Writing memories

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I have received 4 letters in a small brown envelope. They carry a Moroccan stamp. The address is written in my own handwriting. I know these letters, because I have sent them myself. These letters are written by an ‘écrivain public’ in Marrakech.In Marocco ‘écrivains public’ are still used a lot in daily life. Illiterate people go here to dictate a letter in arabic to an acquaintance or a loved one. Many people use it for official or administrative papers.The ‘écrivains public’ in Marrakech are located in the Medina. There is one alley where you can find a few writers in a row. In a small space with often two desks and a few plastic chairs you will find a writer waiting behind his typewriter.The writers that I have visited had their rooms divided into two parts; a front and a back. The front gives access to the street. In the room itself you will find a small row of chairs for waiting and for sitting close to the writer when dictating your text. If the back part was visible from the front part where I sat, I could often see a bed or a sofa, maybe to lie down on during the hot hours of the day. The wall separating the two parts of the room often showed illustrations of idyllic landscapes, a clock or an old advertisement.I have made several attempts to describe my memories of my time in Morocco to an ‘écrivain public’. For me it was like taking a picture without the actual image. My words would describe my point of view, the light, the colours, the people and the animals that I had met, the fruit and vegetables that I ate. My idea was to dictate to the writer what I saw or had seen. The writer just had to follow my words by translating them into Arabic and typing them on a sheet of paper. I liked the idea to receive my memories in Arabic or that, just like a camera, the typewriter would be in between me and the outside world.The first writer I visited gladly typed down my words, but the following did not accept the way I wanted to describe my memories. Therefore some have written a made-up memory and some have adapted my story into something of their liking.

 

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Writer
 “You want the date on the top of the letter?
Me
 “Yes”
Writer 
“The time maybe?”
Me
 “Yes”
Writer 
“I will write that it is the 8th day of ramadan. Who is the letter for?”
Me
 “I write it to myself.”

 

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