||RABAT, MOROCCO, SECOND WEEK OF AUTUMN
Yesterday for the first time I witnessed a commercial transaction regarding time. Or rather I think I perceived a transaction of this kind in a shop, a tiny little place on the western slope of the Medina which one enters via the rue des Consuls; what I am referring to is a personal impression of having witnessed the simple event of one man selling time to another man. I saw the young shoemaker indicate a particular size with his fingers, I saw the old man who had entered the shop pay without receiving anything in exchange. On the old man’s entering, the shoemaker had immediately abandoned French, intending to put me aside along with that language; both he and the new customer spoke rapid Arabic, embarrassed and uncertain at my presence, or so it seemed; the fact is that the transaction was rapid, without haggling or formalities, presupposing price, payment and delivery to be established by custom. When the old man left, the shoemaker returned to French and to me, but was far less helpful than before, chiefly preoccupied with tidying up his shop, as if he had put out a wide range of wares during his previous transaction. During this show of activity he periodically gave me knowing smiles and a whisper: ce vieux fou. What the shoemaker most wanted was for me to disappear at once; curiously, I wanted this even more than he did; astonished and puzzled, I was anxious to leave the shop and be alone with my personal feeling so feebly supported by facts that I had for the first time witnessed a commercial transaction regarding time. Finally I gave him the sandals for the repairing of which I had come all that way, to the rue des Consuls. The shoemaker threw them in a basket without even looking at them, saying simply «tomorrow».
Whom could I have discussed it with? Who could I have told that I had witnessed, or, worse still, thought I had witnessed, a commercial transaction regarding time? To tell the truth I made some vague soundings, throwing generic titbits of bait to my Rabat friends in our conversations, but they all interpreted le temps as the weather, and when I led them back to chronological time they opened their hands or slightly bowed their heads, indicating a serene and obvious resignation to the vastness of the subject, which in any case one never know how to take. To the shrewdest of them I fired a question straight out: «What if somewhere, here in the city, it were possible to buy time?»
«Maybe in some shop that appears to sell something quite different, some place that sells time under the counter».
«Would you buy it?»
«Certainly. But I would be very curious about a trade in time, I’d like to know everything, how it is carried on, who provides the raw materials, who buys it and why, how much it costs, and who sells it». But these conversations took place in alcohol, officially banned and privately consumed, and it was as the products of alcohol that everyone regarded them.
Talking of time, however wasteful of it I may be, I too have a few things to do, before I leave Rabat. The sandals I had to pick up also ended up at the bottom of my concerns, and for this errand, for better or worse, I left free the last day before my departure, this day, today. In the afternoon I walked along the rue des Consuls, up the slope, coming from the Oudaia, with no emotion, quite prepared to find the shop closed. With the shoemaker, alone in the shop and tranquil on seeing me, I immediately assumed a casual, easy manner. I reminded him of the time years earlier when I had met his father, the owner and founder of the business which he had named "Au soulier moderne", with a bright sign on the door of the shop, his father who each time showed me new orders from (what were to him, at least) well-known French and Italian shops. I told the shoemaker I had taken a photograph of his father while he was making a sole, there in the shop, and that I still had it. I was attempting to gain his confidence through familiarity and the memory of his shoemaker father, but the shoemaker heir remained on the defensive: «You can take a photo of me, too, if you like», was all I received in exchange, together with my repaired sandals. I had to gain time; I pretended to search at some length among the high shelves and the few sacks on the ground; finally I turned towards him, slowly, stretched out my hands, empty, concave and together, the index fingers spread in the measure of one order of magnitude, a clumsy imitation of the gesture I had seen the old Arab make. I added nonchalantly: «...and, of course, this». The shoemaker recoiled, staring at the void between my hands as if it were a poisonous asp. Then, quickly, he recovered his tone, sly, smiling: «This...what, Monsieur?»
«This, ...this... zaman... Have you got any zaman?»
«You», I replied in a ceremonious falsetto. «Didn’t you sell some time to that old man the other day?»
«You mean that time is not an everyday necessity? Or are there shops much more advanced than your "Au soulier moderne" which can sell time?»
«No, certainly not. certainly, he said, it would be nice to sell time, we would have plenty of time here, there’s as much time here as there is sand, there’s as much as you could wish for, top quality time, beautiful, long and immobile. Oh yes, if I sold time... would it sell well, do you think, would people buy it in your country?... but how could I sell it, this time? By the minute, by the hour, by the day, by the month, or by the year? And how would I package time, how would I send it to the buyer? And what about the prices, who would fix the prices of time... Suddenly the shoemaker ceased all movement of gestures and words, remained poised in suspense over the prices, illuminating himself from the peremptory and indisputable sentence that must have come to his memory as the neatest escape route. He said courteously: «Monsieur, for us time is not of man but of God, Allahu s-Samad, God is eternal».
TREVISO, NORTHEAST ITALY, FIRST WEEK OF WINTER
Treviso, and with Treviso the whole Trevigiano, rather than Treviso the surroundings, industrial Veneto and the surroundings of Venice, a continuum of factories large and small for miles and leagues and roads and crossroads, a continual land of invention, products of every kind and size, pads for disc brakes, caterpillar tracks, air conditioners, foldaway beds, precision machinery for making other machinery, time! [...]
STAVANGER, NORWAY, THIRD WEEK OF SPRING
"STAVANGER" is not a dialect term, nor a key in code, nor an acrostic, nor even an anagram, it is simply the name of the Norwegian town where I arrived two days ago From the cathedral, in the sun, which is still cool, you can clearly see how the sea enters the city from Bokn Fjord and then spreads out into arms and terminal fingers and hierarchies of little sub-fjords which sketch out the outline of the city in the form of an archipelago. [...]
Traduzione di Jonathan Hunt
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