Monday, May 23, 2005

"The Saint by Accident" by Mohammed Mrabet

Yesterday we offered you a story by latter-day Moroccan Paul Bowles; today we present a story by one of the young Arabs Bowles taped and then translated into English from the Moghrebi. The story Mr. Mrabet tells to Bowles's recorder is perhaps not that different from those told around North African campfires; however, it has a distinctive deadpan irony which is all Mrabet's. Are saints born or made? There may or may not be an answer here. Read by Gerrit Lansing.

It is hard to think of Mrabet, who comes from the Rif Mountains, as a "writer" in the conventional western sense, since he was essentially illiterate before meeting and being employed by Paul Bowles. In collaboration with Bowles, Mrabet produced many volumes of short stories, novels, autobiography, and even at least one play. Mrabet's method was to smoke a lot of kif and proceed to conjure up erratic yet very compelling narratives that are hard to put down if only because they never pause for a second.

Gerrit Lansing has hardly paused for a second throughout his life, either, and has been acquainted with Bowles's post-World War II theatrical world of playwrights and composers, then with many members of the so-called Beat Generation, the avant-garde poets and film-makers of the 1960's and '70s, and a loose-knit and far-flung legion of writers and musicians and artists still active today. In fact, there's scarcely an important man or woman involved in the arts who this product of Chagrin Falls, Ohio hasn't met or known in his decades as a poet and cherubic rabble-rouser. His latest collection is Heavenly Tree, Soluble Forest.

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