Review: The Curious Case of Dassoukine's Trousers by Fouad Laroui

Renowned authors like Mark Twain and George Saunders have long known the secret to making an audience care about political and social issues: humor. In “The Curious Case of Dassoukine’s Trousers,” Moroccan author Fouad Laroui follows suit, taking on some of our finest modern examples of absurdity, such as government regulations, politics and identity, in a style all his own, resulting in collection that is as funny as it is poignant and memorable.

Many of Laroui’s nine stories deal with inane government bureaucracy. In the title story, a Moroccan government official travels to Belgium to buy a large quantity of flour, but once there is mistaken for a waiter and has his only pair of slacks stolen. He must then “sit down on a chair opposite these messieurs-dames of Europe” while wearing golf trousers. In “Born Nowhere” the narrator discovers his family lied to government officials about his place of birth in order to secure his grandfather a position in office.

“There were so few voters in Khazazna that one sole vote could make the difference. For my grandfather, I then represented not his grandson newly landed on earth... but a potential elector who would vote for him when I came of age, twenty-one years later.”

....“And they say Moroccans don’t know how to plan for the long term!”

Still other stories, like “What Was Not Said in Brussels” and the profound “Dislocation” address the absurdity of language and culture, as well as the challenge to exist and be fully understood in a new country and language — an experience Laroui knows well, having been born and raised in Morocco, educated in France, and established a career in the Netherlands.

But the most remarkable story, “Bennani’s Bodyguard,” is both a political and cultural critique, told through the story of three schoolboys gleefully throwing a party, and the rich boy determined to spoil their fun. In this brilliant example, all of Laroui’s gifts are on full display: the interweaving of narrative and commentary; the sharp humor; the gracious, full heart.

While well-known and well respected around the world, “The Curious Case of Dassoukine’s Trousers” marks Laroui’s debut in the United States. One can hope U.S. readers will have access to the entire cannon of Laroui’s powerful work in the near future.