Villa Aurora Grant Recipients | 2012

Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec

Hassouna Mosbahi | Feuchtwanger Fellow

Hassouna Mosbahi
Hassouna Mosbahi
born in Tunesia
since 1966
living as author

Born in a Tunesian village in the region of Kairouan in 1950, Hassouna Mosbahi began writing at the age of sixteen. His first novella, L’image de mon père, won the radio award for young authors.

In 1973 Mosbahi travelled to the Middle East. Disappointed from Kaddafi’s regime in Libya, Hafez Assa in Syria and Baas in Iraq, he returned to his home country. He takes up this experience in a later novel, Les Autres, which received much appraisal from critics and readers across the Arab world.

In consequence of his political activities, Mosbahi was sentenced to two years imprisonment, however, already in the year of his conviction, Tunesian president Bourgiba granted a reprieve. Following two years of teaching French at a grammar school, Hassouna Mosbahi was being suspended on grounds of his involvement with trade unions.

The next five years he would spend without work and thus impoverished in his home village. This period of his life finds mentioning in Les Autres, too. Moreover, it was there where he wrote most of the novellas, which were to comprise his first anthology Histoire de la folie de ma cousine Henia. This volume, in which he describes the farmers’ misery, not only earned him the Tunisian Prize for Novellas, but also brought him the reputation for being one of the best writers of his generation. For the novel Retour à Tarchich, which was first published in Morocco and later translated into German, he also won the Book Prize of the city of Munich. Mosbahi had settled in the Bavarian capital when he worked as correspondent for Arabic newspapers, which were distributed in both London and Paris. At that time he lived solely from writing.

In the novel Adieu Rosalie Mosbahi describes the feeling of hopelessness Arabic intellectuals experience in exile.

In numerous articles, which were published in larger German journals and newspapers including the Sueddeutsche Zeitung and Die Zeit, Mosbahi persistently defended a humanistic and open Arabic culture, which he believed – and still believes – is threatened by Islamic fanatics and dictator. Through the Munich-based publisher C. H. Beck he published several essays about both Islam and Arabic culture.

His novel La Fleur du Laurier Rose, which has been translated into English and which describes the life of Maghrebian women in Germany, won the critics’ choice award in 2004. The responsible committee of the African Caine Prize included, among others, Nobel laureate J. M. Coetzee.

In 2004, Mosbahi returned to his home country where he would finance his living expenses by writing. Travelling back home inspired the novel Histoire Tunisienne, which deals with the hardship and desperation young Tunisians experienced under the regime of Ben Ali. In fall 2011, the novel was published in English under the title Tunisian Tale. Returning home also inspired Mosbahi’s book L’orphelin du temps, which he finished during his residency in the Heinrich Böll House.

His next project is about an “amour fou” Andalusian mystic Ibn Arabi encountered. These writings were burnt and are still met with hatred by fanatic Islamists.

Mosbahi’s other literary projects similarly support a modern, humanistic Arabic culture, which subscribes to Enlightenment ideals.