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L'inspecteur Ali: the spoken woman in the writing of Driss Chraibi

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L'inspecteur Ali, published in 1991 by Driss Chraibi, presents us with a problematic view of language and the craft of writing. Brahim Orourke, a protagonist who easily serves as a double of Chraibi himself, is the writer of bestselling detective novels who returns to Morocco after a long stay in France. Torn between vernacular Arabic and written French, the writer feels displaced and is unable to continue his novel. As he attempts to establish ties to an 'authentic' Moroccan 'popular' culture from which he feels estranged, Orourke questions the value of his chosen metier and his own sense of place. The writer's silence is soon challenged by the voice of Saadiya, his illiterate cleaning lady. Despite the communicative barriers presented by class and gender, it is she who performs a kind of cultural translation for Brahim Orourke: she presents a point of entry to a cultural landscape which eludes the protagonist. Indeed, Saadiya's oral mode of communication favours an aurality and spontaneity which writing cannot approximate. The novel then reveals Brahim Orourke's desire to both understand and appropriate Saadiya's unique access to the language and shifting traditions of Morocco, thus betraying an uneasiness towards the female voice and its centrality in the nation's cultural production. The result is a text that attempts to reconcile the oppositions and contrasts within Moroccan society, while also struggling with the concept of women's speech as a privileged point of cultural articulation.
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Keywords: Dris Chrai bi; L'inspecteur Ali; Morocco; language; orality; women

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Publication date: June 1, 2008

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