Rachid Benzine is born in Morocco. Arrived in France at seven years old, he grew up in Trappes, and still lives there. Champion of France in kickboxing there are a couple of years, this great colossus at the dark look is now a professor and islamic scholar recognized. Defender of a liberal Islam said, “Lights”, heir of the philosopher Paul Ricoeur, author of several essays, an academic, he has chosen with Letters to Nur to switch to the theatre to reach a larger number. Where he refuses to give in to the tragedy of the impossibility of love, on stage as in society.
” READ ALSO – Letters to Nur with Eric Cantona: the preaching of two converted
In the adaptation of his novel, Eric Cantona and Nacima Bekhtaoui, separated by a very long table, deliver the epistolary relationship between a father and his daughter, part of Iraq to wage Jihad. A strong text, affordable and smart to open the discussion on a theme difficult.
LE FIGARO – Why have you chosen Eric Cantona in the role?
Rachid BENZINE – This is a superb idea of the production. Eric is a legend of football but especially someone who has a sensitivity, which is true in the speech. It is not complacent, it does not seek to please. He has the courage of his convictions. I need a man like him. He was immediately moved by the text. He cried reading it in the plane and was embarrassed because people saw him cry. I like this fragility, and it affects a lot of people. At the first performance, there was an incredible diversity, with paris, the young people of the district, Trap-doors, of Gennevilliers to Argenteuil… Of the Arabs, Whites, Blacks: the France of today, the one I love. France sees itself as a painting by Renoir, but she has the mouth of a Picasso. To do that there is this meeting here, in this space of the theatre there, it is very important today. But Letters to Nur is also played in schools, in prisons. We will meet the young people with Éric Cantona to speak, to continue the conversation.
” Reserve your seat for Letters to Nur at the Theatre Antoine on Ticketac
as an academic, why turn to writing to theatre?
After the events at the Bataclan, I tried to find a form other than literature academic, somewhat abstract and disembodied. The academic work must be deployed otherwise to give to understand to the greatest number of what happens to us. The fiction is the shortest path towards the real. I am trying to develop a rhetoric of the sensible in the service of meaning. There is emotion, you should allow for the time. And then there was the time of the analysis. It is important to explain more to understand better. Through fiction, we talk about both the guts and the reason. For the past two years that the room exists, people come out
“In Trappes, we have had 78 young people who left (do Jihad, editor’s note). Most of them are dead. I was able to discuss with parents, access to their pain.”
upset. There is something that soothes. In prison, and in the schools, the kids write Our letters to Nur , during writing workshops. The fiction gives them the opportunity to identify, but also talk about themselves, their society. And then the shape of letter-writing is interesting. When writing a letter, we talk first of all to yourself. It portrays, it puts a distance from the “me”. We take the time to listen. Then comes the discussion time. It is very important to me.
On what basis works there to write a text so hard?
The question was: what is it that makes that young people who grew up here eventually return the arms against the country in which they were born? I love this quotation from Abbé Pierre: “A civilization is measured by the quality of the objects of wrath that it offers to its young people”. Daesh, for some, has been the object of anger. I had already worked a lot on this ideology. I was in prison, I met these young people, who were returning from Syria and Iraq. I was impressed to discover that many of them had made long and brilliant studies. It’s good for us to see them as misfits, because it allows us to ask the real questions. They have to do with a certain type of Islam, but they are also the product of our company. In Trappes, we have had 78 young people who left (do Jihad, editor’s note). Most of them are dead. I was able to discuss with parents, access to their pain. With the women first, and then, little by little, with the fathers, often devoured by shame. The pain that I am talking about, I went to collect in Trappes in the suburbs, in prison… But each element in the text is based on academic research.
Eric Cantona in “Letters to Nur”. Svend_Andersen
How can a topic also black can be optimistic?
Letters to Nur , it is also and primarily the bond of love between a father and his daughter. The little girl, named Jihad, carries all the hope. “Where is believed the danger, and believes also what saves”, said Friedrich Hölderlin. It is as much the image of the Evil that the “inner struggle”. The term “Jihad” is a term that predates both the Qur’an and Islam. It means: “to Make efforts in order to get a result”. It is in this chaos that was born of this effort. More generally, there is in the drama, in the tragic, an opening towards hope. Something unfinished that we must resume. The principle of the tragedy, it is that everyone has reason. When we listen to the father, he was right, but when you listen to the girl also. Still the bond of love between the two.
“I do theatre to worry about our certitudes”
How do you consider the theatre as a place of expression?
If I come more and more to the theatre, it is to provide ideas and of the heart. I’m here to worry about the evidence. Social, political, and artistic. The theatre is a place of questioning but also of appeasement. It is not to take a thought and bring it back on the boards! I want more of me to enter of themes of society, to translate them on stage. As long as this is the theatre demanding, that has to say things about our company. It must be demanding towards our young people. It is necessary to pull people up, take them seriously. It is necessary that the viewer is told at the end: “I was shocked, I received a dose of love, I want to believe in humanity.” I want also to bring to the theatre an audience that does not usually go there. How to give want to those who say: “It is not for us”?
As the father of Nour, have you been worried about your positions on Islam progressive?
Yes, it’s happened to me. Oddly, I have more facilities in Morocco and in the arab countries than in France or in Belgium, where it is a question of Islamic identity. Islam is seen as a citadel besieged by the external. It serves the ranks as it is attacked from all sides. The slightest internal criticism – which nevertheless I think is important – will be experienced as a threat. No voice should go from the inside out. However, for me, the salvation comes from the inner critic.