By Fouad Laroui
Translated from the French by Emma Ramadan
An award-winning English-language debut by Morocco's most prominent contemporary author exploring what it means to be foreign.
Publication Date: June 28, 2016
This long-awaited English-language debut from Morocco's most prominent contemporary writer won the Prix Gouncourt de Nouvelles, France's most prestigious literary award, for best story collection. Laroui uses surrealism, laugh-out-loud humor, and profound compassion across a variety of literary styles to highlight the absurdity of the human condition, exploring the realities of life in a world where everything is foreign.
Fouad Laroui has published over twenty novels and collections of short stories, poetry, and essays. Laroui teaches econometrics and environmental science at the University of Amsterdam, and lives between Amsterdam, Paris, and Casablanca.
Winner of the Prix Goncourt de Nouvelles, France's most prestigious literary prize for a short story collection
Included in World Literature Today's "75 Notable Translations of 2016"
One of Literary Hub's "Books to Read this May"
One of Asbury Park Press's "Books to Read this Summer"
"Few writers can match the ingenuity and frenetic energy that Laroui, a leading Moroccan economist, summons in this collection, winner of France's Prix Goncourt for short fiction. . . . However absurd the content of these stories, the bitter legacy of colonialism is impossible to avoid. Laroui is at his most riveting when he seeks to complicate immigrant narrative tropes through formal innovation. " —Publishers Weekly
“Laroui uses a wry, dry, knowing style to address identity and otherness, showing how focus on such issues defines the immigrant experience… Terrific stuff, insightful and often blackly funny.” —Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal (Starred Review)
"Laroui casts his eye on this dour political legacy with the scalpel-like precision of a social satirist...The argumentative friends who meet at the Café de l'Univers give the café a zany energy. Imagine the Algonquin Roundtable populated only by the Marx Brothers." —Karl Wolff, New York Journal of Books
"Laroui writes in dialogue, both interior and exterior, which gives the collection the feel of oral storytelling... We become eavesdroppers, lingering at the edges of the audience in order to hear what is being said. Most of these stories play to the ridiculous. Some are even slapstick in their humor. . . . But beneath the hijinks Laroui manages to place a kernel of pathos—in this instance a reminder of the politics of globalization and its inherent imbalance of power." —Tara Cheesman-Olmsted, The Rumpus
“A stylistically versatile collection of connected short stories, Fouad Laroui’s first work in English translation immerses the reader in the experience of a foreigner displaced. Humorous and thoughtful, with playful dialogue, The Curious Case of Dassoukine’s Trousers’s characters accept both our laughter and sympathy." —World Literature Today
"Fouad Laroui is one of Morocco’s brightest talents, and this hilarious and profound collection of short stories is one of the best ways to discover his strange, insightful wit." —Staff Pick at Albertine Books by Adam Hocker
“A hilarious short story collection by Moroccan writer Fouad Laroui… Much of the book is conversations, a wry absurdist take on bureaucracy, life in Morocco, life in Belgium, storytelling itself.” —Jace Clayton (DJ Rupture), Dwarf + Giant
“Fouad Laroui is witty and stylistically experimental. He shrewdly observes how politics, religion, racism (and anti-racism), economics, and sundry philosophical ‘theories’ interact with the quotidian.” — John Taylor, The Arts Fuse
"Since his debut in 1996, Fouad Laroui — endorsing the motto of Beaumarchais , 'I hasten to laugh at everything, for fear of being obliged to weep.' — has chosen the weapon of humor. A weapon that he uses brilliantly to hide his wounds rather than to 'serve his anger' against stupidity, contempt, malice, intolerance, and fanaticism of all kinds." —Le Monde
"A striking metaphor for our times." —Le Figaro (France)
"[A] collection that is as funny as it is poignant and memorable… All of Laroui’s gifts are on full display: the interweaving of narrative and commentary; the sharp humor; the gracious, full heart." —Laura Farmer, The Cedar Rapids Gazette
"A writer who is aware of all the oddities of how the world around him works and holds these oddities up to the light, with a biting but gentle intelligence, a warm sense of humor, and a smart linguistic inventiveness." —Shigekuni Blog
"Fouad Laroui has a gift for simultaneously expanding his readers’ minds, spinning a yarn, and making us roll our eyes and laugh. Fellow Moroccan writer Laila Lalami has been calling for translations of his work into English for at least a decade." —M. Lynx Qualey, Bookwitty
"The foreign angle is what made me pick up this short story collection but I was happy to find that there is much, much more in Laroui’s writing. First of all, it’s funny. Laugh out loud on the bus funny. My favorite stories have a narrator spinning tales at a cafe, with a peanut gallery at the ready to put in their own two cents." —Kazen, Always Doing
"This is a unique collection of stories that I can recommend to anyone who wants to experience a wide range of literary styles in a single collection of stories." —Melissa Beck, The Bookbinder's Daughter
“Stories… notable for their wisdom and compassion.” —Willard Manus, Lively-Arts: An Internet Cultural Magazine
— Belgium really is the birthplace of Surrealism, sighs Dassoukine, staring into the distance.
I don’t respond because this phrase seems like a prologue—and in the face of a prologue, what can you do but await what follows, resigned. My commensal examines his mug of beer suspiciously, even though we are, after all, in the country that saw the birth of this pretty blonde, sometimes brunette, child—in an abbey, I’m told. The server eyes us. In this superb spot situated on the Grand-Place of Brussels, opposite the Maison du Cyne, we form a trio hanging on this thesis: “Belgium really is the birthplace of Surrealism.” This incipit is still floating in the air when Dassoukine decides to elaborate.
— What just happened to me, in any case, exceeds all bounds.
I restrain myself from adding: “And when boundaries are crossed…”
— So, I set out yesterday from Morocco on a very delicate mission. You know the grain harvest is off to a bad start in our country: it has rained, but not a lot. We are in desperate need of flour, but where to find it? Ukraine is in flames, the Russians cling tightly to their crops, Australia is far. There’s only one solution: Europe. The government sends me to buy flour from Brussels. They’ve entrusted this mission to me. The country’s future is at risk. At the airport, in Rabat, they’re all on the tarmac, the ministers standing straight as yews, to bid me bon voyage as if their fate depended on little old me. Well, little…I’m taller than all of them by a head. The prime minister shakes my hand while the airplane engines roar and my eyes blur:
— Get the best price, my boy, the best price! The budget of the state depends on your negotiating skills.
He nearly pulled my ear, as if to say, “the homeland is counting on you, grenadier.”
Fouad Laroui was born in 1958 in Oujda, Morocco. After his studies in the Lycée Lyautey (Casablanca), he joined the prestigious École Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées (Paris, France), where he studied engineering. After having worked in the Office Cherifien des Phosphates company in Khouribga (Morocco), he moved to the United Kingdom where he spent several years in Cambridge and York. Later he obtained a PhD in economics and moved to Amsterdam where he is currently teaching econometrics and environmental science. In addition, he is devoted to writing. He is a literary chronicler for the weekly magazine Jeune Afrique and Economia Magazine, and the French-Moroccan radio Médi1. He has published over twenty novels and collections of short stories, poetry, and essays who lives between Amsterdam, Paris, and Casablanca. His novels have been shortlisted numerous times for the Prix Goncourt, France's most prestigious literary prize, and his latest novel was awarded the Grand Prix Jean Giorno. The Curious Case of Doussakine's Trousers won Laroui his first Prix Goncourt for short stories.
Emma Ramadan is a graduate of Brown University, received her Master's in Cultural Translation from the American University of Paris, and recently completed a Fulbright Fellowship for literary translation in Morocco. Her translation of Anne Garréta's Sphinx was published by Deep Vellum in spring 2015, and her translation of Anne Parian's Monospace is forthcoming from La Presse in fall 2015.