Habib Selmi: نساء البساتين (Souriez, vous êtes en Tunisie !) [Smile, You Are In Tunisia]


The latest addition to my website is Habib Selmi‘s نساء البساتين (Souriez, vous êtes en Tunisie !) [Smile, You Are In Tunisia]. The novel is narrated by Taoufik, a Tunisian who has married a French woman and now lives in France. He has come back to visit Tunisia, which he has not visited for five years. He is surprised by how much has changed. He is staying with his brother, Ibrahim. His first surprise is that Ibrahim’s wife, Yousra, is wearing a veil and will not kiss him but only shake hands. He finds that a religious fervour has swept through the country, with virtually all men going to the mosque for Friday prayers – his young nephew, Wael is particularly enthusiastic. However, he also finds a strong element of hypocrisy. Yousra is happy to wear sexy clothing and make-up. Some of them preaching sanctity are also having extramarital relationships. Taoufik’s older brother, Bashir, who is planning on doing the hajj to Mecca the following year, is cheating on his taxes. However, Taoufik clearly no longer fits in. Several characters ask him what nationality he is and are surprised to find that he is Tunisian. Several people also ask him to help them get to France. This is not a great book but it is interesting to read about Tunisia, the changes it has undergone and how it is just before the Arab Spring.

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