Monday 13 February 2023

The Scent of Flowers at Night by Leïla Slimani #TheScentofFlowersbyNight T. @SamTayl66360996 @CoronetBooks #BookReview


'Night is the land of reinvention, whispered prayers, erotic passions. Night is the place where utopias have the scent of the possible, where we no longer feel constrained by petty reality. Night is the country of dreams where we discover that, in the secrecy of our heart, we are host to a multitude of voices and an infinity of worlds...'

Over one night, alone in the Punta della Dogana Museum in Venice, Leïla Slimani grapples with the self as it is revealed in solitude. In a place of old and new, she confronts her past and her present, through her life as a Moroccan woman, as a writer, and as a daughter. Surrounded by art, she explores what it means to behold and clasp beauty; enveloped by night, she confronts the meaning of life and death.

Translated from the French by Sam Taylor

The Scent of Flowers at Night by Leïla Slimani is published on 20 April 2023 by Coronet and is translated from the French by Sam Taylor. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

I have read all of Leïla Slimani's novels. She's a wonderfully unique author with a style that really appeals to me. I was so interested to find out what her non-fiction would be like. It's a very slim volume, just 160 pages and I opened it as I got on a train from London, finishing it as I reached my destination.

Throughout my journey I was transported to Venice, where the author was spending the night, alone in a museum. This was part of a project that she'd been encouraged to do, and despite some misgivings, she welcomed the opportunity to escape her writing study, where her current characters were evading her. 

Whilst in the museum, during the night, the author reflects on many many things. The reader learns so much about her life, her early years, her culture and especially about her father whose life, and death made such a huge impact on her.

As she wandered the rooms of the museums, taking in the various art forms, often wondering 'is this art?' and questioning her own ability to see the beauty in some of the exhibits, she contemplates many things. Her love of literature shines through the writing, as she associates books that she's read with art forms that she gazes at, and also with her own life experiences. 

There's an elegance about this writing that makes it totally Slimani and once again, Sam Taylor has captured it perfectly with his exquisite translation of the book. 

It's difficult to pinpoint exactly what the book is about; it's full of relationships, art, literature, history and culture. It's an explanation of self, both to the reader and to the author, almost as if it has taken this one night for her to discover so many things about herself. 

A beautiful, enthralling and startling book. Highly recommended by me. 

Leïla Slimani is the first Moroccan woman to win France’s most prestigious literary prize, the Prix
Goncourt, which she won for Lullaby. 

A journalist and frequent commentator on women’s and human rights, she is French president Emmanuel Macron’s personal representative for the promotion of the French language and culture. 

Born in Rabat, Morocco, in 1981, she lives in Paris with her French husband and their two young children.

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