March 28, 2023

Mohammed Fateh saw the light one day in 1946 in the city of Settat. Here, in this forgotten city on the shore of a dream, he learned the first letters and numbers and the ABC of life in order to move to the city of Casablanca, and from there to Paris to continue his studies in engineering at the School of Public Works in 1968, at the height of the student revolution. But studying engineering did not appeal to him, so he left it and went to study computer science. After returning to his homeland, he will work briefly in the field of computer science, then join the cultural press, first in Morocco and then in Egypt, where he died in 2008.

He began his literary life with the novel Miss Numidia, which was published for him in 1992 by the French publishing house Loup and which will be republished in 2006 by La Deferonce, followed by his works: In the Happiness of Hell and “Amber, or the Transformations of Love”, then a collection of stories entitled “Rose in the Night”, followed by “Under the Sun and Moonlight”, “The Marble Child”, the story collection “The Martyr of Our Time”, the novel “The Day of Venus” and the diaries titled “Endless Fall”. The last battle of Captain Nemat. Recently published by Dar Fasla / Tangiers – Morocco and with the support of the Academy of the Kingdom of Morocco, a set of previously unpublished works.

Muhammad Fateh considers himself a “scribe of the frontiers”; Because he lived at the crossroads of three spaces: Morocco, France and Egypt, and this position allowed him to imagine the difference and benefit from the diversity and richness of cultures. That is why we find that he draws upon various sources in his writings; Ibn Arabi is present along with Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Abu Nuwas, Borges and many others. It is difference that leads to brotherhood and dialogue, not to alienation and division.

He is Muhammad of Fateh, a hermit, a devotee in his mihrab, a Sufi from another time or the future, shy and rejecting social interactions. He lives his time. Reservation of history and geography. He lived in his own world and carried it into his novels. He talked about the outcasts, about the homeless and idlers, about the tragedies of the end of the night, about this stagnant world and infected spaces, and turned their ugliness into a poetic atmosphere that transcends being onto the podiums of purity and serenity.

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Last sniper last shot

I remember as a child that in the summer, the people of Settat not only looked forward to the seasonal bonfire that broke the monotony of the days, which they kindled all day long in the “navails” (thatched huts) perched on a hill on the outskirts of the city. more stormy and exciting event. This is the opening of a special sniper season, a whole season, not just one day. At the height of summer, dogs, hungry and punctual as fire, ran away from the scorched duars of the nearby city and sneaked into the city at first singly or in pairs and small groups so as not to attract attention. But in the end, he turns into real organized hordes, sowing terror in his path. Fortunately, at that terrible moment, the rescuer fought off the invasion of dogs. He is a brigadier general of the police station, nicknamed Kabran (corporal) for having fought in the ranks of the French army, which he left with this rank and many awards and medals.

This veteran warrior was majestic, he allows himself to once again take his rifle on his shoulder and for one day turns into a sniper dog to console his townspeople. He announced the day he had chosen to fulfill his mission, when the “brahun” (heralds) would spread the good news throughout the city, calling on the inhabitants to fulfill their patriotic duty by participating in the persecution. The children were the first to respond to this call, as the schools released them on this momentous day. They did not sleep all night, and as soon as the sun rose the next day, they ran to the police station, where the persecutors had gathered. At the edge of the sidewalk, they saw a truck familiar to them from the city, but today it will perform a completely different task. Later, two young policemen arrived. One of them will drive the truck, and the other will help the sniper in his noble cause. To do this, he replaced his uniform with a long, loose blue blouse, which he wrapped around his waist, making him look like a butcher boy. Finally, a man with an impossible task appeared from the steps of the police station, with a rifle on his shoulder, and he changed the police uniform for the uniform of the army that served in his ranks, and decorated himself with medals. and the honors he received that shone on his chest. He looked up at the bright sky and shook his head cheerfully. Today promised to be a wonderful day, but not for the rascals who would not witness the setting sun. Finally, he descended the stairs and shouted like a corporal in his battalion: “Let’s go, children, to the war! Unite, as in a war, into teams in accordance with your areas! They’re chasing the enemy!”

Taking a seat next to the driver, he thrust the rifle with which he had fought between his legs. The butcher’s boy jumped back and the truck rolled slowly through the city, the driver stopping it whenever he saw a frightened dog or a crowd of dogs running to greet the pursued children and throwing stones at them in excitement. The corporal got out of the car with ease and grace inappropriate for his age. He dropped one knee to the ground and aimed his rifle at the frightened crowd of fleeing dogs. Shots roared like fireworks, and suddenly corpses rained down on the pavement, their movements faded, and the trembling probably stopped. So, between pools of blood, floating intestines of lacerated corpses, and a parked truck with its back door open, a young assistant ran back and forth and moved the dogs that had packed during the day with a shovel and hook, and put them in the back of the truck. Each time the driver went downstairs to watch the carnage that the corporal swore to cause, addressing him, saying whenever the truck stopped:

– Well, Kabran! We can say that you are a good sniper.

The sniper took off his hat, his red bald patch gleaming in the sun, a smooth, sweaty bald head no bigger than a watermelon. For the hundredth time, he reminded the young man of his words:

I did not participate in the Indochinese War and not in vain received the rank of corporal.

The coarse accent of an illiterate peasant, which was still dear to him, killed the words with the way he pronounced them. He was already aware of the humiliating aspect of this daytime chase, but he hoped it would be to his advantage very soon. The independence of the country loomed, and only a few months remained before it. He was asked questions about his activities during the colonial era, and he answered that he was doing great things for the common good, every summer ridding the city of hungry dogs that invaded and sowed terror. But the old warrior did not hesitate, knowing that he would not leave so easily. He was sure that he would, of course, be asked what he did during the rest of the year, except for the day when he devoted himself to the service of the common good. There were witnesses still alive whom he had interrogated in the basement of the police station. Then his throat went dry from tension, and he commanded the driver in an angry voice:

-Come on! Give me water!

Bowing his head back, he drank his neck high to receive the refreshing splash of water, and, choking, he shouted to the children in the same angry voice:

– Come on! Let’s get back to the chase! And they sent all these scoundrels from the Bursa to me!

This old sniper looked miserably on the merry run of the children. Their whole life was ahead of them, and no one was going to hold them accountable. For him, it was considered unfair. He, too, was, like all men, the same calm, innocent, reckless child as they are. For the first time in his life, he thought bitterly that his childhood and youth had been taken away from him, that he had gone astray and abandoned his brothers at home, but was that really his fault? He could justify himself by the miserable life of his landless peasant parents and the circumstances that forced him to work as a soldier for the colonialists, and then as a policeman. But what convincing circumstances can he bring to justify why he also pursues the profession of a dirty executioner?

He was sure that the day was approaching when people suddenly burst into his house, their eyes radiate cruelty, and they will order him to put on a police uniform, and put orders and medals on his thin chest. And they led him, dressed in this dress, which was for them a naked dress, to the prison yard, or, worse, to the dreary basement of the police station, where some of them were mercilessly tortured. Strong and firm hands will ruthlessly push him against the wall. The one chosen by his comrades will avenge them by spitting on the ground in the place where his body will fall in a few moments. And above all, he will scold him, uttering only one word, perhaps the last word that he will hear in his life: dog!

Hunter took off his hat, took off his uniform, and threw them into the front seat. The driver handed him a bottle of water, but he grunted nervously, as if from an annoying fly. He looked up into the sky, where he saw that the sun had begun secretly to make a path that would lead him to leave his place at sunset and then at night. He dreamed so bitterly that he did not notice his assistant, who told him that two or three dogs were approaching, perhaps the last of the dogs of the day. He did not realize this until the dog, which had fallen behind the others, was within range of his shot and was running slowly because it had a wound in its leg. To the surprise of his assistant and driver, he did not point a gun at him. They were amazed to see him slowly raise his weapon and aim it at his temple, then throw back his head, as he did several times during the day when he wanted to quench his thirst. The movements were so similar that they both hesitated for a moment.

And when they finally realized what he decided to do, they rushed to him to take the gun from his hands, but it was too late. The bullet failed, and the sniper fell to the pavement all the way. The assistant bent over the last corpse that had fallen that day, wrapped it in the butcher’s shirt he had taken off, carried it in his arms and, without hesitation, went to the back of the truck, as too much time had passed during the day. dead dogs swarmed. With the help of his colleague, stunned by the horror of his mistake, he squeezed his body and lifeless body into the front seat, tears nearly streaming from his eyes.

Dog is life!

Despite the shock, the driver nodded, confirming the words of his colleague, opened the window, spat and started the rickety truck.

Original story title:

Mohamed Leftach, Chasseur de chiens, in: Une fleur dans la nuit, suivi de Sous le soleil et le clair de lune (nouvelles), Éditions de la Différence, 2006, pp. 33-38.

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