Moroccan writer and journalist, Nabil Driouch, talks to us about his first publication "Small Epics" and what it meant in his career

Nabil Driouch: "I had it all written on the wall of my soul"


We talk to the journalist and writer, Nabil Driouch, about one of his most intimate publications that aims to show the world as it is, "without make-up", and giving a voice to those characters who do not usually occupy the media agendas. What he calls the voiceless, "those who are not approached by the microphones and do not appear on the news". 

Your book "Small Epics" moves away from your other publications to give rise to a series of stories that could be framed in surrealist literature, what made you make this change?

"Small epics" was my first book. It was published by the Moroccan Writers' Union in 2008 after I was awarded the Young Writers' Prize in 2007. I wrote it when I was only 25 years old, it was my way of looking at the world and I confess that my way of writing stories was new, with a rebellious style, something that was not common at the time.

The book is arriving rather late to bookshops in Spain because the translation project of the work took 13 years to see the light of day. The translator and Spanish Arabist Pablo Benito had the project ready in 2009, but even so, we had to wait all these years to have the book in bookshops.

I made the change later when I opted not to repeat that literary adventure and dedicate myself more to writing books on politics. It was an unplanned and natural change.

Indeed, the book is surrealist in style, but very close to everyday reality, bearing in mind that at that time I was younger and worked in the written press. I did reports every day, which allowed me to feel the problems of Moroccan society in the flesh and, as I didn't have the space to say everything, I always kept an image, a feeling or a look of someone in a hidden corner of my memory.

At a given moment, all this came out like a tsunami inside me, so that in two months I wrote 18 stories. I had it all written on the wall of my soul, I just had to choose the right words for each image. Words do nothing more than convey those images, which explains why I opted for short sentences.

What reaction are you looking for in the reader with this intimate way of writing?

Writing is a way of seeing the world naked. My aim was to remove the make-up from everything that moves in this world. Moreover, I chose to give importance to the marginal aspects of our lives and to tread on the forbidden areas of our intimate lives, which is why the translator of the stories into Spanish said in the prologue that it is a politically incorrect book. I would add that it is also socially incorrect due to the fact that it is written in Arabic, a conservative language, on subjects that are usually dealt with by Arab writers through Western languages in order to dilute the impact, or rather the cultural shock.

In any case, the book is a child of its time. Maybe now at 42 I would write it differently, but I have never regretted writing in such a way or on such subjects. I always consider each book as a child and now my son is 17 and it makes me happy every time I see it translated into other languages or read by new readers.  

Who or what scenarios inspired you in this creation?

As I said before, journalism gave me the opportunity to travel a lot. Every trip is a little story. It also allowed me to interview illegal immigrants and live with them in the forest, to have coffee with people who had been detained in Guantánamo or to have dinner with high-level personalities.

For me they are different lives that exist in parallel. Each has their own dreams and their own way of seeing the world as they struggle to live their own little epic. Moreover, in the stories I bring the marginal to life in order to strip the world bare and expose the paradoxes of our social life. 

In your pages we find characters ranging from children to Parisian dogs. What do you try to show with these characters?

It's my way of giving a voice to those who never speak, to those who are never addressed by microphones or events that don't appear on the evening news. Nowadays it is more important to have than to be, hence I would like to give more importance to marginal beings or those little things that we keep in the secret wardrobe or that we don't want to see.

In the story of the Dog, for example, I tried to talk about the contradictory situation of dogs between Morocco and Europe through an illegal immigrant who was having a hard time in Paris and was very envious of the dog's life. In the end, he aspired to become a Parisian dog, but did not succeed. These are paradoxes that no longer shock us because they are part of the ordinary.       
Is there any literary genre that you would like to experiment with but haven't yet dared to?

Yes, the novel, although it's a totally different art because it requires living with the characters first and knowing them better than you know yourself. Each character in the novel has his or her own personal story and character. The writer has to know even how the character smokes, what kind of cigarettes he likes etc...

Will we see Nabil Driouch doing more narrative in this format?

I haven't repeated this experience for 17 years. I write when there is something that dwells in my chest. I'm not a professional writer of literature. Later I felt the need to write essays or chronicles.

My dream is to write a novel, but you never know. Maybe the short story genre will ring the bell of my soul again.
What are you going to surprise us with in your next publication?

I see that there is a great need in Morocco to explain the political and social changes that Spain has undergone since the 2008 crisis, I plan to write something along these lines.