“I’ve always wanted to write, ever since I was a child,” says Bouraoui today through Aneesa Abbas Higgins, her translator who helped bring Tous les hommes to an English audience.
Bouraoui was born in Rennes, France in 1967, but was raised in Algiers, the capital of Algeria. Hers was a tumultuous childhood; as civil war loomed, her family moved her back to France, and after bouncing from Brittany to Zurich and Abu Dhabi in her teen years, Bouraoui relocated to the City of Light at 18, where she settled to study.
It’s there that the story of All Men Want to Know – and, says Bouraoui, her career as a writer – begins.
“Once I started going to the Kat, writing became an urgent need,” she says. “I learned so much from my nights there – about passion, shame, fear, human nature. I was the youngest, the women I was hanging out with were much older and from very different backgrounds to my own. For a writer, it was a gift. I’d come home in the early hours and write, probably as a way of ‘purging’ myself – tensions were rife among these women. And I thought I could somehow ‘fix’ my homosexuality. I thought if I managed to become a writer and be published, the reality of my queer nature would fade into the background. Foolish, yes, but it did give me the strength to finally accept who I was.”
All Men Want to Know is, Bouraoui has said, the “most autobiographical” of all her books. “This is the first time I’ve described the Katmandou, from the inside, as it were: the nights, the shame I felt at going so often to a women-only nightclub, and the thrill of it, too.”
It’s through writing that she finds the words to express her desires. One chapter, after a night at the Kat, a young Bouraoui returns home to write about a woman she can only watch, never speak to: “In my imagination, we spend the night together. I write to love and be loved, on the page. I live out my dreams as I write – I have affair after affair, fictional liaisons in which I conquer my fear of women, of the unknown.”