VILLA SIMONT, 10.12.38

Cannot get any definite idea of the system of land tenure here, whether the peasants own their own plots, whether they rent them etc. Land appears to be held in plots of two or three acres upwards. Evidently there are common grazing grounds, and there must obviously be some communal arrangement for the distribution of water. The small streams are diverted in different directions according as they are wanted, and by means of the channels and small dykes which exist in the fields water can be run to almost any spot. Nevertheless there is obvious great difference in the water supply between peasants’ plots and the plantations of Europeans and wealthy Arabs. The difficulty about water makes an immense amount of work. The soil in parts here is a sort of chalk which has streams running through it about twenty feet down. In order to get at this – often a stream of a few inches deep – wells are sunk at intervals. One sometimes finds such wells all along the edge of a field a few yards apart – why so many I do not know, but I have seen this in a number of fields, eg. one field had 12 wells along its edge. There is evidence of great shrinkage in the water supply in recent years. Some streams have three beds, ie. one they run in now, a wider one they presumably run in after the rainiest season, and a much larger one they ran in at some time in the past. Some recently cultivated fields seem to have gone out of cultivation. It seems very difficult to get small seeds to germinate without constantly watering the soil.

The peasants here evidently do not use harrows, but they appear to plough it over several times in several directions. At the end of course it is still in furrows. This has the advantage that it gives the seeds (broadcast) a certain tendency to lie in straight lines. Also perhaps conserves water better.

The winter grain (I suppose barley) is now about 4-6” high. Trees seem to do better here than small crops, eg. the olives (black and known for their bitterness) are good. Nevertheless there are practically no trees except cultivated ones, palms, olives, etc.. Firewood [a], ready chopped and good quality, costs about 70-80 frs. (about 8/-) for 1000 kilos (about 1 ton). The only fuel here wood and charcoal. Near here a large new plantation of olives etc. run by Frenchmen. A sort of cooly° barracks for the Arab workers. Quite good, very much better than the corresponding kind of thing would be in India. Except for a few wealthy ones the Arabs in their villages almost all live in tiny straw or palm-thatched huts, like beehives, about 8-10 feet wide. A few wild-looking people living in tiny tents which are simply a piece of cloth stretched over a pole, no walls or flaps. Evidently more or less permanent, as they had built little enclosures round. Normally a village is surrounded by a mud wall about 10 feet high with thorns on top. As in Burma, only men plough but women do all other jobs in the fields, especially tiresome jobs like weeding. Children working, usually at herding animals, when they are almost too young to speak. They are extraordinarily good, never stray away from work and seem to understand exactly what they have to do. Many of the peasants one sees come out and beg as one passes. With some of them this seems to be a reflex action on sight of a European. Generally quite satisfied with 20c. None of the peasant women, at least those one sees working, are veiled.

Examining the Petit Marocain, find its make-up as follows. 10 pages (some days 12) ie. 60 columns. Of this just over one third is filled with advertisements. Back page and last page but one entirely advertisements. Principal adverts are Persil and other Lever products (note it is always stated on the packet that Lever’s stuff is French product), Nestle’s milk, various shipping companies, several eye-tonics and other patent medicines. Special pages are set aside for Moroccan news, which does not as a rule figure on the front page. No book reviews, and though get-up etc. is good the general tone of writing is dull compared with ordinary French papers.

All the papers here heavily patriotic. eg. when Marshall° Lyautey’s[1] statue was being brought to Casablanca, both Petit and Presse for over three weeks gave never less than a column and often most of the page to the subject, ie. to adulations of Lyautey. On the actual day of the installation the Presse gave its entire front page to this. La Presse frequently demands the suppression of the Communist Party, the Petit not, tho’ Daladier[2] is its hero and it reports de la Rocque [3] sympathetically . The most widely read French paper in Marrakech seems to be the weekly Candide, which is sold on the streets everywhere. On buying it one finds it is virtually Fascist. Left-wing French newspapers seem unobtainable here.

M. Simont has sacked Hussein, evidently on the ground that he was lazy. The job here (for one man) is to look after about 2 acres planted with orange[4] and lemon trees, and part of the ground between the trees, perhaps 20-30 rods, down under marrows etc. Also to look after a few sheep. By European standards it would be said that Hussein worked hard. M. Simont complaining that Hussein (who evidently also had some negro blood) is a Cleuh[5]. They are said to be stupid, shiftless etc. Arabs also accuse them of avarice. Apparently Europeans share the prejudice. Do not know what the pay for this job would be, but probably not more than 10 frs. A day and quarters.

[Orwell’s note]
[a] Always wood-olive, mostly roots

[1] Marshal Louis-Hubert-Gonzalve Lyautey (1854-1934) was, as French Resident-General of Morocco, largely responsible for the development of the country. He was French Minister of War 1916-17, and organized the Colonial Exhibition in Paris in 1931.
[2] Edouard Daldier (1884-1970), Socialist Premier of France, 1938-40, signed the Munich pact, with Chamberlain, Hitler, and Mussolini, surrendering the Sudentenland to Germany, on 30 September 1938. For Churchill’s account of Daladier’s visit to London on 18 September to discuss Hitler’s demands with Chamberlain, see The Second World War, I, 270-72; U.S.: The Gathering Storm, 301.
[3] Colonel François de la Rocque was a leading figure of the extreme right who led the Croix de Feu, an anti-Marxist and anti-capitalist group. It was banned but reconstituted as the Parti Social Français. He was anti-German and did not become a collaborator. See also 562, Diary of Events, 6.8.39, Party Politics.
[4] ‘orange’ was preceded by ‘olive trees’, which was then crossed out.
[5] Cleuh (which Orwell also spells as Chleuh) is probably Shluh, which is the Hamito-Semitic language of the Berbers of Morocco; see Encyclopedia Britannica. See 530 for Orwell’s reference to their speaking ‘their own Berber dialect’ and also Arabic. Peter Davison

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19 Responses to VILLA SIMONT, 10.12.38

  1. How come no one has parsed this post yet!?!

  2. Von Wereknel says:

    What a post! It feels good to get so much news at once.

  3. Meerkat says:

    But what about the eggs?

  4. In this photo of some wealthy Chleuh (note the psychopath (on the left) moving in closer so as to poke the photographer in the eye with his sharp stick).

    I find it utterly bizarre, by the way, that M. Simont would suspect that a Chleuh might have African blood, don’t you? After all, they’ve only been there for millennia.

    It always amazes me that someone would equate ignorance (as in education and/or worldly ways, etc.) with stupidity and/or laziness and/or (egad!) avarice.

  5. Fred says:

    This is what is interesting. I enjoy one’s perspective and sometimes feel this is better recorded history than from the pen of a historian. One’s observances makes for interesting reading.
    Then hen has been given a break.

  6. Ed Webb says:

    And now, le déluge,
    After slow cooking, the feast:
    Sparse but deep, classic

  7. Jake says:

    Re: the photo. Note the small boy in his father’s arms. Quite striking. Re: the entry. The most extensive yet: not only local history, but economics, social commentary, etc. As a dweller in an arid land (SoCal), I can appreciate all the business about water: how you get to it when it is scarce, who has it most of the time (the wealthy), and how it is used: no swimming pools in Berberland.

  8. Hang on, what country is he in now?

  9. rickl says:

    Must’ve not been any eggs today.

  10. Steve says:

    How can a party (like the Croix de Feu) be both anti-Marxist and anti-capitalist? What’s left?

  11. margot says:

    national socialism

  12. I. Wolfe says:

    People –

    look at the dates. There was an egg today. This is clearly the political diaries. The eggs are in the domestic diaries. This entry and the previous one are on the same day.

  13. George~~

    Is it true that Aristotle and Freud influenced your ideas of civilization?

    I contend that, even if that were to be true, you are ever the intrepid explorer and I’ll not call you “pragmatic” by any means; rather, quite practical and logical. I would go so far as to say you are influenced by each individual moment of your life and that your senses are are on high alert 24/7.

    What did you think of the Nazi’s coming in 6th and 7th in the 24 Hours of Le Mans a few months ago?

    The 1938 Delahaye [which came in 1,2,4] is one sweet deco [or nouveau or…..] hunk of metal.

  14. Stephen says:

    Ed Webb: deluge indeed!

    This is classic Orwell. I find it interesting how – for all the apparent unobstructed clarity of his vision and voice – he is frequently in fact experiencing things through the prism of his previous experience. Sometimes this can be a little banal, as when he said a couple of days ago, “it’s misty like in England” and other times, like today, it can be quite profound.

    So today, his references to India and Burma seem to me to operate on several interesting levels. It is on one level simply a personal reminiscence – he had lived there and now he was seeing things in Morocco that looked cocmparable.
    At another level, both India/ Burma and Morocco in 1938 are parts of colonial empires. Orwell of course had been a British imperial official in Burma and it seems to me that much of Orwell’s commentary about Morocco is actually about its status in the French empire. So, today, he sees and notes particularly acutely the French olive plantation nearby, the superior European access to water, the content and views of the French press, and of course M Simont’s sacking of Hussein. He understands the French as colonialists, perhaps because he has ‘been there’ himself as a coloniser. But his focus and his interest in both countries is on the colonised: how the Moroccans farm, whether they are veiled, how much they are paid (or not), and what things cost them.

    I wonder if Marhsal Lyautey’s status still stands?

  15. @Steve – look up Mikhail Bakunin.

  16. I can picture this dude on a Harley-Davidson wreaking havoc with his gang.

  17. CAL says:

    Stephen – Enjoyed your thoughtful comments. I had a similar reaction to this entry, but didn’t completely explore the colonial angle until I read your post.

  18. Interesting to note that George is reading the newspapers and noting adverts. A lot of adverts, such as his own creation ‘Bovex’ were censored in ‘Aspidistra’

  19. Alan Barksdale says:

    I am surprised that none of the comments refers to how Orwell reworked this material into part of the essay the essay “Marrakech” :

    “The little crowd of mourners-all men and boys, no women–threaded
    their way across the market-place between the piles of pomegranates
    and the taxis and the camels, wailing a short chant over and over
    again. What really appeals to the flies is that the corpses here
    are never put into coffins, they are merely wrapped in a piece of
    rag and carried on a rough wooden bier on the shoulders of four friends.
    When the friends get to the burying-ground they hack an oblong hole a
    foot or two deep, dump the body in it and fling over it a little of the
    dried-up, lumpy earth, which is like broken brick. No gravestone, no
    name, no identifying mark of any kind. The burying-ground is merely a
    huge waste of hummocky earth, like a derelict building-lot. After a month
    or two no one can even be certain where his own relatives are buried.”

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