After rising to prominence in France’s literary circles for winning the Goncourt Prize in 2016, France’s most illustrious literary accolade, Morocco’s Leila Slimani can add another validation trophy to her exciting career: she’s more influential and admired in France than the French president.
Rabat – The verdict of Slimani’s latest accolade came yesterday in the form of “the 50 most influential French personalities in the world in 2018,” an annual assessment by Vanity Fair of France’s darlings.
The magazine spoke of this year’s “dream team” in the most obsequious terms, evidencing their standing in French society as the chosen few whose unique talents have won them special spots in the heart of the Republic.
The names, unsurprisingly, come from art (mostly literature, cinema, and music), sports (football, in general), and—of course—politics.
Rabat-born Leila Slimani came 2nd in this year’s ranking, behind stylist and photographer Hedi Slimane. Of Slimane, Vanity Fair wrote: “He evinces chosen [read calculated] speech and a precise vocabulary.”
But that laudatory description of the stylist’ obsession with the mot juste also captures Leila Slimani’s minimalist literary style. While Slimani’s debut novel, Le jardin de l’ogre (soon to be translated in the US) experienced lukewarm reception in France’s literary circles, Slimani’s second, novel, Chanson Douce, catapulted her in the highest skies of France’s universe of literary criticism.
Francophone readers are generally bombarded with traditionally pompous, bombastic, and self-important prose. Slimani’s minimalist and constrained prose, however, established her among the pioneers of an emerging Francophone (apparently America-imported) literary style that gives more importance to precision, plot, and emotional sincerity, rather than to eloquent formulations.
As to why Slimani made it to the much-coveted second spot in Vanity Fair’s French “dream team,” the magazine wrote: “With all due respect to those who don’t find her first name Gregorian [read European] enough, our Goncourt winning author henceforth embodies a certain image of a French woman of letters: talented, open-minded, and committed.”
Slimani’s global fame, the magazine went on, may have been uplifted after the New Yorker, a go-to magazine for literature connoisseurs, wrote “eight dithyrambic pages” about her works. But that’s not all. The Guardian, the British newspaper that claims millions of readers worldwide, ran “a big flattering portrait article” about Slimani.
Slimani, Vanity Fair said quoting British literary critic Julie Myerson, is “brilliantly disturbing.” The suggestion points toward Slimani’s usually disturbing and subservice themes. But also perhaps her punchy and deliberately provoking prose.
The novelist, whom Emmanuel Macron, appointed to lead his Francophony renaissance agenda, is actually in a situation where she travels the world and speaks at some of the most impressive forums worldwide, Vanity Fair suggested.
Whatever the magazine’s reason for choosing Slimani, the bottom line remains that the novelist ranked second in a list of gifted and admired 50 personalities that included names like Kylian Mbape (3rd), the rising football sensation; and Emanuel Macron (5th), France’s 40-year old president.
Despite recent scandals that somewhat tarnished his reputation, President Macron remains a star in progressive circles. His sustained admonishment of Donald Trump, Valdmir Putin, and Europe’s far-right politicians continue to drive many people to Macron’s patriotic and globalist outlook, the magazine said.