The Curious Case of Dassoukine’s Trousers


By Fouad Laroui
Translated from the French by Emma Ramadan

An award-winning English-language debut by Morocco’s most prominent contemporary author exploring what it means to be foreign.

Publication Date: June 28, 2016

Paperback: 978-1-941920-26-8
Ebook: 978-1-941920-27-5



This first book in English by Morocco’s most prominent contemporary writer won France’s most prestigious literary award, the Prix Goncourt de la Nouvelle, awarded for the best story collection. This linked story collection employs laugh-out-loud humor and profound pathos in a variety of literary styles to explore what it would be like to live in a world where everything was foreign. Introduction by Laila Lalami, renowned author of The Moor’s Account.

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— Belgium really is the birthplace of Surrealism, sighs Dassoukine, staring into the distance.
I don’t respond because this phrase seems like a prologue—and in the face of a prologue, what can you do but await what follows, resigned. My commensal examines his mug of beer suspiciously, even though we are, after all, in the country that saw the birth of this pretty blonde, sometimes brunette, child—in an abbey, I’m told. The server eyes us. In this superb spot situated on the Grand-Place of Brussels, opposite the Maison du Cyne, we form a trio hanging on this thesis: “Belgium really is the birthplace of Surrealism.” This incipit is still floating in the air when Dassoukine decides to elaborate.
— What just happened to me, in any case, exceeds all bounds.
I restrain myself from adding: “And when boundaries are crossed…”
He begins:
— So, I set out yesterday from Morocco on a very delicate mission. You know the grain harvest is off to a bad start in our country: it has rained, but not a lot. We are in desperate need of flour, but where to find it? Ukraine is in flames, the Russians cling tightly to their crops, Australia is far. There’s only one solution: Europe. The government sends me to buy flour from Brussels. They’ve entrusted this mission to me. The country’s future is at risk. At the airport, in Rabat, they’re all on the tarmac, the ministers standing straight as yews, to bid me bon voyage as if their fate depended on little old me. Well, little…I’m taller than all of them by a head. The prime minister shakes my hand while the airplane engines roar and my eyes blur:
— Get the best price, my boy, the best price! The budget of the state depends on your negotiating skills.
He nearly pulled my ear, as if to say, “the homeland is counting on you, grenadier.”


Winner of the Prix Goncourt de Nouvelles, France’s most prestigious literary prize for a short story collection


Included in World Literature Today‘s “75 Notable Translations of 2016”

One of Literary Hub‘s Books to Read this May

One of Asbury Park Press Books to Read this Summer

“Laroui uses a wry, dry, knowing style to address identity and otherness, showing how focus on such issues defines the immigrant experience… Terrific stuff, insightful and often blackly funny.” — Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal (Starred Review)

“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. . . . 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. ” — Publishers Weekly

“Laroui casts his eye on this dour political legacy with the scalpel-like precision of a social satirist…The argumentative friends who meet at the Café de l’Univers give the café a zany energy. Imagine the Algonquin Roundtable populated only by the Marx Brothers.”—Karl Wolff, New York Journal of Books

“Laroui writes in dialogue, both interior and exterior, which gives the collection the feel of oral storytelling… We become eavesdroppers, lingering at the edges of the audience in order to hear what is being said. Most of these stories play to the ridiculous. Some are even slapstick in their humor. . . . But beneath the hijinks Laroui manages to place a kernel of pathos—in this instance a reminder of the politics of globalization and its inherent imbalance of power.” — Tara Cheesman-Olmsted, The Rumpus

“A hilarious short story collection by Moroccan writer Fouad Laroui… Much of the book is conversations, a wry absurdist take on bureaucracy, life in Morocco, life in Belgium, storytelling itself.” — Jace Clayton (DJ Rupture), Dwarf + Giant

“Fouad Laroui is one of Morocco’s brightest talents, and this hilarious and profound collection of short stories is one of the best ways to discover his strange, insightful wit.” — Staff Pick at Albertine Books by Adam Hocker

“Since his debut in 1996, Fouad Laroui — endorsing the motto of Beaumarchais , ‘I hasten to laugh at everything, for fear of being obliged to weep.’ — has chosen the weapon of humor. A weapon that he uses brilliantly to hide his wounds rather than to ‘serve his anger’ against stupidity, contempt, malice, intolerance, and fanaticism of all kinds.” — Le Monde

“A striking metaphor for our times.” — Le Figaro

“A writer who is aware of all the oddities of how the world around him works and holds these oddities up to the light, with a biting but gentle intelligence, a warm sense of humor, and a smart linguistic inventiveness.” — Shigekuni Blog

“The foreign angle is what made me pick up this short story collection but I was happy to find that there is much, much more in Laroui’s writing.  First of all, it’s funny. Laugh out loud on the bus funny…The stories range from insightful to funny, deep to absurd, and I was delighted the whole way.  After much searching I have finally, finally, found a short story writer that I love.” — Kazen, Always Doing

“Overall this is a unique collection of stories that I can recommend to anyone who wants to experience a wide range of literary styles in a single collection of stories.” — Melissa Beck, The Bookbinder’s Daughter

“Stories… notable for their wisdom and compassion.” — Willard Manus, Lively-Arts: An Internet Cultural Magazine