Interview.  Driss Tahi tells us about his book "From the top of the balcony"

Interview. Driss Tahi tells us about his book “From the top of the balcony”

INTERVIEW – From the top of the balcony is the title that the Moroccan writer, journalist and poet Driss Tahi, author of several books and collective collections, chose for his very first novel, freshly published by Les Infréquentables. This 240-page opus recounts some of the events that have marked Casablanca from the 1940s to the contemporary surroundings of 2006, through the character of Saâdia, heroine of the novel. Its author explains to us in this interview the ins and outs.

Moroccans Everywhere: “From the top of the balcony”, why the choice of such a title?

Driss Tahi: I admit that I changed the title of the novel several times during the writing, but the word balcony was always there. At the beginning, I titled it: “The balcony”, then “A balcony on life”, or “A balcony on Casablanca”, then “The balcony of Saadia”, to finally arrive at: “From the top of the balcony” . A title that somehow imposed itself towards the end.
The balcony as the only link with the outside for Saâdia who is the main character in “From the top of the balcony”, an elderly, sick woman who finds herself alone, or almost at the end of her life. Its balcony overlooks Khatibi Street, a commercial artery in the center of a large city, Casablanca. A street she knows, where she has lived since the first year of her marriage.
Also, all of the memories that fuel the chapters of the novel are triggered by this street; the people who animate it, a few familiar faces that Saâdia had once known or rubbed shoulders with, but also certain places, smells and moments, which call out to her by chance to lead her into…

Is this a metaphor?

Yes! But not only. As a novelist, this balcony is somewhere a perched position that offered me the opportunity to step back in time and space to scrutinize the past through the prism of Saâdia’s gaze from above and dive in his memories, mine too and those of the city and the country, in a big city like Casablanca which was the scene of many events that shook Morocco before and after independence and their repercussions on the life of dozens of families. The places and dates as well as the events recounted throughout the story are real and known to everyone and have for the most part been part of the collective memory of Moroccans for a long time. As for my characters and their stories, they are fictitious, invented and placed in a chosen spatio-temporal framework, in an interweaving between reality and fiction.

“From the top of the balcony” is also a haunting cry from the heart that reminds us of the repressions, torture, secret prisons, especially during the years of lead….

The abuses committed during the demonstrations which shook the country before independence, in 1965 – 81-84, etc…Arbitrary disappearances, torture, Tazemamart, the problem of mass graves and all human rights violations, have since the creation of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH) and the Equity and Reconciliation Authority (IER) have caused enough ink to flow and have revealed to the world certain truths about inhuman practices and all the atrocities discovered on what has been called the years of lead.
In “From the top of the balcony”, it is rather the problem of the wives of these victims that I tried to highlight. Saadia is just one of dozens who found themselves one morning looking for a missing husband, son or father. Women about whom we speak very little, yet for some of them, their vain search for a body in morgues or in cemeteries, for others their waits in front of police premises in search of the slightest information without no results, or their journeys from one penitentiary to another, are so many ordeals that make them the other silent victims of the abuses and human rights abuses that had forever marked the country in the years of lead.

What are your future projects?

I must say that I have always been and for a long time passionate about literature and in particular poetry. I wrote and found the time to do so despite the constraints of my job running the business not giving me much free time. I recognize that at the beginning I did not think of being published. Also, I’ve written a lot of things over the years, I’ve lost a lot of them, but luckily I still keep a few in a drawer. After “From the top of the balcony”, I took out all these manuscripts to try to read them again with the intention of doing something with them.

Interview by Ayoub Akil

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