Moroccan-Dutch journalist Hassnae Bouazza is no stranger to controversy. Her newspaper columns provoke strong reactions. For Radio Books, she writes a gentle story about a young girl and her persistent but undesirable suitor.
Hassnae Bouazza was born in 1973 in the small village of Oujda in northeast Morocco near the border with Algeria. At the age of four, her family joined her father who was working in the Netherlands. They lived in Arkel, a small town in the south where they were the only Moroccans.
Bouazza studied English literature at the University of Utrecht. As well as writing columns for several Dutch periodicals, she has worked as a translator and television programme maker.
Bouazza’s work attracts attention for her frank approach to taboo subjects such as pornography in the Arab world. She also edited a collection of short stories about strong Arab women called Achter de sluier (Behind the Veil). The anthology addresses the prevailing cliché image of Arab women in the Netherlands.
She might be accused of courting controversy when addressing complex issues such as anti-Semitism in the Muslim community or the right-wing Dutch politician Geert Wilders. On the one hand she has sharply criticised Wilder’s interpretation of the Qur’an, and then defended his freedom of expression when he compared it to Mein Kampf.
A recent column Bouazza wrote in the NRC Handelsblad criticised the Dutch government’s policy on the emancipation of women. With the title Our women are fantastic – no more interference’, she challenged views often held by so-called “feminist activists.”
Her Radio Books story reveals an altogether different side of the writer. A young girl becomes the romantic object of desire for an unappealing neighbour. A chance meeting years later causes her to reconsider her careless dismissal of the man.
Next to his kitchen window was the door, and next to that was the window of one of the rooms in his flat. The window of that room became the altar of his love: first there was a teddy bear in the window, but soon the bear acquired companions to greet me as I went out and arrived home. Before long the window was full of all sorts of cuddly toys; the velvet banana evoked all kinds of frightening associations. A light-brown teddy with a pink heart on its chest and the words I love you’, with the word love replaced by a red heart, acted as spokesman for the cuddly legion; it was up to him to deliver the message, as if the message were not already clear enough.
Bifi by Hassnae Bouazza was translated by Michael Blass. It’s read by Jacky Spears.