cover image The Curious Case of Dassoukine's Trousers

The Curious Case of Dassoukine's Trousers

Fouad Laroui, trans. from the French by Emma Ramadan. Deep Vellum (Consortium, dist.), $14.95 trade paper (150p) ISBN 978-1-941920-26-8

Few writers can match the ingenuity and frenetic energy that Laroui, a leading Moroccan economist, summons in this collection, winner of France's Prix Goncourt for short fiction. Recently arrived in Brussels on a trade mission, the titular Dassoukine meets a fellow Moroccan and bemoans the theft of his suit pants. The only replacement trousers he could find were decorated with "a yucky brown, an evanescent green," and so he was forced to "play out a great scene of Third World indignation" to preserve his dignity. However absurd the content of these stories, the bitter legacy of colonialism is impossible to avoid. Laroui is at his most riveting when he seeks to complicate immigrant narrative tropes through formal innovation. In "Dislocation," a narrator ("Moroccan by birth, in body, but %E2%80%98French in the head'%E2%80%89") obsessively contemplates his Dutch wife, beginning with a thoroughly familiar question: "What would it be like, he asked himself, a world where everything was foreign?" But this question is injected with parentheticals, asides, and addenda until it balloons into a delirious evocation of the second-guessing. Hamid, the narrator of "The Invention of Dry Swimming," encapsulates this striking collection: "%E2%80%89%E2%80%98We are' said Hamid (he paused), %E2%80%98we are (he swallowed a sip of coffee), we are (he put down the cup) an inventive people.'%E2%80%89" (Aug.)