Libmonster ID: UK-1350

S. V. PROGOZHINA

Doctor of Philological Sciences

Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences

Keywords: Moroccan fiction, social inequality, women housekeepers

"Hasna, or the fate of one woman" is the title of a book published in 2011 by Maria Hessus1anative and resident of Casablanca, a philologist, a specialist in Western literature, who has a versatile education, numerous diplomas, and is interested in neuro-linguistics, management, and programming... She is already the author of several works of fiction, including the novel "Double Life" (2009).

Judging by the resume, M. Gessus is one of those young, modern Moroccan women who belong to an environment where prosperity allows a woman to be independent and secure to get a very significant baggage for life. However, as her new book shows, M. Hessus is deeply interested in the life of the opposite stratum of Moroccan society-people who are destitute, unhappy, unable to break the cycle of eternal doom to poverty, domestic slavery, which sometimes becomes the lot of millions of Moroccan women. Sometimes - because in both colonial and post-colonial times, being a servant in someone's house was precisely the" privilege " of a woman: they fed their numerous families, their earnings were the main ones in the cities where people who were ruined in the villages tried to move... And even today, judging by other testimonies of Moroccan women, almost slave labor of a woman who has the status of "housekeeper" (or, as it is euphoniously pronounced in French, "bonny") in rich homes (and there were and are many of them in Morocco), the only help is for their families who live somewhere in the mountains or on the edge of the desert, in the hinterland, or huddle on the poor outskirts of large Moroccan cities inhabited by unemployed people. It happens, of course, that men serve as footmen in rich houses, but even so, all the "menial" work in the house is done by women.

"Bonna" in the house today is almost on a par with a washing machine, microwave, refrigerator, mobile phone and other amenities of the modern world... These "gadgets", of course, now facilitate the work of a domestic worker, but in traditional society they do not get rid of the status of a disenfranchised and despicable being, whose purpose is the silent fulfillment of any whims of the owners, the indisputability of their demands, sometimes exceeding a hundred times the unconditional maintenance of the house "in cleanliness and order".

And if we take into account that there are often intermediaries between the product (the domestic worker) and the consumer (its owners) who make out a transaction for hiring labor in a private house or other economic possessions, then such workers are not provided with real earnings, they do not get it into their own hands - it goes entirely to the person who owns it. who could sell a woman into this kind of slavery? And for her - only rags and scraps from the master's table. Yes, the opportunity to have a roof over your head, living in a closet or under the stairs of a manor house...

The reality of what is described in the book by M. Hessus does not cause any doubts or reproaches in the hyperbolization of what is happening on its pages, or in the thickening of the atmosphere of modern Eastern society, where even without domestic slavery, the status of a Muslim woman is still not particularly high. And the desire to limit one's narrative to the example of "the fate of one woman" only increases the degree of condensation of the typical image of the Moroccan woman, recreated in the book as an image of the "other", hidden from the eyes of tourists, visiting observers of the world, a special, "internal" state of society, sharply split in two by absolute poverty and exorbitant wealth...

And the story of a girl who grew up, matured," saw the light", and then tragically died, never getting out of the dominance of inequality, poverty and injustice, written by our contemporary on the material of today's everyday life, at the end of the first decade of the XXI century, cannot but arouse interest. This story is interesting both as a fact of the genre of literary evidence that is developing in Moroccan fiction, 2 and as a new fact that confirms the abyss of social division that still exists in Moroccan society.

It is no coincidence, of course, that the life story of the heroine of M. Hessus ' book begins in a remote mountain village, and ends in the merciless depths of the sea: this descent, which lasted for several long years, is like a metaphor for the loss of hopes and the gradual death of a person who was immersed only in the darkness of his contradictions, only in the pain of his secret or hidden wounds, the abyss of despair and dull melancholy. But between the poles of the very nature of this life - the mountain peaks and the sea floor - also lay the modern city, where Hasna, a girl who was left a complete orphan, was taken away at an early age and sold into domestic slavery, and her resourceful uncle, the brother of her late father, managed to take advantage of her misfortune.

Once Hasna's parents, who left early (illness and poverty had sapped their strength), despite everything, were able to enroll the girl in a school, although it was located far away, in another mountain village. The girl liked to attend school, she liked to listen to the teacher, and learned to read. Left in the care of her uncle, her father's brother, she immediately lost everything - not only the family hearth, parental love and affection, but also the opportunity to study further. From now on, after traveling by bus almost half the country, Hasna will be abandoned, first in Tangier, and then in Casablanca, to the mercy of greed, tyranny, ignorance, and selfishness. Ruthlessness of those who, without sparing the strength and health of a child, and then a young girl, will satisfy their needs, desires, lust, use it in their family intrigues

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and force them to do all the menial chores around the house, paying for everything only with swearing, reproaches and insults. Uncle regularly received his "commission", and everything else, as her owners said, went "for the maintenance" of Hasna.

They humiliated her not only with prohibitions, distrust, and disgust in relation to her. She was always suspected of being responsible for the worst things that happened in this or that house. She suffered from the fits of jealousy of housewives, who were tormented by the thought that their husbands were not indifferent "to the young servants", and from the crazy whims of the master's children, their sons, especially, sometimes forcing her to cohabit with them; and from the wild fits of passion of the owners, who tried to forget their annoying and extravagant wives with her...

Hasna, leaving one after another gloomy and prodigal houses, complaining to her uncle, passing with his help "from one hand to another", exhausted not so much by the mercilessly heavy "day labor" as by the hopelessness of her existence, will find, of course, some semblance of a way out: she will escape from the dominance of her uncle's "connections", settling down on her own to work in a seemingly "decent house". But even then, a new burden of worries will befall her. Yes, she became freer, went out shopping, met people like herself at the market, learned a lot from their also difficult and difficult life.

I also met a young man once. I fell in love... Having become pregnant and become a mother, she will be forced to give her child under the "care" of strangers, and she will look for a way to get out of the country, so as not to experience eternal shame now, to earn a living for herself and her daughter "somewhere in exile"...

She, like everyone else whose lot was humiliation, poverty and despair, wanted to "go over the sea". Spain, which was "on the other side", very close, seemed to be an escape from the ever-lasting misery of life, a "paradise" where you can live "with dignity" and "earn money honestly" ... How many of them are like her, trying to cross Gibraltar by all means... Just to get here, to be on the shore of your dreams...

And here she was, like the rest of her countrymen, crammed ten deep into a rickety boat, trying to cope with an unexpected storm... High waves overwhelmed them, preventing them from reaching the "better life". But was she waiting for them there?.. However, another Moroccan, almost a classic, crowned with laurels of world fame, who knows firsthand about the life of his compatriots in Europe, wrote about this, already another bitter experience of emigrants. Life "in a foreign land" is a special theme of all Maghreb literature, especially in French. It is a special pulse not only for the artistic, but also for the social consciousness of North Africans who tried to connect their hope of finding a "better future"with Europe.4..

But that's not what I'm talking about. And the fact that the recently published book by Maria Hessus "Hasna, or the Story of a woman" again shows both the old, unabated pain of this world, and its eternal, unquenchable hopes for getting rid of this pain... He draws a world in which the established tradition of life is eager for renewal, and people catch the sparks of their hopes, try to get out to the Light, overcoming the darkness of unfreedom and injustice.


Guessous M. 1 Hasna ou le destin d'une femme. Paris, Biaritz, 2011; Casablanca, 2011.

2 A striking example that precedes the theme of M. Gessus ' story is the book "Unfinished Women" by Khuriyya Boussejra (Boussejra C. M. Femmes inachevees, Rabat, 2000). For more information, see: Krylova N. L., Prozhogina S. V. Path to self. Moscow, 2013.

3 I am referring to one of the latest novels by Takhar Bendjelloun (ed. See: Prozhogina S. V. Magribinsky novel, Moscow, 2007). Partir. P., 2006.

4 For more details, see: Prozhogina S. V. Dlya beregov Otchizny dalney [For the shores of the Distant Motherland], Moscow, 1992; Zhenka i chuzhbina (et al. with Krylova N. L.). Moscow, 2007 and many others.


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S. V. PROGOZHINA, OCEAN OF NIGHT AND A SPARK OF LIGHT // London: British Digital Library (ELIBRARY.ORG.UK). Updated: 02.11.2023. URL: https://elibrary.org.uk/m/articles/view/OCEAN-OF-NIGHT-AND-A-SPARK-OF-LIGHT (date of access: 21.04.2024).

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