Your story in this week’s issue, “The Confession,” deals with a rape that takes place in rural Morocco. Were you drawing on a real incident or is this entirely imagined?

In Morocco, in 2011, a friend of mine created a platform to gather women’s stories. One day, a man wrote to her about a rape that he had committed, and that account, which she didn’t publish, stayed with her. In writing this story, I was partly inspired by what she told me about that man’s story. But I also left room for my imagination. All my life, I’ve listened to friends and acquaintances talk about being raped. I said to myself, “I know many women who have been raped, and, doubtless, I also know some men who have raped women, although they don’t talk about it.” I wanted to imagine the point of view of the man who commits the crime.

What made you want to write in the first person, from that perspective? Was it difficult to find your way into this character?

As I said, it’s very rare to hear about rape from the point of view of the rapist. You almost never hear the story told that way. But the vast majority of rapists are not completely marginal beings or sociopathic monsters; they are ordinary men, fathers, friends, good employees, high-school students. People you rub shoulders with every day. By taking on this young man’s perspective, I wanted to show how tragically banal and ordinary this act can be. He doesn’t have the sense that he is committing a rape, because the sexist patriarchal culture he lives in to some extent considers a woman’s body to be a man’s property. By adopting his point of view, I was trying to describe this violence from a different perspective.

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The story is titled “The Confession.” Why did this man choose to confess, seemingly years after the fact? And to whom?

I think this man has grown up, he has travelled, and his relationship to the world and to women has changed. Over time, and in part thanks to a nightmare, he understands what he did. Again: think of all the women who live with the secret of having been raped. There must, inevitably, be men who also live with the secret of those rapes. I dare to hope that for some men that secret will become unbearable, and they will feel the need to confess to someone.

At the end of the story, the man dreams of a breakneck carriage ride through an unfamiliar city, which ends with the death of the horse. Should we see a direct allegory in this dream? What links it to his guilt over what happened in that field?

For me, the dream is first of all a poetic image. There are dreams that shake us not because we understand exactly what they mean but through the feelings that they arouse in us, through the beauty or the power of the images they present. Of course, the horse is an allegory for masculinity, which is, in the dream, exhausted, unable to breathe. But, fundamentally, it’s up to each reader to imagine his or her own meaning for this dream.

You were born and spent your childhood in Morocco. Is the countryside where the story is set familiar to you? Have you spent time in villages like this one?

I grew up in the city of Rabat, but my grandparents had a farm, in the Meknes region, where they grew olive trees. I spent all my vacations with them, and I loved to visit with the laborers who worked for them, despite the social and cultural distance between us. My mother came from there, from this world that was very conservative in some ways and very open in others. My nanny also came from a small village near the farm. My grandparents are buried there, in a very modest country cemetery, under a few white stones.

The story first appeared, in French, in Le Magazine Littéraire. What was the response to it in France?

I believe that this story touched many readers and also troubled some, who doubtless considered it not very politically correct to adopt the point of view of a rapist and to make him, ultimately, an almost likable character.

You have been drawn to painful material in your fiction. Your novel “The Perfect Nanny” reimagined a horrific crime in which a nanny killed two young children she was caring for. This story involves rape. What is the appeal of tackling these subjects through fiction?

I write about the things I am most afraid of. And like many women I fear the death of my children. And I fear being raped. Writing allows me to feel a little less afraid.

Slimani’s answers translated, from the French, by Deborah Treisman.