second, published in the U.K. as Lullaby and in the U.S. as The Perfect Nanny, which sold over one million copies and has been translated into more than 40 languages. She won the prestigious Prix Goncourt in 2016, becoming the 12th female author to win the prize since its inception in 1903.

The second novel in the trilogy will be set in the ‘50s.

Emmanuel Esomnofu
Emmanuel Esomnofu is a staff writer at Open Country Mag. He is a culture journalist and has written extensively on Nigerian music and on several moving parts of popular culture. His writing appears online in Native Mag, Okay Africa, Kalahari Review, Praxis Magazine, and elsewhere. He was published in print in The Muse, the oldest student journal in West Africa. In December 2020, he worked on "Fuji: A Opera" as a copywriter, creating informative and exciting stories from Fuji's rich history.

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