Abstract

This article examines the sexualization of postcolonial relations at the level of literature, paying special attention to how postcolonial resentment is portrayed via the figure of the “Arab boy,” transplanted from an exploited status in colonial settings to an unassimilated status in contemporary France. The difficulties of communication that occur, when certain French writers aim to depict this Arab figure, are then sourced to problems of cultural translation in a variety of instances. Gay-identified Moroccan authors like Rachid O. and Abdellah Taïa, who write in French from France, have responded to calls for sexual disclosure as “native informants,” while simultaneously supplying disturbing and destabilizing answers in stories often featuring sexualized Arab youth. These writers first reify and then challenge a tradition of sexualized literary collaboration that has existed ever since the writer and translator Paul Bowles fostered the emergence of Moroccan voices for a Western audience. Contemporary writers like Renaud Camus and Frédéric Mitterrand have themselves pursued forms of collaboration with North African cultural actors that recall the collaborative precedent. Between the era of Tangiers as a haven for gay writers and now, however, their young Arab interlocutors have gone from being available and servile, to “difficult” and resentful.

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