Uit: Leaving Tangier (Vertaald door Linda Coverdale)
“Yes, she might appear, and reveal a few of her secrets. Conditions are favorable: a clear, almost white sky, reflected in a limpid sea transformed into a pool of light. Silence in the café; silence on all faces. Perhaps the precious moment has arrived . . . at last she will speak!
Occasionally the men do allude to her, especially when the sea has tossed up the bodies of a few drowned souls. She has acquired more riches, they say, and surely owes us a favor! They have nicknamed her Toutia, a word that means nothing, but to them she is a spider that can feast on human flesh yet will sometimes tell them, in the guise of a beneficent voice, that tonight is not the night, that they must put off their voyage for a while.
Like children, they believe in this story that comforts them and lulls them to sleep as they lean back against the rough wall. In the tall glasses of cold tea, the green mint has been tarnished black. The bees have all drowned at the bottom. The men no longer sip this tea now steeped into bitterness. With a spoon they fish the bees out one by one, laying them on the table and exclaiming, “Poor little drowned things, victims of their own greediness!”
As in an absurd and persistent dream, Azel sees his naked body among other naked bodies swollen by seawater, his face distorted by salt and longing, his skin burnt by the sun, split open across the chest as if there had been fighting before the boat went down. Azel sees his body more and more clearly, in a blue and white fishing boat heading ever so slowly to the center of the sea, for Azel has decided that this sea has a center and that this center is a green circle, a cemetery where the current catches hold of corpses, taking them to the bottom to place them on a bank of seaweed. He knows that there, in this specific circle, a fluid boundary exists, a kind of separation between the sea and the ocean, the calm, smooth waters of the Mediterranean and the fierce surge of the Atlantic.”
Tahar Ben Jelloun (Fez, 1 december 1944)