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by Andrew Gallix


For more Buzzwords from the beginning of the month of May, click here.

Young Brit novelist, Jake Arnott, author of He Kills Coppers, has written an article on literary Tangiers for The Observer: “…When Morocco was carved up by the colonial powers of France and Spain in the early Twenties, Tangier was given special status as an international zone, which lasted until 1956. Loose tax laws and a free port attracted a community of dodgy business operators, and an atmosphere of moral permissiveness drew a demi-monde of writers, artists and general bon viveurs to the 'Interzone', as William S. Burroughs dubbed it. Around the poolside of the elegant Hotel El Minzah, which lists Cecil Beaton, Truman Capote and Ian Fleming among its former guests, the mobile phones of sun-reddened British rag-trade businessmen trill with negotiations of cost-cutting involving local sweated labour. …The discreet charm of Tangier is that there are very few 'sights'. To enjoy the city you must become passive flâneur rather than tourist. Even the Sultan's Palace in the casbah seems to be closed for the duration. Nearby is the Café Detroit, an ugly block built into the archway of Rue Riad Sultan. Formerly known as the 1001 Nights, it was the haunt of Beat artist and writer Brion Gysin, who was Burroughs's close collaborator, and where Rolling Stone Brian Jones came to record the Master Musicians of Jajouka, exponents of an ancient trance music. It's hardly surprising that any number of modernist writers and artists were drawn to the old city. The Medina and the casbah have a striking sense of fractured space, time and culture. American novelist Paul Bowles, who made the city his home in the Thirties, described the dreamlike 'covered streets like corridors with doors opening into rooms on either side, hidden terraces high above the sea, streets consisting only of steps, dark impasses, small squares built on sloping terrain so they looked like ballet sets designed in false perspective... as well as the classical dream equipment of tunnels, ramparts, ruins, dungeons and cliffs'. Winding down a labyrinth of calm derangement you find yourself at the Café Central on Petit Socco, a favourite hangout of Burroughs, where he'd sit for hours nursing a mint tea. Since Moroccan independence in 1956, the sale of alcohol has been banned in the Medina so if you want something more than a weak coffee or mint tea, head into the Ville Nouveau, the newer part of town built by European colonisers. Dean's Bar is closest to the old city. Once a bohemian drinking hole, a kind of African answer to Soho's Colony Room, its founder, Dean, was more a figure of myth than established fact. …Dean's has avoided becoming a tourist trap and has been reclaimed. It has become a local. Moroccan men sit guzzling Stork beer and tapas but old memories hover. I talk to Mo, a regular, who says he worked here in the early Sixties. He points to the spot where the piano used to be, where Francis Bacon's lover and former Spitfire pilot Peter Lacy played all hours to pay off his gambling debts. …Up past the El Minzah to the Place de France, into the Boulevard Pasteur and you're in the Ville Nouveau proper. A bit like Oxford Street, though there are so many young men hawking contraband cigarettes that you are equally reminded of the Holloway Road. At the other end, in Rue Magellan, is the Hotel El Muniria, where Burroughs wrote The Naked Lunch, and next to it the Tanger Inn. Lining its walls Allen Ginsberg’s photographs record the time when he and Jack Kerouac came over to assist in trying to knock some sense into that most unruly of manuscripts. It is now a haven for likely looking lads, Spanish queens, backpackers and the occasional old school English homo for whom abroad is still a refuge. Rue Magellan zigzags down to the broad esplanade of Avenue d'Espagne and the Town Beach beyond. Lining the seafront are wonderfully tacky beach bars that sprang up post independence. This was Joe Orton and lover Kenneth Halliwell's stamping ground in the Sixties. Orton's diaries are full of braggadocio about his sexual adventures, but Croft-Cooke rather sniffily saw him as something of an arriviste: 'So much the local boy made good, so surprised at his own success, so much the peeling-nosed Londoner at the seaside as he paddled and bathed at the town beach...'

GALLIC BOBOS 05/26/2001

Nicolas Fargues is young (b. 1972), good-looking and has already authored two children and two novels. His latest novel, Demain si vous le voulez bien (P.O.L.) is out now. The excellent French site has interviewed him. Fargues states that he prefers aphorisms to novels and reads very little contemporary literature although he confesses his debt to Bret Easton Ellis and Tom Wolfe. His first novel was written in four months in 1999. Demain si vous le voulez bien is a description of Parisian bobo life: you can read an extract from his latest novel (in French).

NEWS 05/26/2001

Jim Ruland has been published in McSweeneys again! The Whiteness of White Caps, which had already appeared in Linnaean Street, is being serialized in The American Journal of Print. 3am Magazine published Jim’s The Stripper in Her natural Habitat back in March. The latest issue of The Barcelona Review contains an excerpt from James Ellroy’s The Cold Six Thousand. The new Exquisite Corpse is online. As usual, the quality is outstanding. Don’t miss the new “Zounds” column and William Levy (“The Talmudic Wizard of Amsterdam”)’s poem entitled Dear George W. Bush. Utahna Faith’s two poems are also well worth a look-see. Please check out the new offering from Disquieting Muses which contains some striking poetry and artwork.


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