The series “Cities, Airports and Ports” is a complex genre that combines journalistic writing and autobiographical form, and narrative retrospective writing by the Moroccan writer Abdellatif Hessouf, blending memory and fiction in this. Through the episodes of this series, we will travel with Mansour from the ancestral cities (Damanat, Azilal, and Marrakech), then from Fadala and Casablanca, to Paris, and back across the Spanish south to Tangier High, then to New York, Virginia and California in America .. in a journey that has a rich record, in search of something Not knowing him beforehand, armed with a love of adventure.
A silent journey of suffering that lasted more than thirty years would begin in which Mansour initially felt that he was living alienation in his country, a sense of racism in France, then the illusion that he was outcast from the American dream .. a journey in which he lived a life of exile, physical, intellectual and cultural exile, amidst the French and American societies.
The writer tries to penetrate miniature worlds, with its joys, sorrows, contradictions, adventures and dreams. A mixture of different personalities and places .. Move between cities, airports and ports .. The battle of Mansour was not easy in foreign lands, it was a fierce battle relentlessly and without interruption.
Trials, struggles, disappointments, and insults have rarely been complete victories or complete joys. However, he needed to communicate with the other for fear of drowning in exclusion or boredom. Refractions dispel the idea of the Garden of Eden, where everything is given without effort; But, at the same time, this presence in the country of “Uncle Sam” reinforces the image of a country where anything is possible if you have willpower and a lot of patience.
As he immigrates to America, he hopes for a miracle; Nothing happened, instead, the suspicion rooted him in him. Within a few months, silent suffering was slowly consuming him, his days passing by without taste or color, he felt that he was on the verge of insanity, mystery enveloping him. It was as if bad luck settled under his skin.
Waiting there; Just waiting.
He feels that he is aging hour after hour … a sly old age. The situation was not acceptable, but what should he do? Day after day, he feels that he is turning away from the people around him or they are the ones who turn away from him. And yet he had no prior animosity or hatred for these Americans.
Hell is the other! Mansour was not at this level of bitterness to adopt the aforementioned Sartre formula, and he was not in a “closed secret session,” rather it was the vast and promising America.
His isolation made him sharp-tempered, feeling disgusted with everything that was presented to him, with bitterness wherever he went, whatever he did. He felt very marginalized, out of the world, expelled from the American dream. Why, O Lord, does he see what others do not see, reproach himself when a muffled cry rises in his head. Others may have been totally absent-minded or living in a state of utter amnesia. They stopped thinking and entered exaggerated reverence; A surreal reverence for America, a kind of consolation for all that they lost as immigrants.
Thus, they are happy to live dream lives.
Perhaps all this is just a false illusion that Mansour was experiencing in the vicissitudes of his life in America.
You have to suffer, to deserve, to hit. This was one of his beliefs or knots, he does not know. However, “we must imagine Sisyphus happy.” This Albert Camus phrase gave him some hope. Suffering, especially suffering of thought, should increase the value of life rather than lead to suicide. Suicide – in a metaphorical sense, of course – is giving up on a dream.
The suffering of exile!
A double denial: On the one hand, America is elusive, and on the other hand, fatal isolation. In the long run, he no longer believed in this American dream, the dream turned into a nightmare. If he lived with others, he felt alone, tragically alone. Worse than that, his negation was multidimensional: he thinks in Arabic, reads in French, and speaks publicly in an English he was not fluent in. It was not just a physical exile, but an intellectual and cultural exile that was constructed part by part. In fact, he was complicit with fate in his choice of exile. By choosing to get lost, he is inducing a form of intellectual and psychological transfer. America did not expel him from its land, but he felt marginalized, unwanted, rejected and thrown in the trash.
At the Shah Hotel
A few months later, he found a job.
There, in a hotel, every night, behind the simplified reception, he stands like a mast, without the slightest glimmer of hope in sight. His face is pale, his eyes sunken, tired, gone. His hair is wreathed in gray, giving the impression that he is constantly anxious and preoccupied with something he does not know what it is. He was left isolated, with no one with him to ease his torments. He felt as if he was living on the margins of society; Like a mixture of suffocating nausea, shame and anger he filled his heart as he contemplated his fate.
He had his PhD under his arm slumped, yet he accepted that simple job in a small, third-class hotel, eight dollars an hour, the minimum wage in the United States, enough to survive. It doesn’t have to be this humiliating fate. It’s just a stage in his life, he would repeat to console himself.
Shah, the hotel owner, is an Asian who has invested all his savings in a semi-bankrupt business, a project run by the mechanisms of the Third World in America, an eroding measure in the midst of the economic recession that hit America hard during the Bush presidency. Despite his good intentions, as well as his vigor and iron will, he was on the brink of bankruptcy, scarcely providing for his day. However, the man will never surrender and never give up. This dip can last months or even years, it will continue to stand still. He didn’t need much in life, so he could live in strict austerity without giving up or even complaining.
He knew the American Dream was going to cost him a lot.
Everything was unique in Shah, and it was this uniqueness that made the man a special human condition. The goodwill rooted in Shah was also his style of struggle. He may lack professionalism in the field of hospitality, as well as knowledge and skill in this sector, but he had an endless fighting spirit. He will never bend in any difficult situation. As long as he is able to pay his taxes to the US federal government and local government, as long as he can pay the turnover bills, he will remain quiet and placid, even without profits or savings. He always told himself that the rust layer should not hide the gold layer underneath. Then he continues: the veil must be removed until the best is revealed. Even if success is impossible sometimes, you must try everything to avoid failure.
Shah only leaves the hotel sparingly. He had no friends, no acquaintances, no family, just that wife he had brought from his homeland three years earlier. Like the mice, they lived in an unfortunate posture that reflected a surprising lack of taste. They never go to a restaurant, bar, or even a coffee shop. Everything was happening in the al-Otail pit, their world in this strange America. The wife, who seemed stupid and useless, wakes up every day at ten o’clock, then takes a tour around the hotel and returns to the cramped room – the marital home – where they lived. She always puts on her makeup too much and displays her jewelry that resonates with her every step. However, everything was dark and gloomy around her. It was as if she was mourning her marriage every moment, mourning her life every day. It is difficult to decipher her looks, the dullness is definitely rushing from her, but also a kind of hatred towards all those American women who accompanied some men during their long hours of sociability.
Every day for her is an endless wait. And every night, the search is for a child who refuses to come. Late at night, as soon as Shah was done with work, she undressed and dived under the sheets. She was not desperate to wait for him hours before he arrived, as he was so enthralled by his work as she relished her unjustified lethargy. When the husband arrived, she was as tired as she could, reducing his sleep time to less than five or four hours. Whatever he did, he was at fault, he alone. He was not able to fulfill her request, to please her with the requesting child. As soon as dawn breaks, Shah gets up and runs from the burrow room.
Sometimes her shouting knocked over Mansour early in the morning; The controversy is short but stinging on her part.
– What would I expect from a man like you! His reproaches.
– Don’t worry, baby. Everything will be fine. Patience, patience is my wife, Shah answers her in an almost choked voice.
– when? I doubt it now.
– Patience, sweetheart.
Then he often gets only some boring whisper, like angry grunts. Other times he watched her screaming, her body shaking with tears, before she added:
– I am not a man, not good for anything. Go! I hate you. I hate this country. I hate all the people here.
Shah never gives the impression that he is in shock at her words or even surprised at the harsh response. She was always allowed to finish the treatment. He goes out without adding any word, then hears the room door being slapped and the key rotating twice in the lock. Sometimes she would utter unintelligible words in her own accent, words that even Shah could not understand, at which point he raised his lean shoulders and moved on.
It was a semi-mystical ritual for Shah to rise at five in the morning; He spends half an hour practicing yoga before starting work. The man was happy for no reason, always busy; The morning begins with preparing breakfast before the early birds arrive. He sets the tables and takes out the trash. He does all the work in the hotel to save the salary of one or two employees. Had he not needed a few hours sleep, he would never have accepted Mansour’s work at night in his hotel. After that, he goes to the reception desk to silently inquire about what happened during his short sleep hours.
– Hello, Mansour.
– Hello, Director.
– How were things tonight?
– Not bad .. Five arrivals.
– Only that?
– Better than the night before.
Well … well … the economic crisis is killing everyone at the moment. I am not in debt to anyone … that’s what matters.
In a few days, everything will be better. We must believe that. The dream is still possible in this country.
The American dream is a false temptation, Mansour. This country is becoming a place where people are getting poorer and poorer, day in and day out.
The American dream is shrinking, but it is still within the reach of those who are willing to pursue it.
Mansour, you put your bag in America a short time ago. You don’t know anything about this country yet.
– No, I know many things …
– Yes … Yes, forgive me. you know everything. Here in America, life is not subject to our simple math.
– I agree with you, it is not easy all the time. The issue is really difficult, but we find a way out at the end.
Mansour, in your country of origin and in my country of origin, there are exits for everything, because the family supports you if the need arises. Here in America, we live in wild capitalism, extreme capitalism, a minority that succeeds and wins the bulk of the wealth, while the majority are crushed halfway.
– What do you mean?
Simply put, few people make a fortune while others like you and me keep fighting for a living.
A: Anyway, I did not come to this country to make money, I did come for other things. And if I want to make some money, just because I want to lose it afterward.
Shah’s silence, then finally he said: May God help us and enlighten us with his light.
Although his eyes are dry, Shah gives the impression that he is a man crying out in abundance in his inner depths. His eyes showed the effects of successive defeats, but he learned over time how important it was to fight to the end. For his feet to sink in the mud in America is better than the misery he left behind in his country of origin. For the Shah, it was easier to die than to declare bankruptcy and return to his Asian cradle.
On that morning, Mansour left the hotel at seven in the morning. On his way, he kept contemplating what Shah had said: There is no longer an American dream, it is a false temptation. Remember that in 1996, Vivienne Forster wrote in her book “The Economic Horror,” that great wealth is now directed to multinational corporations and that the middle-class people and small businesses are left with nothing but crumbs.
Nevertheless, he believes that America is still the leading power in the world. The resentment and envy that lurk in the heart of America’s enemies cannot hide the truth of this great nation. It is true that Americans are very ignorant of the outside world and swallow propaganda and mislead the media without any scrutiny, but sometimes give the impression that they live in an Orwellian world where the slogans claim the opposite of what they aim for. But let’s think of other countries around the world. On the one hand, there are various dictatorships in Africa and the Arab world, and several corrupt regimes and rogue states in South America and Asia, and on the other hand, there is Western Europe – at least in the past few years – tired and exhausted; Europe today is in search of a lost ideal world. In fact, the real strength of the United States of America is not only economic or military, it is the country par excellence, freedom, prosperity, and rights.