Contributor: Andrea Gazzoni


Algerian narrator, journalist and performer Tahar Lamri was born in Algiers in 1958. From 1979 to 1984 Lamri lived in Bengasi, Libya, where he graduated in Law and worked as a translator for the French consulate. Then he moved to France and finally to Ravenna, Italy, where he has lived since 1987, working as a translator and interpreter.

As he himself declared http://www.spaziopensiero.org/?p=197, his mother tongue is Sabir, a Mediterranean lingua franca which combines Arabic, Italian, Spanish, French and other elements (it has survived only in a few places, including Algeria), while French and Arabic are the languages he first learnt and spoke at school. However Italian is the sole language he has employed in his writing and performances so far.

Indeed, Lamri’s literary career began only after he had settled in Italy, where he started writing short stories directly in Italian. In 1995 he won the prize for narrative in the first edition of Eks&Tra, a literary competition for non-Italian authors living in Italy, with his story «Only Then, I Am Sure, Will I Be Able to Understand»,  a subtle inquire into the contradictions brought about by migrations from Africa to Europe.

Since 1996 Lamri became an Eks&Tra jury member and in 1999, for the fifth edition of the competition, he wrote one of the first critical reflections on immigrant literature in Italy, «E della mia presenza, solo il silenzio. Una riflessione lunga cinque antologie» [And of my presence, only the silence. A reflection through five anthologies]. In this essay Lamri puts Italy into an Euro-Mediterranean perspective, at the crossroads of continents and cultures, suggesting a notion of Italian as a «neutral language» within which «the Europe of reason and the Mediterranean of heart and passion» may coexist beyond all historical fragmentations, so that «maybe one day, in spite of everything, writing will reunite what history has separated». Thus, in Lamri’s own vision, it is the liberating distance from both the colonizer’s language and the mother tongue that makes Italian a language to be loved and lived in, as it is language he has chosen by his own will, free from any restraint. Yet Italian is also a language to be altered and wounded “with loving care”, as he said at the 2003 seminar organized by the journal Sagarana http://www.sagarana.net/scuola/seminario3/seminario3_4.htm.

Lamri’s subsequent linguistic reflections have expanded and revised such a notion not only to clarify his own poetics but also to promote and support the relevant corpus of literary works written in Italian by authors of non-Italian origins http://www.trickster.lettere.unipd.it/doku.php?id=seconde_generazioni:tahar_la_scrittura.

In parallel to writing Lamri has developed a multi-focused artistic activity which includes the video-narration, La casa dei Tuareg [The Tuaregs’ home], the theatrical performance Wolf o le elucubrazioni di un kazoo [Wolf or the lucubrations of a kazoo], and the participation in the Italian edition of And the City Spoke, a play by the Exiled Writers Ink company http://ww3.comune.fe.it/vocidalsilenzio/atti05spoke.htm. He also collaborated with Teatro delle Albe, a theatrical company based in Ravenna, which since the 1980s has woven together languages and memories from Emilia-Romagna (the Italian region where Lamri lives) and from Senegal. He is also director of the Festival delle Culture in Ravenna http://festivaldelleculture.wordpress.com, president of the Media Interculturali Emilia Romagna Network, collaborator of magazines such as «Internazionale» http://www.internazionale.it/search/?q=lamri, and editor of the periodical «Città meticcia» http://www.perglialtri.it/meticcia/cata_pasearch.php?paCatID=cat6.

In 2006 Lamri collected his short story, some of which had already been published, into the only book he has published so far, I sessanta nomi dell’amore [The sixty names of love].

Although Lamri has published only a small number of stories from then on, he has become more and more present within Italian culture, through his participation in seminars, conferences, debates and meetings dealing with a wide range of themes: literature, journalism, multiculturalism, politics, racism and nationality.

Hence Lamri’s many-sided profile stands as an example of a broad-minded and well-integrated non-native intellectual who on the one hand tries to promote the mutual exchange of cultures but, on the other hand, claims his own right to take a public and critical stance about the contradictions, tensions and questions brought about by the multicultural changes affecting Italy, Europe and the Mediterranean region in the XXI century. The core of Lamri’s cultural strategy appears to be the constant effort to set up a dialogue with a seemingly distant otherness by sharing, as an outsider, its most intimate references, for example by appropriating modern Italian classic like Pasolini (see Lamri reading «Profezia», a 1964 poem which anticipated today’s Mediterranean migrations http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s0Oyzc8usWk) or Italian vernaculars like Romagnolo (see Lamri in dialogue with a storyteller from Romagna, Sergio Diotti http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zRNUAlrvaIY)  in order to make Italian audience look at itself into a creolized mirror.

The meaning of culture, Lamri seems to imply, is its capacity for creating new relations and reshaping existing ones.  I sessanta nomi dell’amore is indeed based on such a dialogic principle, which pervades different narrative levels and gives shape to the narrative framework encapsulating all the short stories: the e-mail correspondence between Elena, an Italian young woman, and Tayeb, a Maghrebi man. The starting point of the book is the longing for cross-cultural knowledge, as Elena is interested in learning the precise meaning of each of the sixty Arabic expressions that may be used for “love”. Their subsequent dialogue revolves around the meanings of writing, memory and passion, as the two protagonists fall in love while approaching and discovering each other. And yet their union prove impossible, making their love affair come to an end. Thus, through the traditional theme of a love counterpoint (reminiscent of the Song of Songs) and the echo of classical and contemporary examples of narrative frameworks (from the Arabian Nights to Calvino’s Invisible Cities), the dialogue between Tayeb and Elena clearly turns into an allegory of the tempting but ambiguous and troublesome relation between cultural differences,.

The short stories are introduced by such a framework as Tayeb’s presents for Elena. The first is the above mentioned «Only Then, I Am Sure, Will I Be Able to Understand»; the second is «You Wicked Wooden Eyes, What are you looking at?», a paradoxical reflection on Italian schools and language through the thoughts of a non-Italian child (the title is a quotation from Collodi’s Pinocchio). Then we find «But Where Are We Going? Nowhere, Only Farther» [link to the text], a written version of the video-narration La casa del tuareg taking us into the Sahara desert populated by Berber nomads, an enigmatic population we come to know through an indirect sequence of detours, postponements, striking revelations and meta-narrative shifts. By echoing Chatwin’s Songlines and Borges, the story evokes and yet contradicts one-sided Western ways of knowing cultural otherness.

The central story in the book is «The Pilgrimage of the Voice». This coral and polyphonic storytelling is a written version of Lamri’s most famous theatrical performance, which have been presented in many occasions and different versions since 2001 (see an integral reading at Dickinson College in 2008 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iEWFsbcl9HE): sitting on a carpet, accompanied by a musician and by pictures projected on a wall, Lamri takes his audience into a journey consisting of a sequence of stories told by a number of storytellers from different parts of Africa and Italy. The first narrator is a Maghrebi meddah, whose stories echo in the stories that have been passed on from one generation to another, from one place to another and from one vernacular language to another in the Po valley, in Northern Italy. Then, as the text turns southwards, we are guided by another meddah and by a Senegalese griot, until the pilgrimage symbolically ends in front of a baobab, also called the tree of stories, as it «the only tree which, in its shape, is akin to storytellers because when it’s bare it seems to root into the air».

The other short stories included in the book are narrative flashes which differ in theme and tone: «Foglio di via» [Deportation paper], «Il pane e le rose» [Bread and roses], «So che nell’ultima ora peccherò» [In the final hour, I know, I will sin], «Teacher don’t teach me nonsense» and «La convivialità delle differenze [The conviviality of differences] are ironic or dramatic criticisms of injustices and prejudices in Europe and Italy; «Elevenzerothreetwothousandfour», «Le stanze sgombre» [The empty rooms], «La beauté de l’âne and 20 Kg are snapshots of our contemporary world as it feels wounded and threatened by war and terrorism; «L’henné» [Henna] and «Il figlio» [The son] are paradoxical stories about contradictory social and gender roles in modern Muslim societies. The playful story «L’idioma gentile» [The corteous language] is a divertissement the title of which humorously quotes a treatise on Italian language published in 1905 by Edmondo De Amicis: an exorcism is performed on a Malian man as he seems to utter only sentences in an archaic and unintelligible Italian language, taken from Medieval and Renaissance texts.

In his foreword to I sessanta nomi dell’amore Lamri states that for him writing and thinking in Italian is a «circular pilgrimage» which brings together Algerian, North-African and Mediterranean cultural memories, toward the utopian, distant goal of an «anima plurima [multiple soul]», within which every fragment may peacefully meet each other. Because of Lamri’s multifarious activity and eclectic writing, it is arduous to appreciate how long he has already proceeded in his “pilgrimage” and how long he will proceed by his writings. Nonetheless, there is no doubt that Lamri’s optimistic poetics has to be included among the most interesting and innovatory within today’s Italian multicultural scene.


[from Tahar Lamri, I sessanta nomi dell’amore, Santarcangelo di Romagna: Fara, 2006, pp. 43-54]

So where are we going? Nowhere, only farther

[from Tahar Lamri, I sessanta nomi dell’amore, Santarcangelo di Romagna: Fara, 2006, pp. 43-54]

 

 

So where are we going? Nowhere, only farther

 

 

The ground is all flat and bare, a myriad quartz explosions shine in the sun like countless stars. The air seems to be weightless, high above the top of the rocks. Outlines of cliffs loom in the distance. They are yellow by day, mauve in the evening. Time is told only by colours. We crossed the Hamada, the Erg, the Reg, and the Sarir, many names to say the diversity of the desert. Hamada, the stony desert; Erg, the silk desert. Places where sand and stones fight each other. Sometimes one of them prevails.

 

We have been walking for twenty days, the way the Tuaregs do: we lead our camels at dawn, so they don’t get too tired, then when the sun gets too hot we mount them, and in the afternoon, when the temperature comes down, we walk beside our animals again, until the sun sets, sometimes even after night has fallen.

Dayak, my travelling companion, is a Tuareg from the North, tall and light-skinned, he belongs to the Kel Rela tribe, he is a nobleman with a proud and careless bearing. Of his face I have seen nothing but his deep dark eyes. He does not have the obligation to uncover his face before me, as my status is not higher than his.

While we are stopping off under the shadow of a rock, I ask him:

- So where are we going?

- Nowhere, only farther, he replies, and then, after a while, he adds: You see, the desert has no aim. Like we nomads. It does not reveal anything, as it has nothing to hide.

I want to ask about the Tuareg, but I open my mouth and do not say a word.

I lower my head and I see what seems to be writings in the sand, I ask Dayak:
- What about these signs in the sand? – Those ones? he says pointing at the signs with a stick. Ah, it’s tifinagh, our own writing.

Tuareg writing. He observes silence for an instant, then he clears his throat and says: our writing is of a nomad kind; it is all made up of sticks, and the sticks are the legs of all the flocks: legs of men, legs of gazelles, legs of those travelling the desert. And the crosses say to go either right or left, and the dots – as you can see there are many dots – are the stars that lead us by night, as we, the nomads, are always en route, with the sun and the stars as our guides, you should know this, shouldn’t you? We’ ve been walking through the desert for many days.

As I have noticed that Dayak speaks a little more now, I ask him:

-Speak to me about the Tuaregs, Dayak.

- You have not travelled enough yet, so I’ll speak about the Tuaregs only later. Look at the landscape around you instead, and then when it’s the right time I’ ll speak to you about the Tuaregs, he replies.

- So tell me at least why your face is covered, I insist.

- You are really anxious. This way you’ll never learn anything, anyway, I’ll answer your question. Here on my face you see this litham, or chech, which stands in for the original garment which is called tagelmoust, and is put on only on holidays. I am not capable of explaining to you why I wear it, however I can tell you that the law of the dark veil is clearer to me than light itself, it’s the law that commands us to conceal our face from rage, grief, love, and even death. But let’s set out, now.

Dayak rises on his feet, I follow him obediently.

The names of the places we have already crossed or we are going to cross go through my head, one by one:

El Oued – Touggourt – Souf – Ghardaia – Ben lsguen – EI Atteuf -Bou Noura – MetIili – Beni Abbés – Tarhit – Tadmait – Tanezrouft -Hoggar – Tassili n’Ajjer – Tadmekka – Taghaza – Timbuctù – Mopti – Djenné – Bandiagara -Sangha – L’Air – Tenerè – Dogondoutchi – Birni N’Konni – Madaoua – Maradi – Zinder – Abala – Tahoua – Tchin Tabaraden – l-n Gall – Assoua – Tchimoumoumene – Agadez – Teguiddan Tessoum -Bilma – Dirkour – Iferouane – Ghat – Ghadames – Tikhar – Akakus – EL Barkat.

I repeat these names to Dayak, in a loud voice and without any order, just to provoke him.

- The Tuaregs arrived here as masters long ago, when such a vastness had not been given all these names… Dayak says.

And with a proud tone he adds:

At the time we had control over the caravans, which were offered protection, but when the Bedouins did not pay toll, we raided and fought them. What do you want me to say about the Tuaregs? Let’s forget about it. Today half of our children die of measles and yellow fever. But look at the landscape!, he ends off bitterly.

 

I take Dayak’s advice, and look at the landscape around me, geological arborescences and telluric devastations have taken the place of vegetation. Intense heat vitrifies the sand and cover the ground with stars. Peaks rising like giant vegetation, some hundred meters high above the flat horizon. Pointed islets, suckers, rocky mushrooms. Polychromatic dunes, perched on castles of pebbles or red stoneware towers. Light and shadow effects, the hourly changing of colours.

At the hour that precedes sunset, the landscape is transformed, it gains iridescence, it bursts in countless nuances, and rewards the difficulty of the journey.

I think of Dayak’s words: “the desert does not reveal anything, as it has nothing to hide”, and yet before my eyes the scenery is so uncovered, so transparent, that it seems to me, by contrast, that all of the world’s mysteries are concentrated right here.

The slightest human gesture becomes utterly important, the tiniest perturbation of the landscape appear as a signal. The desert makes you aware of the futility of things. The journey has been vertiginous so far, but now I’m seized by a quiet wonder. Such a peaceful wonder marks Dayak’s eyes and, I imagine, the rest of his face too.

The secret of survival lies in mobility. For those who move forward in an endless desert, in a changeless scenery, it is not a matter of long wanderings, but rather of a long dissidence. The desert is the land of rebels and prophets. Rebels par excellence.

Oh, yes, the wind! I have seen so much wind in this journey. But in the fight of sand and stones I saw the wind surrender to the Hamada. Although it lifts the sand in terrible storms, the wind doesn’t do anything but take away from one place what it will put in another place.. Here, even the wind may be a nomad seized in the vortex of circular time. The Erg does not lose a grain, but the passing of the wind leaves undulating, black-and-white stripes on the sand.

A narrow crack opens within this system which pitilessly closes over men. The Mathendous riverbed opens out in the middle of a pile of stones, and we go down to the bottom. One hundred meters further down we find ourselves prisoners of a little sandy channel between two steep, polished rocks. The evening shadow is falling upon us, this silence is stifling, and here, at the centre of the earth, life appears all of a sudden, provoking and boundless.

- An elephant, a giraffe, an ox, an antelope – I start crying.

Dayak looks at me silently. Without even a gratifying smile.  Here, in front of me, carved in walls of rock, giant animals, images of hunting. An inscrutable past. Observing this raw art and its irresistible beauty, where every stroke is nothing but  pure movement, I am under the impression that I have found out an accomplished and living expression, as if since these drawings were carved all art has been nothing but a succession of adventures leading back to such a matrix.

 

- Let’s go! – Dayak pulls me out of my amazement, I jump with surprise and fall on my back.

- I apologize – Dayak says – I didn’t mean to frighten you, but we’ve been here for such a long time and we must reach a place where we can spend the night.

I heave myself up and follow Dayak along the slope, I do not dare speak anymore.

After a while we get to a place which, all  in all, seems comfortable, there is even a well with water. Dayak lights a fire and brings some water to boil so we can have a tea. We eat the dates we were given by the nomads we met two days ago. Then Dayak goes next to the camel, and takes a lute out of a side of the saddle. He sits downs before a stone and starts playing. He seems to have something to say, however he goes on playing for about an hour until he finally gives me the lute.

- But I can’t play! – I say.

- Then sing!

- To tell the truth, I cannot sing either.

- Too bad, too bad – Dayak says and, without waiting for me to reply, he adds: since we set off you’ve always been asking me to speak about the Tuaregs. I’ve not satified your request so far, as you haven’t got the hang of the desert and would probably miss something, but now I think I can speak to you about that, even if… Anyway, all right! Have you ever heard of the Ténéré tree?

- Yes, I have, it’s the only tree that has ever been signalled on a map.

- It was the loneliest tree in the world. The only tree in the desert. It was a landmark in the Erg of the Ténéré. There, for some hundreds of kilometres, all you could find were only sand and the Ténéré tree. And then, some fine day, a truck knocked it down. We Tuareg are like that very tree, we were rooted into the desert, we had no boundaries, then the Christians got here and said: these lands are ours, so we fought them. The Christians left and were replaced by governments, boundaries, citizenships, passports, visas and many other things, and this was the beginning of our disaster. I’m not going to talk to you about that, you can figure it out by yourself, and I see you are impatient to know who the Tuareg are. Although I do not understand your impatience, I will answer the same, but you must know you’ll be disappointed, so be contented with what I am going to say.  You’ll learn a lot, you’ll see.

“To begin with, let me tell you that the real name of our people is Imazighen, that means ‘free men’, we were given the name Tuareg by the Arabs, and it is a name with an uncertain etymology, it could mean ‘those who are always travelling’, or the followers of a tariqa, a brotherhood. However, today the Imazighens or Tuaregs are grouped into nine confederations ruled by a chief, called Amenokal:  Kel-Ajjer, Kel-Ahaggar, Kel-Air, Kel-Antassar, Kel-Gress, KeI-Dinnik, Jullemiden, lforas, Tenghereghif.

“Nobody knows exactly where we are from. We do not know it either. We know we have Berber origins, and that’s enough for us. Some say we are from Yemen. Some others say that our ancestors were the Garmants, against whom the Romans had to fight hard. So, there are many hypotheses. Maybe we’ve been here since prehistory. We are Berber, however, our writing, you have already seen it, is the tifinagh, which means the Phoenicians’ writing, as we learned it from them. I am one of the few men who can write, because only women could write once, but now it’s different. And our language is called tamacheq, the purest, uncontaminated Berber language. Our life centres around women, in our houses men are not masters, but guests. As soon as two get married, the man moves to his wife’s house, so it’s she who is the master of house. And the children are fostered by their maternal uncle. I have been wearing this – Dayak says pointing at the scarf covering his face -  since I was fifteen, according to our tradition the maternal uncle must give it to this nephew at his first Ramadam fast. Women go round with their face uncovered. We were animist before becoming Muslim. But either animist or Muslim, we have always been monogamous. Besides, having many wives has no use for warriors, travellers, and nomads.

“In addition to the confederations I told you about before, there is a peculiar difference between Western and Eastern groups. Have you noticed anything about our tents on our journey?”

-Yes, it seems to me that the tents we saw in the East were different from those in the West, because of their colour, I think…

- That’s it, the Eastern group’s tents have white, yellow and brown stripes…

- It’s true – I interrupt him – and the Western group’s ones are black and red.

- Yes, that’s it.

Taking advantage of our dialogue, I ask Dayak:

- Is it true that the Tuaregs have always been supporters of slavery?

Dayak seems to be puzzled by this question, then he stands up, goes to stone near here and sits down, his legs slightly swinging.

- Listen, these modern words do not make sense to us. I studied in that land they call Europe, and I can answer you. But our people do not know what “slave” means, nor do those you call slaves. Truly, our nobles, the imochar, are travellers and tradesmen and yet, as you have seen, we also have villages where our wives, children and elders live. But we are not farmers, differently from the local populations and the Blacks. So we have people working for us, and they are the bella, that some translate as servants, and the ikan, that some others call slave, in a language that has nothing to do with ours. The ones you call slaves work the land and earn one fifth of the harvest, and some can even earn half of the harvest. Besides,  a slave holder does not mix up with his slaves, while, as you have seen, three fourths of our population have black skin. You see, now there is a new category of people, called ichomar, do you know where this word comes from?  It derives from the French chômeurs, unemployed. Where do you think we should class such a category? Things have their own context and logic, if you do not take them into account, you can make nothing of them. That’s all.

- Yes, but I read that the Tuaregs were slave traders once.

- Sure, there was such a trade, but there were also many other trades that do not exist anymore, it is only a matter of history and time. Our people traded with the Romans, the Carthaginians, the Phoenicians, but also with the Africans, our caravan reached Central Africa and even further, and these very Africans sold slaves to the Tuaregs, that is, they sold Blacks who had already been reduced to slavery. That was it.

- But some say that the Tuaregs stole Black children to make them their own slaves.

- Listen, we cannot dwell on this issue, as we cannot talk about yesterday’s truth in today’s words. It is true, that existed once – Dayak replies.

- Tell me, Dayak, why do you call it “that”, and not by its name, slavery?

- Because I do not want to convince you of my reasons, and I know you could never understand, as you are not from here. Well, “that” – he says with a laugh – can be understood only if you are from here. You see, where you come from when it’s raining they say that the weather is bad, while here we say, ah, what nice weather! That’s all. But let’s get some sleep now. Tomorrow is the feast of mulud, and since we have nearly got to Djanet, I will show you something you will like.

 

The day after we arrive in Djanet. An atmosphere of feast pervades the oasis. From every mosque, loudspeakers chant and spread the verses of the Koran. Groups of people sit on the sand, ritually pouring their tea, other prepare the méchoui, that is roast mutton, there are men with white or blue gandura, and women with emerald green or blue dresses.

We spend most of the day drinking tea or eating méchoui among these groups. I find out that Dayak is a great talker, and this is enough for me.

In the afternoon we all head for the wide field hedged by the palm grove.

Dayak seizes me by the arm and tells me:

- Come, let us go and sit on that dune, we are going to watch a t’kalcit match.

As we sit, he goes on:

- T’kalcit is a sort of hockey on sand. The field is divided into three sections, and every village lines up its own team, but it’s only a relative line-up, as every man can either go and play for his village’s team or leave the game when he likes; the number of players is unlimited, it depends on the number of the villagers and on their willingness to play. Even the playground is unlimited: they draw only two opposite lines, beyond which the players have to throw a leather ball, hit by knotting sticks.

The match began just then, and agitation and dust were already at their climax. The men ran after the ball, hitting it with their slightly curved sticks and lifting clouds of dust, the sticks were often shattered to bits. I noticed that the spectators stand or sit where they like, both outside and inside the field. Someone’s scesc flaps in every direction. The game lasted perhaps more than two hours, and it ended because just a few players were left on the field, as the others had gone away little by little, tired or not willing to play any longer. And by that time it was already late at night, and in the clear night lightened by billions of stars one could hear from everywhere the call-and-response of zagharit, the very high-pichted trills which women let out by modulating their voice deep in their throat.

 

The day after we resumed our journey northward. I was thinking of how suprising Dayak was: a Tuareg who went to Europe to study, but what could he ever study there? And why to Europe and not another place? I was obsessed by such questions, but did not dare give voice to them, as I was aware of my companion’s susceptibility.

To avoid asking these questions, I say:

-You have never spoken to me about trade, Dayak.

- Actually, I have, at least about slave trade, he says

-  No, I don’t mean that, somewhere I read that the Tuaregs were great salt traders.

- Not only salt. When trade was flourishing, the Tuaregs crossed the desert in immense caravans, with more than twenty-five thousands camels. The caravans carried salt and dates to Central Africa, in exchange for very valuable goods, so on their journey back they carried fabrics, millets, sugar, artefacts, gold and ivory, which were all sold further North, to the Arabs, who in turn sold the same goods in Europe. Then, our few caravans began carrying everything, do you remember the Tuareg we ran into in Tamanrasset, with fridges and TV sets on his camel’s back?

- Yes, I do.

- Well, for a time our traders threw themselves into trading goods which could not be found in the North, so caravans started carrying videotape recorders, computers, fridges, I even happened to go with a trader who was carrying an automobile bought in Mali, he had taken it apart completely and loaded it on his camels. Today, instead, our noble and disdainful nomads are mostly refugees, some have set up breeding or farming co-operatives, and managed to obtain something out of the sand.  You see, I… I was sent to Europe to study, because one day the masters form the North decided that we had to stop being nomads, so they came and took a census of us, then they placed an itinerant school at our disposal. As the experiments failed, they picked up some boys, me included, and sent us to a boarding school. Then an idea dawned on some governmental person in charge of agriculture: our dromedaries were undernourished, so they chose me to go to Reggio Emilia, in Europe, supported by an FAO scholarship, to study – can you imagine it? – a subject they call “Science of animal feeding”. However the tragedy – and we say that “the worst tragedy is the one that makes you laugh” – was the fact that nobody had ever seen a dromedary there, and as most teachers were specialized in pig-feeding, I also specialized in the science of pig-feeding. It may seem strange to you, but that’s what happened. Then I decided to come back, I did not want to stay in Europe any longer, as I did not want to die with too many desires, so I chose to come back here and live as a nomad, let us say, as the seasons go by. During the last years many terrible things happened to me, and to my people as well… – Dayak interrupts on these very words, and I see his eyes becoming damp, he bows over the sand and starts drawing signs, as if he wanted to confide a secret to the desert. Then he takes a black-and-white photo out of the pocket of his gandura, there is a beautiful girl on it. He says:

- I want to leave this photo to you, I cannot keep it any longer, I beg you to keep it always with you and to show it whenever you can, the more people will look at her, the more she will be remembered. I planted a palm on her grave, it has already sprouted and, if it grows well, it will be the loneliest palm in the Sahara. You see, one day in Europe I watched a movie which ended up with these words: “I don’t know whether a memory is something you own or something you’ve lost”.

 

When he finished speaking, Dayak soared high in the air, while I stayed there and fell asleep, I don’t know how long, and like my ancestor Ibrahim Ibn Al-Bukhari Ibn Abdullah Ibn Nemer Ibn el Barud I dreamed of the unharmed deer who apologizes to the disappointed hunter. When I woke up, I realized I myself am Dayak, so I stood up and set off along the Songlines.