Tahar Ben Jelloun

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Tahar Ben Jelloun
Tahar Ben Jelloun (2013)
Tahar Ben Jelloun (2013)
Native name
الطاهر بن جلون
Born (1944-12-01) 1 December 1944 (age 78)
Fes, Morocco
OccupationNovelist, poet
Alma materMohammed V University
Notable worksThe Sand Child
This Blinding Absence of Light
Notable awards Grand Officer, Legion of Honour (2008)
Prix Goncourt (1987)
Prix Ulysse (2005)

Tahar Ben Jelloun (Arabic: الطاهر بن جلون; born in Fes, Morocco, 1 December 1944) is a Moroccan writer. All of his work is written in French although his first language is Darija. He became known for his 1985 novel L’Enfant de Sable (The Sand Child). He now lives in Paris, France, and continues to write. He has been nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature.[1]

Early life and career[edit]

Tahar Ben Jelloun was born in Morocco in December 1944. As a child, he attended an Arabic-French bilingual elementary school. He then studied in the Lycée Regnault in Tangier, Morocco, until he was 18 years old. He studied philosophy at Mohammed V University in Rabat.

After he was a professor of philosophy in Morocco, he joined the group that ran the literary magazine Souffles in the mid-1960s, and he wrote many pieces for the cultural magazine. He later participated in the student rebellion against "the repressive and violent acts" of the Moroccan police. In 1966, he was forced into military service as his punishment.

Five years later, his first poems were published in Hommes sous linceul de silence (1971). Shortly thereafter he moved to Paris, France, to study psychology, and in 1972 began writing for Le Monde. He received his doctorate in social psychiatry in 1975.

In January 2003, Ben Jelloun was nominated one of the two candidates for the 16th seat of the Académie Française,[2] the moderating body of the French language.[3] This seat was last held by Léopold Sédar Senghor. A month later, Ben Jelloun ended his campaign for the position.[4]

Today, Ben Jelloun is known for his literary career but also his appearances on French media outlets in which he speaks about the experiences of people of North African descent living in France.[5]

Writing career[edit]

Ben Jelloun's 1985 novel L’Enfant de Sable (translated as The Sand Child) brought widespread attention. In 1987, he received the Prix Goncourt for his novel La Nuit Sacrée (The Sacred Night), which made him the first Maghreb author to receive the award.

His 1996 novel Les raisins de la galère (The Fruits of Hard Work) is a reflection on racism and traditional Muslim ideas about a woman's place. The protagonist, Nadia (a young French woman of Algerian origin), fights racism and exclusion to find her place in French society.

In 1993, he received the journalistic award Golden Doves for Peace, issued by the Italian Research Center Archivio Disarmo.[6] Ben Jelloun was awarded the International Dublin Literary Award for Cette aveuglante absence de lumière (This Blinding Absence of Light) in 2004. In 2005 he received the Prix Ulysse for the entire body of his work.

Ben Jelloun has written several pedagogical works. His first is Le Racisme expliqué à ma fille, translated as Racism Explained to My Daughter (1998). The text is an educative tool for children and is the main reason for him being regularly invited to speak at schools and universities. His text is addressed to his own daughter, but he is actually writing to all French children who are troubled by complex but important topics that surround racism.[7] He argues that the primary solution to solve racism in France is through education, specifically education starting at a young age.[8] He also makes the connection between colonialism and racism in a way that is understandable to his young audience by explaining that colonialism is a type of domination and power that aids racism to exist at the state level.[9]

He also has written L'Islam expliqué aux enfants, translated as Islam Explained (2002), and Le Terrorisme expliqué à nos enfants, translated as On Terrorism (2016) in response to the 1990s protests against French immigration laws,[10][11] the Islamophobia following the September 11 attacks in the United States, and the November 2015 Paris attacks,[12] respectively.

In September 2006, Ben Jelloun was awarded a special prize for "peace and friendship between people" at the Lazio between Europe and the Mediterranean Festival.[13] On 1 February 2008, Nicolas Sarkozy awarded him the Cross of Grand Officer of the Légion d'honneur.

In Africa, his novel Le mariage de plaisir was shortlisted for the GPLA 2016 (Belles-Lettres Category).[14]

Selected works[edit]

  • Hommes sous linceul de silence (1971)
  • Harrouda (1973)
  • Solitaire (1976)
  • French Hospitality (1984)
  • The Sand Child (1985)
  • The Sacred Night (1987)
  • Silent Day in Tangiers (1990)
  • With Downcast Eyes (1991)
  • State of Absence (1992)
  • Corruption (1995)
  • The Fruits of Hard Work (1996)
  • Praise of Friendship (1996)
  • L'Auberge des pauvres (1997)
  • Racism Explained to My Daughter (1998)
  • This Blinding Absence of Light (2000)
  • Islam Explained (2002)
  • La Belle au bois dormant (2004)
  • The Last Friend (2006)
  • Yemma (2007)
  • Leaving Tangier (2009)
  • The Rising of the Ashes (2009)
  • A Palace in the Old Village (2010)
  • Par le feu (2011, Éditions Gallimard) published in English (2016, Northwestern University Press) as By Fire: Writings on the Arab Spring[15]
  • Le Bonheur conjugal (2012, Éditions Gallimard) published in English (2016, Melville House) as The Happy Marriage[16]
  • L'Ablation (2014)
  • Le mariage du plaisir (2016, Éditions Gallimard), shortlisted for the Grand Prix of Literary Associations 2016 (Belles-Lettres Category). To be published in English (June 2021, Northwestern University Press) as The Pleasure Marriage


  1. ^ Shusha Guppy, "Tahar Ben Jelloun, The Art of Fiction No. 159" (interview), The Paris Review, Issue 152, Fall 1999.
  2. ^ "Candidatures au fauteuil 16 et au fauteuil 5 | Académie française".
  3. ^ "Les missions | Académie française".
  4. ^ "Retrait de candidature au fauteuil de M. Léopold Sédar Senghor (F16) | Académie française".
  5. ^ اليونسي, أنور; El Younssi, Anouar (2014). "An Exoticized World Literature: Ben Jelloun at the Two Shores of the Mediterranean / أدب العالم والغرائبية: بن جلون على ضفتي المتوسط". Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics (34): 225–250. JSTOR 24392137.
  6. ^ "The Journalism Prize 'Archivio Disarmo Golden Doves For Peace'", Archivio Disarmo.
  7. ^ Ben Jelloun, Tahar, Racism Explained to My Daughter. New York: New Press, 1999. Ben Jelloun, Tahar, Racism Explained to My Daughter. New York: New Press, 1999.
  8. ^ Ben Jelloun, Tahar, Racism Explained to My Daughter. New York: New Press, 1999.
  9. ^ Ben Jelloun, Tahar, Racism Explained to My Daughter. New York: New Press, 1999.
  10. ^ "Immigration Laws". Archived from the original on 2020-12-11.
  11. ^ "Refworld | Chronology for Muslim (Noncitizens) in France".
  12. ^ "Le Terrorisme expliqué à nos enfants".
  13. ^ "Italy Lazio cultural festival awards Moroccan author". Morocco Times. Archived from the original on 25 November 2006. Retrieved 25 September 2006.
  14. ^ GPLA 2016 Shortlist: "Grand Prix of Literary Associations 2016: D-day Coming Closer", Bella Naija, 2 March 2017.
  15. ^ Ben Jelloun, Tahar. "By Fire". Northwestern University Press. Northwestern University. Retrieved 3 August 2020.
  16. ^ Ben Jelloun, Tahar. "The Happy Marriage (Le Bonheur conjugal)". Gallimard.fr. Éditions Gallimard. Retrieved 3 August 2020.

External links[edit]