Novelist Leïla Slimani: “I am not a cautious person. I always took risks

  • What is your earliest memory?
    I’m lying on the bed in my parents’ room, my sister next to me. We watch Julie Andrews in The sound of music and we sing.

  • Who was or still is your mentor?
    I would like to give you the names of outstanding writers or politicians, but the truth is that my mentor has always been and always will be my mother. She is an exceptional woman, whose courage, strength and kindness I admire. When I grow up, I want to be her.

  • What physical condition are you in?
    I’m not. I recently spent two weeks in Sicily, drinking wine and eating pasta. I smoke, I sleep badly. Really, I’m a mess.

  • Tell me about an animal you loved.
    When I was a teenager, we had a dog called Jacques. He was handsome but really stupid and we never managed to teach him anything. The day before my father died, Jacques disappeared. We looked for it everywhere, we asked our neighbors. . . I think Jacques sensed that his master was going to die and he left.

  • Risk or caution, what has defined your life more?
    It’s quite paradoxical because I’m afraid of everything. I always imagine the worst scenarios and, at the same time, I am not a cautious person. I have always taken risks. I became a reporter in Africa. I quit my job to become a writer. I’ve partied in unlikely places and wandered alone at night, a little drunk, in deserted towns.

  • What trait do you find most irritating in others?
    Frankness, or rather I hate people who repeat, “I’m a very frank person”, and use that as an excuse to say hurtful things.

  • What trait do you find most irritating about yourself?
    My punctuality. I’m obsessed with time, I hate people who arrive late and I usually arrive at least 15 minutes early. Sometimes I try to be a little late so I don’t have to wait or be the first at a party, but I never get there.

  • What motivates you ?
    Nietzsche said, “I like the future to be uncertain. This is what motivates me, the fact that nothing is written, that anything can happen, that life is full of surprises. I wake up every morning thinking maybe I’ll meet someone wonderful, read an amazing text, go to a party that will end at dawn.

  • Do you believe in life after death?
    I don’t believe in heaven or hell, but I do believe in reincarnation. I always thought that I had already had several lives: that I was a poet in Central Europe in the 19th century, a warrior in the Berber mountains in the 16th century and a nun in an Italian convent.

  • Which is more puzzling, the existence of suffering or its frequent absence?
    What is most confusing is the fact that it is suffering that makes us aware of the good that preceded it. Do you think about your toes apart from banging them hard against the leg of a chair?

  • Name your favorite river.
    The Bouregreg, in Rabat, my hometown. The name means “father of storks”.

  • What would you have done differently?
    I wouldn’t have had my last haircut. I look like a depressed old poodle.

  • About Wesley V. Finley

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