With De belofte van Pisa (Samir, genannt Sam; The Promise of Pisa), Mano Bouzamour wrote the best-selling debut novel of 2014. The film and theatre rights have been sold, and the book will be published in German and other languages in 2016. The story is based on his years at secondary school, growing up as the son of Moroccan immigrants living in a working-class neighbourhood who attends a respectable grammar school in the well-to-do Amsterdam-South area. A clash between two cultures, described from the point of view of someone on the inside with great momentum, style and self-mockery. Although Bouzamour was welcomed into the literary world with open arms, his novel made him the object of criticism in the Moroccan community. He writes a provocative column in the Amsterdam newspaper, Het Parool, pens articles for magazines such as Elle and Cosmopolitan and is a regular guest on radio and television programmes. His second novel, Witte Donderdag (Holy Thursday), will be published in 2016.
The Promise of Pisa
Residenz Verlag, 2016
Translated by Bettina Bach
Original title: De belofte van Pisa (Prometheus, 2015)
German title: Samir, genannt Sam
With undisguised contempt the man in the suit asked the dean: “They go here too … Moroccans, at this school?” The dean said that it isn’t a problem at all. He knew there was one in the graduating class. That was about it.
Until Sam enters the Lyceum.
At home, where Sam is called ‘Samir’, he struggles with his illiterate and poorly integrated parents who prefer that he says ‘salam aleikum’ rather than ‘good morning’. His brother is in jail for armed robbery and his sisters are working behind the counter at the supermarket. Sam, however, is determined to do vwo, the highest level of high school, and to immerse himself in his love of classical piano. Where his brother got the truckload of pianos, he’d rather not know.
Sam tries to maintain his place in the elite high school, but the prejudice, latent crime and incomprehension of his family continue to haunt him. Community centers, mosques and jet-set parties don’t mix well.
With a healthy dose of self-mockery, and a hint of criticism of first-generation immigrants to Holland, Bouzamour sketches the story of a striking elitist brat. The exceptionally cheerful and playful writing style makes The Promise of Pisa the picaresque novel of the year.
A new and powerful voice in Dutch literature. Political correctness will never be the same again.
His language crackles with sparkling, coarse, sometimes clinical formulations, portraying a teenage life that illustrates the multicultural problem in a way that is both light-hearted and subtle. This admirable debut, pulsing with energy, snappy dialogue and urban slang, is sure to hit the spot with young readers.
Mano knows what it is to grow up as the son of Moroccan parents in the notorious Diamantbuurt and has a fantastic talent for bringing that world to life. When I met him I thought, if he can get this down on paper, it’ll be a book that everyone should read. And now here it is, on paper.