Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Hidden Life of Moroccan Homosexuals

"J'ai lu le chapitre de ton livre traduit en français et je le trouve bouleversant. Bien raconté. Bien écrit. J'ai sincèrement hâte de lire la suite. Ton livre doit absolument passer, arriver, si je peux dire, dans la langue française pour que les Marocains (et d'autres, bien sûr) puissent prendre connaissance de ces histoires fortes, dérangeantes, de cette réalité, l'homosexualité, qu'ils ne veulent pas voir. Un jour, je l'espère, ce livre arrivera aussi dans la langue arabe. Merci. Fort."

(Abdellah Taia, author of L'armée du salut and Le rouge du tarbouche on Among men by Catherine Vuylsteke.)

A moving and revealing story: Among Men. The Hidden Life of Moroccan Homosexuals

The geographical distance between the heart of Morocco and the centre of Europe is hardly more than two thousand kilometres. The mental distance seems unbridgeable. For homosexuals that is… In Brussels, they are welcome to marry their sweetheart in the town hall registry office. And they can adopt a baby. In Casablanca, they have to live ‘under-under’. That’s what they call ‘leading a hidden life’ in Arabic. Their love is caught between hchouma (disgrace) and haram (sin). And then there is also the potential criminal prosecution. Islam is advanced as a reason, together with traditions, which, apparently, one cannot deviate from. And let’s not forget the necessity to at least formally conform oneself to the group.

Catherine Vuylsteke went to Morocco on several occasions. She travelled through Europe and wrote down the stories of broken homosexual lives. Stories from an ‘under-under’ world, lives based on lies, despair and cynicism. A role hard to sustain.

The emancipation of Arabic women, Islam and the chador: the subjects of many texts. But Moroccan homosexuals and their partners in misfortune are cursed. Catherine Vuylsteke draws a revealing portrait of a hidden world that stretches from Morocco to Brussels.

Catherine Vuylsteke is a journalist for the Belgian newspaper De Morgen. Her first book was the very successful Volksrepubliek van verlangen. Ontmoetingen in het hedendaagse China. (Republic of Desire. Encounters in modern China).

There's an excellent French translation of a key chapter available.

No comments: