THE VOICES OF MARRAKESH
By Nevin Ulusoy
Journeys. How vital they are for us humans, to try to know about this planet and discovery of ourselves. As we learn about other people, other ways of living, we meet with new aspects of ourselves as well, what we really are ultimately. Living in circumstances we are not familiar with, among people who have absolutely different views of life or surprisingly similar to ourselves, broaden our ways of interpretation of things. Each journey is a journey to our hearts actually, with our dark side communicating with the sunny reality of ourselves.
“The Voices of Marrakesh” takes us to the eastern world, spice-smelling amber beauty Marrakesh in Morocco, “the red city.” Elias Canetti stayed in Marrakesh for a few weeks in 1950s, but the city haunted him for the rest of his life. The book was published in 1967 in German. He was born in Ruse, in Bulgaria, in 1905. The family moved to Britain first, then to Austria. He was the son of a Spanish Jew family, really prosperous and pious. Bulgaria was a multicultural and multilingual place, so he met with lots of different people with different languages when he was a little child. They all had an important impact on him. A marvellous writer of novels, stories, plays and non-fiction, he won the Nobel prize for literature in 1981. He died in Zürich, Switzerland in 1994. His writing is so vivid, as he roams the city, we follow him wherever he goes, meet the people he meets, imagine inside the houses with him, feel the grandness of the Atlas Mountains, the voices of the city is with us, the odour that is the part of the magic of the city is on the pages. We can also feel the traces of French colonization.
Each journey is a journey to our hearts actually, with our dark side communicating with the sunny reality of ourselves.
Along the stories, we see that he really wants to penetrate the city. The smell of the spice, the bustling of the square, Djemaa El Fna, the main square, which presents an unforgettable experience, narrow and mysterious streets we never know where they lead to, fascinating houses he wants to enter and see their daily lives. He wonders the women, they are not around much, their clothes disguise them and the dark eyes seem more enchanting to him. He approaches the women who sell bread, watches how they take out the bread out of their baskets, stroke it to show how lovely it is. In one of his strolls, he goes to the Jewish district, Mellah, gets inside a house in the end, meet a newly-marrried couple and their brother, unemployed people. Poverty wanders through the city. The beggars are everywhere, saying “Allah” all the time. He can always hear them, even when they are not near, their voices going through his brain. Some are blind, one of them, considered to be a holy man, chews the money he is given, to bless the giver in a way. He discovers the unchanging rhythm of most of the people there, the shop-owners, the beggars saying “Allah” all the time, the blind beggar especially. “There was an ongoing begging without changing.” It is as if the same day is being lived through, again and again, a world of everlasting experiences.
The markets are so mesmerizing for him, shop-owners sitting in the middle of the goods they sell, able to reach whatever you want where they sit. Shops full of hand-made things, which make all the difference, compared with the industrial, ready-made, all identical things in modern life, one of the reasons of lack of delight in modern lives according to the writer. There are different markets for different things, spice market, baskets market, a different market for dyed yarns. The price of something is a great puzzle, too. One can never tell at first what the price given by the owner signify. The places they are produced are near the market, so you can see how they are made as well. Things change here as well, industry is everywhere, but tradition also goes on. Furthermore, there are camel and donkey markets, just outside Bab-el-Kemis. The writer is fascinated by camels, the noble animals and when he sees that they are brought to be slaughtered and eaten, he is extremely disappointed. The animals are treated badly sometimes and he feels their suffering. Children begging is another sight that breaks his heart. They follow him to the restaurant, knowing he will help them, which he always does, want to see the beam of happiness on their little faces. The French owner of the restaurant is not happy about this he thinks, he does not want his important customers to be disturbed by them. He talks about the little girls in a way he thinks disgusting, says money can buy everything in that country and tells him what wonderful adventures he has had with his money, how they tricked a prostitute, laughing like a mad man all the while. The writer is very much annoyed by the way he talks about the children and wishes one day he would need those children. The disdain of the colonizer is pictured very clearly.
Exotic is embodied in this city, and the story-tellers are another source of magic for him. People gathering around them, listening to them with an amazing eagerness. He does not understand one word of what they say, he is still under their spell, maybe the more so because of that. Their telling stories among unknown people day after day, again and again, has a great influence on the writer. He is an artist who would not do anything without paper, he is locked with paper. So the pages finish, the smell of Marrakesh in our nostrils, the magic in our soul, Madam Mignon’s bar with fashionable European music and Ginette, waiting for someone who will rescue her from her miserable life, waiting every night. You cannot forget the red city, the voices are in your heart now, along with the sound of the words of the writer. Another step towards your heart, the journey to the fulfillment of yourself.
Exotic is embodied in this city, and the story-tellers are another source of magic for him.