Fikry El Azzouzi grew up in the Waasland area of Flanders. He made his debut in 2010 with the novel Het schapenfeest (The Feast of the Sheep) in which he adds a dose of humour in telling the story of Ayoub, an 11-year-old boy who has to go with his father to slaughter a sheep for the Feast of the Sacrifice. Ayoub comes up with the most creative excuses to avoid having to go, preferring to have fun instead. El Azzouzi has also written columns and plays, and is part of the theatre company, SINCOLLECTIEF. His play Troost (Consolation) won him the author’s prize for the performing arts in 2013, and his novella, De handen van Fatma (Fatma’s Hands, 2013), served as the basis for the theatre production of the same name. His second novel, Drarrie in de nacht [German title: Wir da draussen], was published in 2014. He won the Ark Prize for the Free Word for both this second novel and his play, Reizen Jihad (Jihad Travels), thus following in the footsteps of great Flemish authors such as Stefan Hertmans, David Van Reybrouck and Geert Buelens.
Drarrie in the night
DuMont Buchverlag, 2016
Translated by Ilja Braun
Original title: Drarrie in de nacht (Vrijdag, 2014)
Drarrie in de nacht (German title: Wir da draußen) takes place in a ficticious village in Belgium. Drarries is what four young men call themselves. Ayoub, Faoud, Maurice and Kevin/Karim are between 17 and 20 years of age and have a Moroccan background. What binds them is a shockingly nihilistic view on life. Without perspective, family support or the feeling of belonging within society, they go hunting for challenges at night: theft, harassment of young women, robberies, and even murder. A dramatic turn follows, once one of the men speaks out about his radical ideas and finally decides to join the rebels in Syria.
A book that goes under the skin and hits a nerve of our time. With poetic power, a sense for situation comedy, a good dose of black humor, and an impressive talent for empathy, El Azzouzi shows the reader the inner world of these young men, who are currently in the focus of states, security services and the media. An alarmingly realistic image of a parallel reality, which has been labelled wrongfully merely criminal. El Azzouzi achieves clarity about the large and universal theme at the back of it: young immigrants searching for their identity in a western materialistic society freed from religious and spiritual meaning of life.
Many social scientists and politicians have recently pointed out the fatal consequences of this feeling of absolute isolation and lack of life perspectives, combined with a high level of testosterone: for both individual and society. Drarrie in de nacht allows the reader to enter into the perceived world of young men, who live among us like a ticking bomb. He shows their frustrations, their willingness to be violent, their boastful macho behaviour, their wrongfully directed code of honour, but also their shocking loneliness, their search for security, their desire to be recognised and seen.
Fikry El Azzouzi has put himself on the Flemish map of literature.