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Sex in the Islamic World

Over the weekend, Leïla Slimani won at the Sixth Annual La Mamounia Literary Awards. The prestigious award, attended by international media, helps to encourage and promote francophone Moroccan literature and spread it around the world.


The host of the awards was the sumptuous and inspiring La Mamounia hotel, a recognised patron of art and culture.

The jury, comprised of 7 internationally renowned writers, including Christine Orban, Douglas Kennedy, Mohamed Nedali, Alain Mabanckou and Vincent Engels, had to choose between a shortlist of five books by Moroccan writers published in French over the past year.
The winner received the considerable sum of 200,000 MAD (the equivalent of €18,000).
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What truly makes Slimani’s book ‘Dans le Jardin de L’ogre ‘ (In the Ogre’s Garden) controversial is that no erotic novel by a female has ever won a literary award in the Islamic world.
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Modesty got the chance to catch up with Leïla after our dinner at the Moroccan restaurant and the exquisite La Mamounia and learnt something unexpected for the newly crowned young novelist.
She is working on a graphic novel.
“After I published the book I was expecting the reception to be mixed but I wasn’t quite prepared for how many Muslim women would contact me saying not only that they enjoyed it, but that they could relate. Arab women saw me as the right person to tell their deepest and darkest sexual experiences to… I felt their stories had to be told and decided that a graphic novel would be the best format to tell them. I hope for the graphic novel to be out mid-2017.”
We couldn’t be more excited! She mentioned Persepolis as a reference which reminds us of our artist Wostok in its graphic black and white images and serious subject matter told in a light-hearted way.
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The most famous biographical graphic novel is Maus by Art Spiegelman, but Leila’s description of multiple female natives, especially for its focus on Islamic women, makes us think of the sensational Habibi by Craig Thompson, which beautifully chronicles the many roles a woman can take in the Islamic world and shows many sides to sexual attraction and relationships and is topped off by Thompson’s impeccably detailed calligraphic art, creating the sensation that you are in a swirling dream.
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Another, more low-key graphic novel that springs to mind is Michael Cho’s Shoplifter. Cho himself is a displaced author; a South Korean living in Canada and the narrative is about an alienated woman who seeks comfort in shoplifting and becomes a kleptomaniac. Published in 2014 by Pantheon, it, like Leïla’s winning novel, plays on the themes of addiction, boredom, loneliness and the quest for identity.
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Synopsis of Leïla Slimani’s Award Winning novel:
Adele and Richard appear to be a happy couple. She’s a journalist, he’s a doctor, and, together, they raise a little boy in their beautiful Parisian apartment. But Adele has a secret. Taking advantage of the freedom she has to do whatever she wants with her time, she looks for opportunities to meet men. Left to her own obsessions, Adele determinedly progresses towards a life of bleak loneliness, extremely depraved sexual encounters and even great danger. However, Richard uncovers the truth. First blinded by rage and grief, he overcomes the urge to leave Adele, and tries to bring her back to him.In the Ogre’s Garden is a dizzy tale, of a person on a quest for absolute truth. Leila Slimani’s precise, raw writing rends open poetic breaches that get more and more emotional, and fleshes out the mysterious silhouette of a female character that is at once timeless and totally modern.

For more information on Leïla Slimani visit Gallimard, publisher of Dans le Jardin de L’Ogre.