|Leïla Slimani. Photograph: Richard Saker/The Observer|
THE BOOKS THAT MADE ME
Leïla Slimani: ‘I’ve always been fascinated by Marilyn Monroe'
The author of Lullaby and Adele celebrates Julian Barnes’s British humour and reading Anna Karenina for the first timeLeïla Slimani
Leïla Slimani on her shocking bestseller, Lullaby: 'Who can really say they know their nanny?'
Friday 1 February 2019
The book I am currently reading
The Piranhas by journalist Roberto Saviano. It is his first novel and it’s very impressive. I admire Roberto a lot. I’ve been following his career for years.
The book that changed my life
I can still remember when I read Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina in my room in Rabat, where I grew up. I was completely overwhelmed.
The book I wish I’d written
I couldn’t stop reading Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates, based on the life of Marilyn Monroe. I’ve always been fascinated by Monroe, her melancholia, her extreme beauty and how fragile she was. Blonde is a terrific novel.
The book that influenced my writing
Albert Camus’s L’Étranger. The style is simple, direct and so luminous.
The book that is most overrated
So many books are overrated these days. Readers seem to place a greater emphasis on sociological issues, on provocative topics rather than on style. Reputation is a lot about marketing.
The book that changed my mind
I thought that every human being wanted to be free until I read The Politics of Obedience (1576) by Étienne de La Boétie. He showed me that people can prefer to live in servitude, will sacrifice their freedom for security or money. When you really want to be free, you must be able to sacrifice everything; a lot of people can’t.
The last book that made me cry
Lyudmila Ulitskaya’s Sonechka. It is a very delicate and poetic novel about a woman who is crazy about books. Ulitskaya loves this character and makes a heroine of a very ordinary woman.
The last book that made me laugh
The Only Story, by Julian Barnes. It is actually a very sad novel but even when he tells a sad story Barnes has the power to make me laugh or smile. I love his British humour, his sensibility.
The book I couldn’t finish
Robert Musil’s The Man Without Qualities. I found it so boring! But I will probably try again because everyone tells me that I have to persevere.
The book I’m ashamed not to have read
None. There is no shame in literature.
The book I give as a gift
Any of the books of Israeli author Zeruya Shalev, one of the most talented writers of our times.
The book I’d most like to be remembered for
I haven’t written it yet.
My earliest reading memory
Les Malheurs de Sophie (1858) by the Comtesse de Ségur. I was crazy about this book and about this little girl, who lies, steals and feels so lonely and misunderstood. It is profound and not very politically correct.
My comfort read
Magazines and newspapers. I love reading the press.
• Leïla Slimani’s Adèle is published by Faber (£12.99).