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Thursday, December 2, 2021

There were no people like her in French novels. Until she wrote one.

The narrative is interspersed with memories of the childhood and youth of the protagonist. Fatima, the youngest of three sisters in a Muslim family from Algeria and the only one born in France, struggles to fit into school and has romantic relationships with women, although she considers homosexuality a sin. She fights against shame, but refuses to give up any part of herself.

Daas said her romance was more than a confirmation of her identity; it was “a way of saying it’s possible, I can be it if I want to. And if I want to say that I am a lesbian and a Muslim, I have the right, the ability, the freedom to do it, ”she said.

Salima Amari, a sociologist at the Center for Political and Social Research in Paris and author of Lesbians of Immigration, said the novel is powerful because it uncovers controversies that many have struggled with. “There is a woman who clearly defines herself as lesbian and Muslim, who writes and therefore has the right to vote,” Amari said. “It gives a very rare voice in the French landscape.”

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Daas said she began writing in high school, where she attended the workshops of Tangi Vil, a detective and detective novel writer. She added that it took her a while to find other writers she liked, but something clicked when she discovered Annie Erno and Marguerite Duras, two French authors whose work Daas cites in The Last.

She wrote novel in 18 months as part of a master’s degree in creative writing at the University of Paris 8. There she met the writer and director Virginie Despentes, who had come to talk about her career as part of the course. When Daas told Despentes about the book she was working on, Despentes spurred her on, Daas recalled. “She said that a lot of people will see themselves in what I’m talking about,” added Daas. “So it was very important that I keep writing.”

Perhaps the most significant taboo that Daas addresses in the novel is the issue of internal homophobia. Throughout the film, the main character calls herself a “sinner” and feels awkward and ashamed of herself.

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