REVIEW by Willard Manus
book in English by Moroccos most prominent writer, Fouad Laroui,
THE CURIOUS CASE OF DASSOUKINES TROUSERS is a collection of linked
comic tales whose common theme is dislocation. Considering Larouis
background, its not hard to understand why he has such a perspective
on life: he studied in Morocco and Paris, got a PhD in English in the
UK, and now teaches Econometrics at the University of Amsterdam. He writes
fiction in French, poetry in Dutch, academic and non-fiction work in English.
The titular story in the collection shows the author at his best. The
narrator, a low-level Moroccan bureaucrat, is sent by his government to
Brussels to buy wheat from the EU in order to prevent starvation at home.
On arrival in Brussels, he is taken for a waiter at an EU reception. His
dismay is compounded later that night when a thief breaks into his hotel
room and steals his one pair of trousers. The concierge tries to help
him, but the only trousers he can find that will fit him (hes quite
tall) are a pair of golf trousers from a used-clothing shop.
When the Moroccan shows up at the EU meeting in those loud, checked pants,
the officials treat him suspiciously. Am I really myself? Or a clown
imposter? Or a lackey with a big head? he asks himself. But when
an Englishman demands to see his identity card, the narrator plays
out a great scene of Third World indignation in the face of Western arrogance.
His ploy works well: not only does he get his wheat but he gets it for
They remembered, quite pertinently, that there was an emergency
stock for desperate cases, like for Somalia, Chad and other countries
where the ministers dress in rags. Pounds of grain for free!
When he returns home he is treated like a conquering herothe
man who saved his country a hundred thousand Euros! He accepts the
plaudits, of course, but whispers to himself its really my
trousers they should be honoring.
The same kind of edgy satire can be found in the other eight stories in
the book, all of which are notable for their wisdom and compassion. (Translated
by Emma Ramadan, published by Deep Vellum with an introduction by Laila