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I Love to Read

Cat in Rabat has a provocative post about literacy and habits of reading in Morocco. She relates that on a recent visit to Spain with her husband, she was shocked to see that nearly everyone in the subway car was reading either a newspaper or a book. A behavior she had once taken for granted seemed abnormal after months in Morocco, where no one does such a thing.

    I…have never seen a soul in Rabat read a book at a café, on a train, or waiting at a bus stop. Simply put, this is not an exaggeration on my part. I wish it were. […]
    I simply cannot comprehend a world without books. Our parents read to my brother and I before bedtime; we were encouraged to read for ourselves when we became a certain age…; weekend trips to the public library were considered a natural way to spend a Saturday; used book stores acquired an importance early in our lives that has never diminished. Like my father, I never go anywhere without a book—you just never know when you’ll have a spare moment to read a few pages.

When in Morocco, I would sometimes ask my friends why they didn’t read more, or I would lament the lack of decent bookstores and public libraries. In the U.S., even small towns have public libraries, and the facilities in mid-sized cities like Asheville where I live now (population 70,000) are often excellent. In a large metropolis like San Francisco or New York, there are bookstores on three levels with special sections for poetry, science fiction, religion, travel, gay fiction, and computer languages. They are gathering places and beloved institutions, each with its own special flavor. Even the dullest suburban shopping mall is likely to have at least one national bookseller like Barnes and Noble. There are book sections in supermarkets and drug stores. Some of us laugh at these popular novels, but the point is, people are reading, even if they only read as an escape. And of course,, one of the internet success stories of the 1990s, is a bookseller.

My Moroccan friends are quick to admit that Moroccans don’t have the habits of reading I’ve just described. They remind me that half the population is illiterate, but does that explain the other half? Why hasn’t a passion for reading ignited the younger generation, nearly all of whom have been to school? More importantly, why isn’t reading seen as a stairway to success? Independent reading (as opposed to the guided reading one does in school) opens the imagination, exposes a person to faraway places and unusual ideas, and demands critical thinking in order to integrate new information with what one already knows. All of these skills are useful in the modern workplace, even when answering phones or selling shoes, but certainly in cutting-edge professions such as technology and communications.

In her post, Cat in Rabat makes an interesting point. As they go from childhood to adulthood, Moroccans have to learn three different languages, Derija, Arabic and French. As a result, they often end up with an inadequate foundation in all three. While this may seem like an excuse for not developing a taste for reading, in fact it only underlines the importance of reading as a way of reinforcing one’s language skills. After all, the written word is more structured than everyday speech, so it is there that we learn to draw ideas together into an argument. A faux guide may know how to say “Would you like to see the medina?” in Italian, Dutch and Japanese, but real communication in any language takes practice. Because we are all adrift in the global marketplace, reading is as indispensable for Morocco today as it was for the Jews when preserving their culture through 2000 years of exile.

There are certainly reasons besides laziness why literate Moroccans don’t read. One is simple economics. If you’re a young Moroccan earning $300 a month, this is barely enough (or not enough) to pay for rent, transportation and food, plus an occasional evening at the cafe. How likely are you to spend $5 to $10 on a book? If your routine is a relentless grind, and you return home every night too exhasted to do more than throw yourself into bed, how much reading will you do? Of course, I carried a book everywhere when I lived through a phase like this myself, but cultural habits are hard to break. Most habits are formed at an early age, which is why it is important to introduce children to books when they are still young. If their parents read to them, and they see their parents reading, nothing is more natural than to pick up a book when they are bored. I think it’s fair to say that with so much illiteracy among the older generation, very few young Moroccans have had this experience.

As an example of how bad it can get, the father of a friend of mine refused to buy him a notebook and pen for school when he was growing up, saying, “I’d rather see you working than studying.” His mother had to give him the money when his father wasn’t looking. This leads us to another problem, the fact that Moroccan schools expect students to repeat what they are told instead of developing their own ideas. They are too often punished for showing independence, or for asking questions. Modern education theory understands that learning is not the memorization of facts, but the acquisition of skills that can be used independently. Moroccan schools are notoriously old-fashioned about this, perhaps because they don’t want young people to think (see my post Waiting for the Rain). The result is a high dropout rate, low information retention, and no analytical skills. As my friend Doga puts it, even though they know how to read, today’s high school graduates are still illiterate because they never learned to think. They may be worse off than a true illiterate, because they believe they know something.

The story becomes even more complicated when we realize that for all the reasons given above, there are people who say Morocco is not ready for democracy. How can people who either can’t read, or don’t read, or don’t know how to analyze what they read make an informed choice about political parties and programs? They will be victims of demagogues who appeal to their sloppy habits of thought, such as the PJD. Better not to have elections at all, these people argue. But isn’t it a vicious circle? Isn’t the lack of democracy one reason for the poor state of the schools, and the lack of intellectual development? I’ve had friends propose that what Morocco needs is a “total change in its mentality,” the kind of clean sweep only a tidal wave or a plague can provide. Faced with the closed circle, the impossibility of knowing where to begin, they lapse into pessimism and demand the impossible.

So where do we begin? How about a national “I Love to Read” campaign, with distribution of books for free, in the poor city neighborhoods and in the villages? How about public service announcements showing parents reading to their kids, and construction of new libraries all across Morocco? How about a photo of the king reading a book? We see him drinking tea, having his hand kissed, posing with generals. As the national symbol and role model, wouldn’t it be nice to see him reading, especially if the State followed through to get books into the hands of everyone?


Comment from Loula
Time: February 13, 2007, 15:28

Hi Eatbees,
When I was growing up, I read all the time. My father read all the time, my mom read less than us but she read. I had the chance to have a membership card to a private library in Casablanca. That place was my freedom cause I loved to read and I still read at least a book a week plus newspapers and so on.. When I am bored I simply pick up the dictionary and read for the fun of it.
In my extended family, readers were the majority. Then of course, you had those who never read but listened to the radio.
I won’t speak for the other as I do hate to generalize, but I do agree with you about habits. It is the lack of desire that keeps you from reading even if you are literate. Some read magazines, some read newspapers and majority do not read at all. I agree with you when you write that illiteracy is a result of lack of democracy.
Why do you want to see the plebe reading when you can control knowledge. Meanwhile, we have illiterate people becoming interpreters es in demagogy and millions following like sheeps.
Cuba is not a democracy but people are literate.
The state of illiteracy we know in Morocco is a direct result of years and years of demagogy.
Think? Hehehe I like your sense of humor think but don’t you see that the notion of the individual is a no no:-) Le monde est à pleurer comme dirait Leloup.

Comment from Mohamed
Time: February 13, 2007, 16:56

Le problème de la lecture n’est pas lié au revenu. Je suis cadre et la quasi majorité de mes collègues ne lisaient que des documents techniques lorsqu’ils étaient confrontés à de nouveaux problèmes.
Je pense que la lecture est une passion, et quant on est passionné on peut débourser quelques centaines de dirhams pour acheter un livre, mais il faut trouver un bon livre, nous n’avons pas la possibilité d’acheter chez amazone nos cartes ne sont pas valables pour des paiements en devises!

Comment from Cat In Rabat
Time: February 13, 2007, 17:54

I LOVED the idea of a photo campaign featuring the King reading a book. Hopefully it’ll be something other than the Koran.

Comment from Cat In Rabat
Time: February 13, 2007, 17:59

Mohamed, I can only speak for Rabat but there are excellent titles available in French and standard Arabic. One need not order off of Amazon to find good literature in Morocco; one need only walk into a bookstore. I teach far too many privileged children to know that poverty is not the only factor preventing kids from developing a love for reading. If they have enough money to go to McDonalds at any & every opportunity, they can pick up a book.

Comment from Mohamed
Time: February 13, 2007, 18:25

Cat in rabat…
A casablanca il y plusieurs librairies, mais elles n’offrent que des titres anciens. Les livres récents sont hors de prix : entre 200 et 300 dirhams pour un roman lire en une semaine. Autrement, il y a les classiques livres de poches !!!
Par contre, je n’avais réussi à trouver “Immeuble Yacoubiane” en arabe et le dernier recueil des poèmes de mahmoud derouich !

Comment from Mohamed
Time: February 13, 2007, 18:43

Si les parents passent la majorité de leur temps à voir des films sur les TV satelittaires et se ceontentent de lireuniquement leur relevé bancaire comment veux tu que leurs enfants se mettent à lire!

Comment from Jill
Time: February 13, 2007, 18:47

Excellent post.

Mohamed, my French is somewhat shaky, but books don’t cost 200-300 dirhams! Most romans/novels in Meknes are under 100! Which, I agree, is expensive for many people, but the Institut Francais has a great library in every city where it functions.

This, eatbees, is part of the reason I’m working on assembling a library at the school where I teach (our biggest problem is acquiring books of course). Meknes has the French-language Institut Francais, but the municipal library is defunct. That leaves two bookstores in the ville nouvelle and one in the medina – all do good business, but mostly with language studies or specific titles related to studies.

Still though, like Cat, I work with too many privileged students – many just purchased 4,000dh iPods, so I know they can afford books. And they’re completely fluent in Arabic and French, and my advanced students have the ability to read in English fairly well too. I still just can’t understand.

(My husband, who is Moroccan, reads a book or two a week, however, so it isn’t ALL Moroccans :)

Comment from Massir
Time: February 13, 2007, 19:53

Excellent sujet.

Je dirais que chez nous en Tunisie, nous avons à peu près le même problème. Bien que nous ayons moins d’analphabètes qu’au Maroc, les gens ne lisent pas non plus.

Pendant des années, il était très difficile de trouver de bons livres, surtout récents. Il fallait toujours en ramener de l’étranger. Ce que j’ai fait pendant des années: je rentrais toujours de France avec mes bagages remplis de livres.

Depuis environ une quinzaine d’années, nous avons d’excellentes librairies. Je parle de Tunis, je ne sais pas pour les autres villes. Mais les livres coutent très chers.

Depuis l’ouverture de Carrefour, il y a un plus grand choix de livres, surtout à des prix moindres.

Mais quand même, les gens ne lisent pas.

Je pense comme l’a dit Eatbees, que c’est parce que nous n’avons pas cette habitude. Quelques rares familles lisent beaucoup, les autres ne le font pas.

Chez moi, mes enfants ont des livres depuis tous petits. Mon mari avait acheté des livres à mon fils avant même qu’il ne parle. J’étais étonnée, je trouvais cela ridicule. Mais il m’avait dit que c’était pour lui donner l’habitude de manipuler les livres. Et il avait raison.

Nous avons fait pareil pour ma fille.

A l’école publique, il n’y a pas d’encouragement pour la lecture.

A l’école française (où sont d’ailleurs inscrits mes deux enfants), dès la maternelle, les enfants vont une fois par semaine à la bibliothèque et empruntent un livre. Pourtant, ils ne savent pas lire. Mais c’est pour leur donner ce gout et cette culture de la lecture.

Je vous conseille un livre, qui donne peut-être une petite réponse:
“La crise de la culture islamique” de Hichem Djaït.

Comment from eatbees
Time: February 13, 2007, 20:04

@Jill, Mohamed, Cat in Rabat — You guys agree with each other more than not. Mohamed is saying that even people earning a good salary only read “technical documents” or their bank statements, and don’t have the passion for reading for reading’s sake. So their children don’t develop the feel for it, because they don’t have that model at home.

The cost of books does factor in, and so does selection. There are a handful of good bookstores in Morocco (I know two in Rabat, one in Tangier) but even there, if you are looking for something special you are likely to be disappointed. Still, the single biggest factor has got to be the family. I think all of us here who love to read, learned it at home. I know I was reading before I even got to school.

My mother was a school psychologist until she retired, and she made me aware of the importance of the family on a child’s development. If you don’t get a passion for reading from your family, the only other places you will get it are from school, friends or neighbors. Which is why reading is something to mobilize the whole society around, as a part of social development. Which is why love of reading and democracy go hand in hand. :)

Comment from Mohamed
Time: February 13, 2007, 20:05

Jill …

I read english but in did not write well. so, I will try.

You are right we can find many books at french center and public library in casablanca. But if you want to buy new booksin casablanca’ bookstore , prices are very high. The french translation of lalami’book costs 165 Dirhams ! It’s very high for people with minimum wages (2000 DH)!

Comment from Ibn Kafka
Time: February 14, 2007, 06:23

Well, comparing reading habits in societies with very high living standards with societies at a tenth or a twentieth of the latter’s average income per capita is bound to be schewed.

The comparison should be made with countries of comparable living standards – other Arab countries, India, China, Vietnam, etc… Massir seems to opine that the problem is shared by Tunisia, but from what I know this is not true of other Arab countries – anecdotal evidence would indicate that Egyptians and Syrians are more avid readers (Iraqis were before their country got invaded and smashed by the US – a famous saying went “the Egyptians write, the Lebanese publish and the Iraqis read”).

However, the justifications aired here to explain why Moroccans read so little are only half-true – as is one I find lacking, namely the fact that the authorities, during the “années de plomb” in the 60’s and 70’s, were repressing a lot of cultural expressions – Abdelaltif Laabi had to flee from Morocco for having written a subversive poem – but this does of course not explain why Moroccans would seem to read less than Syrians, Egyptians or Iraqis (before the occupation), whose authorities were and still are even more repressive than in Morocco.

It is btw interesting to compare different countries’ reading habits. I think that The Economist used to compare bestseller lists from around the world once in a while, finding out that the French preferred essays while the Noth Americans went for more utilitarian books – “how to get rich”, “how to get slim”, “how to get happy”, etc… I noticed that in Sweden, where professionals of my age and socio-cultural status were unashamed to admit reading chick lit, detective stories, “Da Vinci code” type litterature and rubbish of that sort – whereas French professionals of comparable status would talk about Milan Kundera, Albert Cohen, Jim Harrison or Rimbaud. I suppose the education system has quite an important role in all this, as the French were (I don’t know if they still are) very keen on forcing litterary canons on their pupils…

Comment from Cat In Rabat
Time: February 14, 2007, 09:39

I agree that buying new books can be expensive for people who live on a 2000-3000 Dirham/month salary. These people clearly need subsidized reading programmes or lending libraries. But what about those who don’t? Any one of my rich-kids can buy a book for the price of a Happy Meal. What’s their excuse?

Comment from Yahia
Time: February 14, 2007, 10:07

Mentality. It’s always the same source.
Eatbees, the Tangier library you’re talking about, is it Les Colonnes?
Jill: The french institutes only contain french books, language and culture. And they don’t sell books but here, you must be yearly subscribed to havfe access to the library.

For the books I try to buy, they are simply inexistant, knowing that they’re not new at all. What’s available are only those “de poche” classics, and other non interesting books.

Comment from Kenza
Time: February 14, 2007, 12:24

sujet très interessant en effet et je me suis toujours posé ces même questions

en effet la lecture est une habitude, je ne peux pas imaginer ma vie sans livres mais je sais que pour la majorité de mes compatriotes ce n’est pas le cas.

j’ai fait l’école publique au Maroc, pour la totalité de ma scolarité, à l’école primaire on avait des tentatives de constitution de bibliothèque de classe essentiellement intitié par des professeurs (très passionnés) qui nous demandait d’apporter nos livres qu’on échange entre nous durant toute l’année et que l’on récupère à la fin de l’année (avec résumé obligatoire).

Les prix d’excellence décérnés à la fin de chaque trimestre étaient aussi des livres (pour la plupars achetés par les profs ou le directeurs vus les moyens très limités de l’école)….

J’ai fait mon primaire dans un petit village, où les gens y croyaient encore… il y a des années lumiaires de ça…. aujourd’hui qui prend de sa poche pour acheter des livres à ses élèves?…. personne ne peut plus se le permettre.

Ceci dit, la passion de la lecture je l’ai eu chez moi, où tout le monde lit, ma mère m’a guidé dans mes premiers choix et j’ai lus des auteurs comme Soljenytsine vers mes 15 ou 16 ans … l’amour de la lecture se transmet dès le plus jeune age, c’est une habitude, c’est une découverte et petit à petit cela devient une nécéssité.

Les marocains ne lisent pas parce que personne au Maroc ne valorise la lecture, lire des romans ça fait pas très sérieux, si un ado lit le segneur des anneaux (exemple) il n’est pas rare de voir un de ses parents lui dire d’aller étudier ses cours que c’est plus important… la place même de la lecture dans le develloppement individuel n’est pas choses bien admise au Maroc

Le problème des moyens est un faux problème à mon avis, c’est vrai que le prix des livres est plutôt élevé mais il y a d’autres moyens (bibliothèque, institut français et bookinistes, ou même échange de livres comme on faisait étant petit)

quand aux foires du livres et au différents stand que l’on trouve un peu partout, la prédominance du livre de religion estompe les autres (c’est ce que j’avais remarqué à ma dernière visite)

à mon avis, il faut inciter les tous petits à lire, montrer l’importance de la lecture dans le developpement personnel des gens, suivre cette incitation vers l’adolescence et ne jamais jamais dénigrer des livres taxés de non sérieux…

lire doit être une habitude qui s’apprend, le développement d’un bon goût dans la lecture vient après… en somme toute lecture est bonne

Comment from Ibn Kafka
Time: February 14, 2007, 17:34

Kenza: l’éducation semble bien être la clé, mais comme dit Cat in Rabat, les gosses de riche de Lyautey ou Descartes sont censés avoir une bonne éducation/formation, et avoir les moyens, alors pourquoi semblent-ils dédaigner la lecture? C’est peut-être que le statut et le prestige au Maroc ne découlent pas du capital culturel pour citer Bourdieu, mais du capital économique – on frime avec des fringues chères et la bagnole de papa, alors que dans d’autres pays, on frime aussi avec des citations de Kafka, la fréquentation de ciné-clubs ou celle de musées (bon, il n’y a ni ciné-clubs ni musées ici, mais ceci n’affecte pas l’infaillibilité de ma thèse ;-) )…

Je tente d’inculquer à mes filles de 4 et un an le goût de la lecture, l’année est déjà mordue, pourvu que ça dure!

Ceci étant, je suis passé au Salon du livre de Casablanca et il était réconfortant de voir, dimanche passé, les foules qui faisaient la queue pour entrer, surtout les familles avec enfants. Tout espoir n’est pas perdu!

Comment from Mohamed
Time: February 14, 2007, 19:07

Kafka… il ya des jolies musées dans toutes les villes historiques du Maroc. A Casa, le seul musée privée a été fermé suite au décès de son fondateur feu O. Benjelloun.
Pour le Salon du livre, j’y étais, j’ai assité à une table ronde interessante sur Dr. Mohamed Berrada, je ne connaissais pas cet écrivain et critqiue littéerraire. A découvrir !!!
Mais, à part, d’un Coran, je n’ai pas acheté de livre, aucun n’a attiré mon intention !!!

Comment from eatbees
Time: February 14, 2007, 21:28

A couple of people (Yahia, Mohamed) have complained not just about the price of books, but about how hard it its to find the books they are looking for. I can imagine books on provocative subjects being unavailable in Morocco—perhaps not officially banned, but if they were sold, it might cause the bookseller some problems. For example, books skeptical of Islam, or of religion in general, or too Leftist, or skeptical of the idea of monarchy (including classics from the French revolution), or promoting loose morals among the young (which a lot of modern literature does, in one way or another).

Even in the U.S., great works of literature have been attacked because some people don’t appreciate their complexity, and think they are endorsing what they portray. For example, Mark Twain’s classic “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” whose moral center is Huck’s friendship for the runaway slave Jim, was banned in some schools for being racist! Perhaps in Morocco, where fewer people read, the potential for misunderstanding is even stronger, and booksellers are more cautious as a result. I would love to know what the actual laws are.

I once read that when Ibn Rushd was a young man, he was called to the court of the Sultan in Marrakech, where he met the writer Ibn Tufayl. Unbeknownst to him, the Sultan and Ibn Tufayl were great friends who loved to discuss philosophy, including some unorthodox ideas, but the public image of the Sultan was as a severe defender of the orthodox faith. When the Sultan asked Ibn Rushd what he thought about the creation of the universe, he answered very carefully because he was afraid of losing his head. Then the Sultan himself ventured an opinion straight out of Greek rationalist philosophy! I think the idea of having one standard in private and another in public still exists in Morocco, and it may contribute to the problem we are discussing….

Comment from Azegzaw.B.
Time: February 14, 2007, 23:13

I lack imagination you say
No. I lack language.
The language to clarify
My resistance to the literate…

– Cherrie Moraga

Comment from Jill
Time: February 16, 2007, 07:29

@ Yahia, yes, I know that the French center does not sell books – I have a membership.

@ Eatbees, re: provocative books, they’re really not that hard to find. Both of Malika Oufkir’s books are available in Morocco, as are plenty of books which criticize the government (I can’t think of titles, my apologies), as well as several chronicling things like Tazmamart or the assassination of ben Barka (I was shocked to see the “ben Barka cultural centre” in Rabat this weekend). I’ve also found Mein Kampf in Arabic and French. And, the mother of all insulting novels to Islam – “The Satanic Verses” by Rushdie.

Anyhow, there are interesting books available here – the prices are high, I do agree, and so libraries, particularly in schools, are a must for development projects.

Comment from Ibn Kafka
Time: February 17, 2007, 20:16

Eatbees: what you write about provocative books about islam or monarchy in general (as opposed to provocative books about M6 in particular) was true in the 70’s, not now. You’ll find truckloads of books critical of islam – Houellebecq, Maurice G. Dantec, Bernard Lewis, Alain Finkielkraut, Alexandre Adler, Taguieff, etc are readily available. You’ll also find academic books, while not critical of islam, challenging to core beliefs – such as Alfred-Louis de Prémare’s book on the Koran, published by a Moroccan publishing company. As for books about the French Revolution, you’re completely off target – I saw a “Dictionnaire des régicides”, a book about those members of the Convention nationale who condemned to death Louis XVI, at Derb Ghallef many years ago. You’ll even find the odd pro-Polisario book…

But of course, any book relating to the current king or his father is a big no-no…

Comment from eatbees
Time: February 17, 2007, 21:28

@Jill—I’m actually surprised to hear that “Satanic Verses” is for sale or (to use Ibn Kafka’s examples) Houellebecq and Bernard Lewis—so why is it hard for Yahia in Tangier to find cutting-edge books? It it just a problem of demand? Is the problem that with such a small reading market, booksellers don’t have the incentive to order “niche market” books and bring them into the country?

@Ibn Kafka—We all know the “three red lines,” and from your telling, it seems that at least one (Islam) and possibly another (the Sahara) can be thoroughly discussed, leaving only personal attacks on M6 or his father off limits—so I’m wondering, is there anything off limits in Morocco at all? Even here in the U.S., as I pointed out in my example of “Huckleberry Finn,” there are books that anger people in some community or other, and if people in conservative communities get upset about certain books, booksellers or librarians in those communities will avoid them even if the Supreme Court says it’s okay. In other words, there is self-censorship of books that are technically legal.

I’m glad to hear that standards are as liberal in Morocco as you seem to imply, but let me refine my examples. 1) Imagine that a Moroccan sociologist writes a book claiming that the monarchy as we know it is not a Moroccan tradition at all, but rather a construction of the colonial era, designed to help the French control the local population. 2) Can books of recognized literary merit with explicit sex scenes, such as Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer or the novels of Jean Genet, be sold in a major Rabat bookstore without causing legal problems?

You’re a jurist, so I’d like to know—are the laws clear? Or are they potentially a trap for an author or publisher who, as in the Nichane case, crosses the line without realizing it? It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that there is still a lot of self-censorship in Morocco, since booksellers and publishers are after all businessmen with families who don’t want to lose everything simply “to make a statement.”

My last point is that more books might be banned in Morocco, if people were actually reading them ;)

Comment from Azegzaw.B.
Time: February 19, 2007, 00:38

@Ibn Kafka: IER had organized a few years ago a conference about the freedom of speech and they showed lots of books that were banned in the 70s. they also showed other books that we think are difficult to get.
there are more books than we think.
@eatbees, i think we ought to ask ourselves what is it that Moroccans do “instead of” reading.. there are lots of other things we do. we talk. we play lkarta, dama, and “talk”. we love speeches and lectures (Ibn Kafka, please correct me if wrong) moroccans like to listen to who ever talks.
we do not read in cafés ( as Cat in Rabat noticed) but it is alright. we have different cafés, a littel different from Barns and Nobles. or cafés on urban France and England. i wonder if Cat in Rabat wants us to do this so we can be civilized or litered at least.

“READING” is the Moroccan cultures in not limited to just deciphering phonetics of a written test. it is way more than that. “Iqra-a” or “leqraya” has many other meanings. read : peace, face, mountain, landscape, holly book, fatiha, the palm (lkeff). and so many other that are not just books.

“iqraa” was the first word reviled to the prophet Mohamed in the Hiraa cave. (!)
My uncle lived all his life in the sahara desert and he has never been to any school. he learned the half the Koran by heart. he learned 4 mu3allaqat. and hundreds of long poems in Hassania and Fus’ha. he never reads but he knows how to share all this with his guests and friends who come to his “khayma” to “read/listen” to all the knowledge he has to share,
Aime Cesaire’s cosmic belief in a poetic knowledge he said “When an old man dies in africa, it is like a library that took fire”.
@eatbees, thank you for opening up this conversation.

Comment from eatbees
Time: February 19, 2007, 01:06

@Azgezaw—Thank you for your excellent take on this. I love that last quote! Of course a man or woman who can’t decipher letters on a page may still “know life” or “know Truth” more than someone with a lot of book knowledge—and it’s good to be reminded of that.

My own grandfather had one year of school but understood the value of independent thought as if by instinct. He came to the U.S. from Sicily and was an important role model throughout my youth. He taught himself to read, and also many trades such as tilesetter, electrician, carpenter, plumber, barber—this self-reliance was his most important lesson.

This is the second time I’ve checked out your blog, by the way, and it’s a great discovery! I’d like to recommend it to the others here. This is the first time I’ve heard the music of Matoub Lounès, even though I already knew him by reputation. Do you have more where that came from?

Comment from Jill
Time: February 19, 2007, 10:01

@ Eatbees:

Hadn’t checked in a few days but to answer your last questions about book access…

I think that, as you said, the reason “controversial” or even “quality” books are so difficult to find is that there is hardly a demand for them. Tangier, for example, is larger than Meknes, and yet I’ve found few books there (in English or French) that I’d be interested in.

In Meknes and Rabat (I live in the former and spend my free time in the latter) I’ve been able to find just about everything I could want (in French, anyway). That said, the two major bookstores in Hamrya (Meknes’ ville nouvelle) have a wonderful selection, but many of the great books have been sitting there for months. On the other hand, when Peter Mayne’s “A Year in Marrakesh” showed up (there were about 8 copies) a few months ago, they were all gone in a week!

As for the examples you posed to Ibn Kafka, I can’t provide an answer to #1, but #2…no, I doubt a novel with sexual scenes would round up much controversy. I don’t think the monarchy is as concerned with heterosexual sex (particularly since satellite TV here garners hundreds of porno channels) as they are with insulting Islam or the King.

Comment from ali
Time: January 17, 2008, 09:42

no cat bitch and anasihata ana help him islam all muslim say . if u others peoples with problim first time discuas with peoples no listin other after make story if u knew islam u sit with problim peoples islam say that problim do share peoples ok after wondring in all web no call of allah i am right other no right ya allah he is no right give death him ok basalam

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