VILLA SIMONT, 22.12.38

After heavy rain such as that of the last few days the rivers swell enormously. The Oued Tensift, normally about 10 yards wide, has filled the whole valley it runs in, about 300 yards wide. But judging from the vegetation in the valley this does not happen most years.

The Arab funerals here are the wretchedest I have ever seen. The dead man is carried by friends and relatives on a rough wooden bier, wrapped in cloth. Don’t know whether this is due to poverty, or whether Mahomedans are supposed not to have coffins. A hole not more than two feet deep is hacked in the ground and the body dumped in it with nothing over it except a mound of earth and usually either brick or broken pot at one end, presumably the head. The burial places as a rule are not walled in in any way and except when there happens to be the tomb of some rich person there one would never know them for burial places – they merely look like a rather hummocky piece of ground. No sort of identifying marks over the graves. On one, presumably of a scribe, I found a pen and inkhorn, otherwise only the broken pots etc. On one an enamel tin mug. A few vacant graves always waiting, including little ones for children. Women apparently never attend funerals.

The other widely-read French weekly paper is Gringoire. [a] Used to be a sort of gossipy literary paper, but now as much read as Candide. I notice that these papers, though evidently prosperous and having lots of advertisements, are not above inserting pornographic advertisements. Also that in spite of their politics they publish serial stories etc. by writers who are more or less “left”. On a wall in a café lavatory, “A mort Blum”[1] in very small letters. The first political inscription I have seen in French Morocco.

[Orwell’s note]
[a] ”Gringoire” claims circulation of 1/2 million, evidently truthfully.

[1] Léon Blum (1872-1950) was the first Socialist premier of France, 1936-37, 1938, presiding over a popular front government. He was imprisoned in France and Germany from 1942 until the end of World War II, and was again premier, 1946-47. Peter Davison

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11 Responses to VILLA SIMONT, 22.12.38

  1. Carl says:

    Ah, yes, Eric is showing himself as a man of his times in describing the Arab funerals as “wretched.” From what little I know–and happily the link I pasted below backs me up–Muslim funerals are *supposed* to be simple and plain. No coffins, and no gravestones or markers. I would that hazard such would be regarded as a form of idolatry.

  2. George’s newspaper “not above instering pornographic advertisements”.
    This reminds me that other day I was reading the Kronen Zeitung, an Austrian paper always claiming to be the biggest selling daily in Europe (I think they mean their 3,000,000 sales from a population of 8,000,000) and I there saw a picture of thesmiling Archbishop of Vienna with the smiling editor Dichand taken at the KZ’s recent Christmas Party. That’s ok. But consider this; the good Roman Catholic Archbishop has a regular column in the KZ, a family newspaper that carries daily two pages of suggestive women in various states of undress together with their contact details and price per hour for house visits and exotic massage. Price incidentally appears to be in the €35-€160 range. So where does that leave us as we approach the 25th, and the world’s most famous birthday. No axe to grind. Merely an observation and a question. Thank you, George.

  3. Some animals are more equal than others. Above, I should have said Cardinal.

  4. If I run across a phrase or word in a journal seven decades [or 700 decades, even] old that seems out of place or unduly harsh or whatever, I have found that checking into the meaning of the word or phrase as it was understood at the time, along with other contextual considerations, saves me a lot of consternation.

    I’m no different than Orwell, who gauges everything against his particular standard, in that I have my own standards, too, but I cannot apply my template to him. I’m more interested in his actual pencil-scratchings.

  5. Interesting to learn this fact about the newspapers of the period as this week’s Village Voice sits on my desk.

  6. Dominic says:

    No eggs today?!

  7. Jake says:

    “So where does that leave us as we approach the 25th, and the world’s most famous birthday. No axe to grind.” No axe to grind? Nonsense! Keep your religious views to yourself.

  8. Jake says:

    PS: Previous comment directed toward Williams, of course.

  9. Armand Asante says:

    I think wretched is quite an apt description – meaning poor/sorry/pitiful.
    In comparison with European funerals – which are quite ceremonious (and where dignity is considered paramount) – such funerals ARE wretched.
    In the simplest meaning of the word.

  10. Pingback: VILLA SIMONT, 22.12.38 « THE ORWELL PRIZE « Michaelquill’s Weblog

  11. “wretchedest”? I am not sure if that is a word, but I wonder if a coffin would be less wretched. Would not the best be whatever method allowed the body to be one with the earth again as quickly as possible? A coffin keeps one’s body artifically preserved in a state of limbo for a long time, as does the embalming.

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