Monday, May 15, 2017

LE MARIAGE DE PLAISIR - Tahar Ben Jelloun - Review

The first of two recitals of Moroccan author Tahar Ben Jelloun's work this evening at Dar Adiyel was an extract from his novel "Le Mariage de Plaisir" (The Happy Marriage)

Tahar Ben Jelloun

The work explores the loves and lives of three generations of the same family and tonight's extract came from the first part of the book. In the style of a Middle Eastern fable, Ben Jelloun recounts the tale of Amir, a wealthy Fassi merchant during the Protectorate years, who takes a temporary wife during his business trips to Senegal. Falling in love with Nabou, Amir decides to take her to Fez to be his second wife. This decision sets off a chain of events which have a profound impact on the lives of Amir, Nabou and their descendants.

Ben Jelloun says he was motivated to write the book, which was published in 2016, by two key observations: racism towards family members of African origin when he was a child, and the indifference shown towards sub-Saharan Africans who pass through Morocco to reach Europe and frequently end up as statistics of those lost at sea. It is, he suggests, a novel of love and of denunciation.

Nicolas Pignon

Tonight's reciter was Nicolas Pignon, French cinema, TV and theatre actor. As one might expect of an actor of such great experience, his diction was clear and his reading dramatic (although his collection of dog-eared pages from which he read were a little off-putting). He was accompanied by celebrated Moroccan oud player, Driss el Maloumi, no stranger to the Fes Festival, and two percussionists. The music alternated between the role of backing music and being the spectacle itself. Like the text, the musicians brought drama, joy and comedy to the story. At one point, the musicians competed to see who could hit their percussion instrument with the least sound - the oud included!

Driss el Maloumi

Unfortunately the two percussionists were not introduced and we were not told whether the composition was an original by el Maloumi, although one presumes so. In places the musical style seemed a little incongruous to the story, for example rather too jolly when we learned of a death, but the talent of these three musicians was beyond doubt. This is a new and interesting format to bring to the Fes Festival - broadening the audience experience from music and dance into the literary sphere. As Ben Jelloun, who was present, commented himself at the end of the performance, the combination of reading and music had been a "happy and joyful marriage."

Tonight's second set of readings were from various Ben Jelloun works, all related to the central Festival theme of water.

Review and photographs: Lynn Houmdi


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