How do relationships work in western cultures

The cross-cultural asset of jealousy

"Coup de foudre" - this is the French term for the moment when a person sees someone else and knows that he has happened to him, that he is in love. This is also about Machfus, the slightly deliberate man who has lived in Paris for years One day, in the middle of a busy café, a Tunisian met Marie Claire, that French woman of prime age who was sitting at a table unaccompanied. At that moment he knew: It is she, she is the woman he is looking for Not all of his life, but for a while now. A smile crosses the tables, another one, and then, in fact, one thing comes back: Marie-Claire is ready to talk. So a few nice words, a friendly conversation , the appointment to meet again soon - a romance that couldn't be more typical, a love between East and West, Orient and Occident, as it has been told many times in Arabic literature, far more often than in Western literature hen. Habib Selmi.

# '"The idea is of course not new. There are many Arabic novels devoted to the subject, and they have been for a while. I wanted to write about it myself, but in a new way. I live in France, and here There are very many Arabs living for known historical reasons. And many of these Arabs are in relationships with French women. There are many mixed marriages. But I wanted to present it from a different perspective and with recent developments in mind Writing difficulties that arise in these relationships, because they arise again and again, so every generation has its own view of this topic.

The most astonishing thing about this novel: It is completely apolitical and has no reference to the long-running "Clash of Civilizations". Machfus and Marie-Claire like each other, they love each other, and neither of them is particularly interested in politics. Their different origins - she the emancipated citizen from the French capital, he the immigrant from Tunisia - is never the subject of their conversations. This can be perceived as a fairytale, but maybe also as a new reality of love in globalized times. Selmi, who was born in 1951 and has lived in France for almost 30 years, shows that his protagonists should do just that: talk about their origins and their consequences for their relationship. Because the cultural differences are not that great. But subliminally, he explains, they do play a role in their relationship.

"I would like to concentrate on the different cultures. The cultures as communities of values. Because they determine our intellectual life as well as our everyday life. The differences become apparent in seemingly very banal things. For example when eating, for example when Marie-Claire and Machfus at Sitting for breakfast. For him it has a fundamental cultural meaning. For them it is more of an accessory. Or when both of them introduce their mothers to each other and have dinner with them. Machfuz doesn't like goose pie - and that is a scandal for his mother: How can he dare to refuse his host's dishes ?! She sharply rebukes him in front of the dinner party. She also distinguishes her relationship to plants. She loves plants. He is rather indifferent to them. I brought all these things into the novel on purpose , because these little frictions put the relationship in the long run. Attentive readers will take note of that, even if they read the novel When you finish reading, you will notice the difference between East and West based on things that seem simple but actually aren't. "

However, these are very relaxed cultural conflicts. If you read Selmi, you could give the all-clear for the excitement surrounding issues such as immigration and integration: At least they are not always as acute, as sharp as it is often portrayed in the West. That may be because Selmi is unreservedly committed to the values ​​of the West. He cannot do anything with the furor of religion - but neither with the strange varieties of what in this country occasionally pretends to be "Islamic criticism", but actually betrays a crypto-fundamentalist worldview itself. In general, this novel shows that cultural differences easily melt together to a minimum. The conflicts that Selmi spreads in his novel could well also arise in monocultural couples. The excited feelings, the tingling in the stomach stops in every relationship, but at least it weakens. And when Machfus looks after a beautiful Greek woman while on vacation in Greece and Marie-Claire then creates a scene for him - well, those are stories that have already been heard elsewhere like this or similar. Jealousy and weariness are widespread worldwide phenomena, not limited to any culture or region. In addition: Machfus is doing its best to adapt to the new home. He would be one of the flagship immigrants who have to serve again and again as examples of successful integration. And Habib Selmi really doesn't like the idea of ​​fundamentally different values ​​in the Orient and Occident either.

"I myself see Machfus as a person who is integrated into French society. He loves France, he loves it as a foreign country, because it is not what he was born in. But he also feels connected to his country of origin . I also portray myself a little in this figure. For example, I have lived in France for 30 years and consider myself completely integrated. I love France, I love the West, and I especially love its values: democracy, Freedom, secularism, the separation of religion and state - I love all of these. But I also love the other culture, the culture of my country of origin, which has also been preserved for me. "

A nice creed that gives the novel its relaxed atmosphere. Because in the end, we can tell that much, Marie-Claire and Machfus separate again. It may be that the differences that result from their respective history of origin do their part. However, they are quite manageable, and you can tell that the author does not share the multicultural pessimism that is currently in vogue. The main reason for the failure of the relationship is that both of them simply have enough of each other. This has little to do with dramatic multicultural misunderstandings. And that's kind of nice too. Habib Selmi has written an optimistic book.

Habib Selmi, "My time with Marie-Claire" Translated from the Arabic by Regina Karachouli. Lenos Verlag, 246 pages, 19.50 euros