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Without a Slave

Occasionally I will post samples of the writing I did while living in Morocco. This one is from an e-mail I wrote on September 18, 2003. The image is from March 2005, and shows my friend’s wife Zoubida with their son Nour at the tomb of Jean Genet. To see more of my “literary” writing about Morocco, check out the travel log.

Larache was the home of Jean Genet in his later years, and his spirit is still present in the place. Genet was an orphan and thief and homosexual, a self-taught man of letters and a lifelong champion of the underclass. I can see why he felt at home in Larache. It’s a rough place but very beautiful, a “public woman” as Abdeslam called it, open to the sea with a tangled, unknowable history dating back to the Phoenicians, but also somehow stranded outside of time and incapable of joining the modern age. Genet’s grave is here and we visited it. He wanted to be buried in the Muslim cemetery but the Muslim authorities wouldn’t allow it, so he is buried in the Christian cemetery among former Spanish colonists. His is the only grave without a severe black cross. Instead, the top of the grave is open and grass grows from it in the Muslim style, surrounded by a low whitewashed curb. Soulaiman used the image of the black cross in a poem he wrote about Genet. Apparently in earlier times, African slaves were tied to crosses in the fields to ward off birds. They were the original scarecrows. He said that Genet’s grave is the only one in the cemetery “without a slave.” The cemetery overlooks the sea, between a church and a prison, just as Genet wanted it. The children of his district still know who he was, and will proudly point out his house to visitors though he died before they were born.

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