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Leïla Slimani

Leïla Slimani
on Aug 27, 2019
Leïla Slimani


Leïla Slimani (born 3 October 1981) is a Franco-Moroccan writer and journalist. In 2016 she was awarded the Prix Goncourt for her novel Chanson douce.


Slimani's maternal grandmother Anne Dhobb (née Ruetsch, born 1921) grew up in Alsace and met her husband Lakhdar Dhobb, a Moroccan colonel in the French Colonial Army, first in 1944 during the liberation of France. After the war she followed him back to Morocco, where they lived in Meknes. By publishing an autobiographical novel in 2003 she became a first writer in the family. Her daughter and Slimani's mother is Béatrice-Najat Dhobb-Slimani, an otolaryngologist, who married the French educated Moroccan economist Othman Slimani. The couple had three daughters, Leïla Slimani being the middle one. She was born in Rabat on 3 October 1981 and grew up in a liberal, French speaking household and attended French schools. An important rupture in Slimani's childhood occurred in 1993 when her father was falsely implicated in a finance scandal and fired from his position as president of the CIH Bank. Slimani left Morocco at the age of 17 for Paris to study political science and media studies at the Sciences Po and ESCP Europe. After her graduation she temporarily considered a career as an actress, completed an acting course and appeared in supporting roles in two films. She married her husband, a Parisian banker whom she met first in 2005, on 24 April 2008 and started to work as a journalist for the magazine Jeune Afrique on 6 October of the same year. The work required her to travel a lot and after her son was born in 2011 and she got arrested in Tunisia while reporting on the Arab Spring. She decided to quit her job at Jeune Afrique and to pursue freelance work and write a novel instead. The novel however was rejected by publishers. In 2013 Slimani took a writing workshop by Jean-Marie Laclavetine, a novelist and editor at Gallimard. He took an interest in Slimani's writing and helped her to improve her style and in 2014 Slimani published her first novel Dans le jardin de l’ogre (In the Garden of the Ogre) with Gallimard. The novel fared well with French critics and received La Mamounia literary award in Morocco. Two years later Dans le jardin de l’ogre was followed by the psychological thriller Chanson douce, which won the Prix Goncourt, turned her into a literary star in France and made her known to international audiences as well. In 2017 her second child, a daughter, was born. In addition to her native Moroccan citizenship Slimani also holds French citizenship due to her Alsatian heritage.



Slimani's first novel Dans le jardin de l’ogre tells the story of a woman who loses control of her life due to her sexual addiction. Slimani got the idea for her story after seeing the Dominique Strauss-Kahn unfolding news. The novel fared well with French critics and in Morocco it received the La Mamounia literary award. Chanson douce (lit. sweet song) is the story of a double murder of two young siblings by their nanny, inspired by the killing by a nanny of the Krim children in Manhattan in 2012. The novel starts off with immediate aftermath of the murder and then recounts the backstory of the parents, a liberal upper middle class Parisian couple, and their nanny, who is economically and psychologically struggling. Slimani named the nanny Louise after Louise Woodward, a British au pair in the US who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter of the toddler in her care. The novel was well received by French critics and quickly turned into a bestseller with over 76,000 copies printed within three months even before the book was awarded the Prix Goncourt in 2016. Subsequently it became the most read book in France of that year with over 450,000 copies printed and by the end of 2017 around 600,000 copies had been sold in France. It has been translated into 18 languages, with 17 more to come; the English translation of her novel was published in 2018 as The Perfect Nanny in the US and as Lullaby in the UK. width=664


Slimani worked for several years as a journalist reporting on Northern Africa and the Maghreb, covering, among other things, the Arab Spring in 2011. Her book Sexe et Mensonges: La Vie Sexuelle au Maroc (Sex and Lies: Sex Life in Morocco) compiles the accounts of many women she had interviewed while on a book tour throughout Morocco.


  • La baie de Dakhla : itinérance enchantée entre mer et désert. Casablanca: Malika Editions. 2013. ISBN 9789954037669. OCLC 889653067.
  • Dans le jardin de l'ogre. Paris: Éditions Gallimard. 2014. ISBN 9782070146239. OCLC 889705369. English edition: Adele: A Novel, translated by Sam Taylor, Penguin, 2019 ISBN 978-0143132189
  • Chanson douce. Paris: Éditions Gallimard. 2016. ISBN 9782070196678. OCLC 957971440. US edition: The Perfect Nanny. Penguin Random House. 2018. ISBN 978-0-143-13217-2. UK edition: Lullaby. Faber & Faber. 2018. ISBN 978-0-571-33753-8.
  • Le diable est dans les détails. Éditions de l'Aube. 2016. ISBN 9782815921442.
  • Sexe et mensonges : La vie sexuelle au Maroc. Les Arènes, Paris, 2017 ISBN 978-2-35204-568-7
  • Paroles d'honneur. Les Arènes, Paris, 2017, ISBN 978-2-35204-654-7, illustrated by Laetitia Coryn

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