TADDERT, 27.1.39

Have just returned after spending a week at Taddert in the Atlas, about 95 km. from Marrakech. T is at 1650 metres elevation, ie. about 5000 ft. When one gets about 2000 feet above the plain (itself about 1000 feet above sea level) one gets to a different type of vegetation, oaks and firs, more or less stunted, fairly good grass, of the downland type, and above about 4000 feet walnut trees, which grow profusely and very well, but evidently don’t grow wild. The fig tree does grow at about 5000, but evidently doesn’t do well. Almonds seem to do well. On the whole the mountain slopes are exceedingly bare and only begin to be well forested when one gets about 1000 feet above the valleys through which the main road runs. The lower slopes for about 500 feet above a village are often completely bare, mere chipped-up limestone like a slag-heap. Probably this is partly due to goats. The French Gov.t is now apparently beginning to do something about reafforestation, and is going to prohibit grazing on some of the hills. Evidently this area, even round the motor-road, is only in process of being accurately surveyed, as the landmarks for the survey people have only newly been set up. Road is good though not too wide. The Bus does the journey from Marrakech to Taddert in 3 hours and the return in about 2 1/2 . There is a great deal of what appears to be iron ore in the mountain, but evidently quite unexploited. In the inhabited valleys there does not seem to be so much shortage of water as down here.

If one looks round from a high peak one sees that only about one valley in twenty, even round the motor-road, is uninhabited. Most of the valleys are mere clefts, and evidently the soil is only cultivable in those into which the sun gets for a good deal of the day. At this time of year there is frost every night, which hangs on in shady places for most of the day. Snow drifts everywhere, but nowhere below about 6000 ft. where the hills are impassable because of snow. Cultivation is of the terrace type, much as in the hills in Burma. The terraces are very skillfully done, walled up with limestone, as in Spain, and the soil appears to be deep, 4 feet or so, though of course it is artificially made up. In moderately shady valleys and along banks of streams there are small but quite good pastures for the cows, the goats being grazed right on the tops of the hills. Goats are as down here, sheep mostly of a different kind, with exceedingly silky wool. From what people say locally and from general appearances it appears that all the villagers own a small piece of land, and of course grazing is free, though evidently each village has its recognized beat. Could not make an accurate judgement, but I should not say that more than one acre is cultivated per head of population. It appears that barley is grown in winter-spring (the barley is just coming up now, though not so advanced as down here), this is cut in June and then maize is sown. The local French consider that the Chleuh are good cultivators, and they evidently use plenty of manure. Ploughing is done with cow and donkey, as here. The people have plenty of animals, and no doubt their staple food is barley and goats milk.

The villages are quite different from those in the plains, as they are not walled in. The houses are of mud, very occasionally limestone, and square, with flat roofs. These are thatched over with wild broom and then covered with earth, which is possible owing to the dryness. When one looks down at a village from above one sees that as a rule all the houses on the same level have a common roof, though inside they are separate. This points to a certain amount of communal life. Practically none have glass windows. What woodwork there is is mostly crude.

The Chleuh seem to be rather remarkable people. The men are not greatly different in appearance from the Arabs, but the women are exceedingly striking. In general they are rather fair, sometimes fair enough to have red in their cheeks, with black hair and remarkable eyes. None are veiled, and all wear a cloth around their heads tied with blue or black cords, the dominant colours of their dress being red and blue. All the women have tattooing on their chins and sometimes down each cheek. Their manner is much less timid than that of most Arab women. Virtually the whole population is ragged and there is no evidence of any being richer than the others. The children for the most part have nothing on but a ragged blanket. Begging is almost universal, and the women have discovered that their jewellery (amber and rough silver, some of it exceedingly well worked) is liked by Europeans and will sell it for prices that cannot be much above the value of the silver. The children beg as soon as they can walk and will follow for miles over mountain tracks in hopes of a sou. Tobacco is greatly appreciated by those who do smoke, but I notice that a great many do not, and none of the women. Children beg for bread and are glad to get it. Nevertheless it is difficult to be certain about the real amount of poverty. Probably there is no actual destitution, at any rate no one is homeless or quite propertyless. I notice under the walnut trees quantities of nuts which have been left to rot, which does not suggest serious hunger. But evidently everyone’s life is at a low level. In some parts of the mountains carpets, leatherwork etc. are made. Near Taddert the chief trade apart from agriculture seems to be charcoal-burning. The people can of course get good wood (mostly oak) free, though possibly the Gov.t will interfere with this later, and they cook it in exceedingly primitive earth ovens and sell it at Frs. 12 for a large sack (about Frs. 35 in Marrakech.) Local physique is pretty good, though the people are not particularly large or very athletic in appearance. All walk well, and the women easily walk up steep hillsides carrying very large bundles of wood or a three-gallon stone jar of water. Apart from their own Berber dialect all speak Arabic, but few or none French. A few have reddish hair. There seems to be a Jew or two in most of the villages, not easily distinguishable from the rest of the population.

Graveyards not quite the same as the Arab ones, though the people are Mahomedans. The graveyard is generally a patch of good grass and the cattle browse among the graves. Owing to plentiful stone the graves are generally covered with a cairn, not a mere mound of earth, as here, but they have no names or other indications of individuals. Judging from a few that had fallen in, it seems usual to make the grave as a kind of cave with flat slabs of rock, and then cover this over, originally perhaps as a protection against wild animals. Some of the graves are immensely long, 8 or 10 feet. I saw one funeral. It was done in the usual way by a party of friends, one of whom kept up a rather perfunctory kind of wailing.

Talked a number of times in Taddert with a German in the Foreign Legion, who is there on some job I could not understand, something to do with some electric installation. A friendly intelligent man, who speaks French well. Has been eight years in the Legion and does not seem particularly discontented. Intends to stay his full time to get his small pension. Says they do not give you free tobacco in the French army and that you have to serve some time before your pay reaches even a franc a day, so that newcomers generally cannot smoke. No particular political opinions. Says there were 5 million unemployed when he left Germany and that he cannot go back as he is wanted for desertion. Did not express any opinion about Hitler. Seemed mildly pro-Government in the Spanish war.

Today the news of the fall of Barcelona has come. Nobody in Marrakech seems much interested, though the papers are splashing it. I note that there are at least 2 Socialist weeklies in Morocco, the Depeche de Fez and another whose name I forget. Not extreme and evidently (this is really why French Socialist papers are allowed to run and Arab ones not) not anti-imperialist. But both they and the P.S.F. [1] “Presse” keep up the abusive and scurrilous tradition of French newspapers, which the more moderate papers do not. eg. the Depeche de Fez makes accusations of German corruption of the French press, naming names. This could not be done in newspapers either in England or in India without a prosecution, though the papers would probably only be fined. On the other hand, evidently no newspaper in Morocco can suggest that Morocco should be independent, without being suppressed. If the papers are reporting truthfully, there were demonstrations among the Spaniards at Tangiers to celebrate the fall of Barcelona, without any kind of counter-demonstrations. Yet I had the impression that the pro-Government Spaniards in Tangiers slightly outnumbered the others.

The hotel at Taddert exactly like a cheap Paris hotel, and ditto the one or two cafes on route. The people one met, also, completely [like] the ordinary lower-middle-class French, living exactly the same life as in France except that they are obliged to speak a little Arabic.

[1] Parti Social Français; see 511, n 3. Peter Davison

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79 Responses to TADDERT, 27.1.39

  1. leonjacobs says:

    That is all good and well. But how many eggs?

  2. Well I’ll be blowed.
    I’ll come back to this when I’ve had my breakfast. But meanwhile welcome back, George. Many wait on your news. Taddert? Sounds almost like somewhere in Scotland.

  3. islander says:

    welcome back, George!

  4. zenomax says:

    And so our journey continues.

    After a break of time (why didn’t GO take his journal with him?), we are first lulled into quiescence with certain geographical and cultural descriptions of the sojourn in the Atlas Mountains (“Probably this is partly due to goats”. This is probably my favourite Georgist statement to date).

    Then, while still in a state of bucolic reverie, Hitler is mentioned (for the first time?).

    Then, next paragraph, the fall of Barcelona.

    Almost too much, almost too much.

    But then maybe this is why we are addicted.

  5. media scum says:

    Actually GO was near to an interesting little tale conected with he Spainish Civil War here. There was a flourishing ironstone mining industry in the area area he was in and during the civil war this assumned imporance for both the Spainish Nationalists and the Third Reich as as upplier for iron and steel works that they controlled.(the main outlet for iron ore in Spain was the Basque country – and up to the end loyal to the republicans). A table i have looked up shows up to 5 million tonnes being shipped to Spain and Germnay in that time

  6. Gilles Mioni says:

    Today, in what was written by Georges Orwell that day, there are things in wich I am concerned directly.

    The days preceding the fall of Barcelona, thousands of people fled Catalonia and went to France. Beginning of an exile that lasted yet for many people.

    Among those poor refugees, one of them who will be later one of my parents.
    Children of war were never cured of their nightmares.

    The defeat is a legacy that is an heavy desease to bring for a long time while the weapons have stopped firing.

    For me read Orwell’s books is like a balm for my soul.

    Also, I will never forget the sacrifice of a nephews of Virginia Woolf in being killed in action in 1937. He was one of these British volonteers who risked their life for an ideal of freedom.

    As always Georges Orwell took the social and economic context of landscape he was describing.

    The sharpness of its observation, the accuracy of his comments, its hard to handle with great care in the world, is simply remarkable.

    We can discern in reading the long text that Georges Orwell would spend a lot of time to learn in detail about what he saw around him. More than a tourist, he was an observer in mission.
    I am sorry If I offend your decency : Please take care of Eileen O’S.

  7. zenomax says:

    Very well said Gilles! Your sentiments are shared I think by many of us.

  8. Holden Caulfeild says:

    It’s kind of like a sketch an artist would quickly draw, for a future painting..

    I too have a bit of GO “indigestion” this morning

  9. art brennan says:

    Oh, Gilles, how rich your refugee parent became in having a child who remembers. I know something of the nightmares that stay. After this short drought of GO, what life giving rain!

    2 eggs tomorrow?

  10. Steve says:

    Truly, a post of Type 3.

  11. Gilles,
    I was in Barcelona 2 years ago and I went to George Orwell Square to pay hommage. It turned out to be triangular in shape. It was down a bit of a grubby side street I seem to remember. Not too far from the golden mile though.

    So now we know. George has been tailing a man who is obviously a German spy. He’s good is George. He writes it all up as if it were an innocent encounter.

  12. Owen says:

    Pretty amazing to see his entry on the fall of Barcelona had so little emotional reaction. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised; it’s not his style to emote on paper.

  13. The Götterdämmerung plays like this:
    The anti-fascist writer George and the Colonial Police Insp. Eric are one and the same. The Nazi Hitler bans George’s books. They are thrown in the streets and burnt.
    It follows that incognito, Colonial Police Insp. Eric and ex-Freedom Fighter, now plain Enrico Orvello, who actually took part in the Barcelona shoot-out, is now on the case. In fact he trails the first suspect. He may yet report to direct to Monty. Who knows? Graham Greene, self-confessed anti-Nazi spy, is doubtless knocking about between Majorca and Liberia.
    Eggs eh? Flock of birds eh? We’ll see.

  14. andrew says:

    welcome back to the lowlands, george!

  15. “Virtually the whole population is ragged and there is no evidence of any being richer than the others.”

    At last, socialism!

  16. Stephen says:

    I did not think “reafforestation” was a 1939 word, or concern.

  17. CAL says:

    The detailed entry was well worth waiting for. And your comment, Gilles, was moving. We all — at least, I — can feel a personal connection with what happened so long ago when reading your words.

  18. George~~

    Did you know that Jackson Pollock has just seen another psychiatrist?

    Jackson was referred to Jungian psychotherapist Joseph Henderson by a friend of Helen Marot – the teacher who had hired him to be a janitor at [t]he City and County School. Marot had remained in contact with Pollock after he left the job and was concerned by his continued drinking. Jackson would see the psychotherapist for 18 months. The psychiatrist encouraged Jackson to bring in his work for Jungian analysis and Pollock ended up giving Henderson 82 drawings and one gouache.

    Abstract Eggspressionism is a harsh lifestyle, eh?

  19. Lumbered uphill through Earth’s atmosphere for about 59.03 miles and taking notes. Bounced downhill 20% faster going, “Whee!” and taking notes.

  20. Ed Webb says:

    A breath of fresh air
    In the hills; down here the press,
    Plenty of manure

  21. Hector says:

    It’s good to see George getting out and about. It’s such lovely country in the mountains. Wonder if he poached any eggs?

  22. “If one looks round from a high peak one sees that only about one valley in twenty, even round the motor-road, is uninhabited.”

    This is the key segment.

  23. beerlogger says:

    I believe Hitler was mentioned a few months back. Some guy basically predicted his rise, which is probably why Orwell notes that the guy in this entry doesn’t have an opinion.

  24. I think ‘media scum’ has a good point about the 5 million tons of iron ore shipped to the Industrial Reich. And as beerlooger says, a crafty German spy who “doesn’t have an opinion” is knocking about the area.
    This is Humphrey Bogart material. A woman will turn up shortly.
    George is even now checking his service revolver. The one that is hidden by the chickens

  25. @gwilym williams – when you say “the one that is hidden by the chickens” do you mean near the chickens or are you suggesting that the chickens were involved somehow in the hiding process, perhaps in an advisory capacity?

  26. Steve says:

    Broody hens! He means the hiding is happening under the broody hens!

  27. James Russell says:

    I may stand corrected, but this appears to be the first “Dear Diary” entry. He tells us that he has just come back from the Atlas Mountains. Only he is not telling us anything as this “Political” entry is not been written to make a packet in a book deal when the author retires from front-line politics.

    So why is he telling himself where he has just been?

    And did Eileen insist that he kept his “blooming silly diary thing” (my words, not hers) at home in Marrakech?

    2 eggs.

  28. Daniel Earwicker,
    “hidden by the chickens” is doublespeak.
    It only means what you want it to mean.
    Napoleon would understand. Or at least I think he would.

  29. If you take George’s post and make it into one long ribbon and then wrap it around the specially-constructed deciphering mechanism (per EAP’s instructions) you will discover what is being cleverly hidden by the chickens.

    Spoiler Alert:
    The lookout is prone on the hilltop peering downward at the roadway through low-tech binoculars, concentrating toward the north. Unknown to him, a battalion of non-friendlies is about to come around the bend. A super-stealthy chicken steps into his line of vision, squats, clucks, lays a Grade-A Extra-Large Egg and sits on it until the coast is clear, at which time the hen turns her back and slings dust into the spy’s eyes and sprints downhill, wing-flapping, cluck-clucking and stuff. [fade to black]

    Many ducks volunteered for the mission; they are not considered super-stealthy, however, because of the orange. These ducks knew their gesture was futile and were only hoping for a photo-op.

  30. Holden Caulfeild says:


    I think you need to pace yourself a little…You know,maybe go for a walk..

  31. Meanwhile, the paragraph that begins “Today the news…..” is superb.

  32. As I watched the hydrocarbon clouds rain hydrocarbons upon Titan—washing down hydrocarbon mountains into hydrocarbon rivers, lakes and oceans—and analyzed the impressions of Orwell—as opposed to the impressions of the news media—I was overwhelmed by the surrealism, nearly collapsed and narrowly escaped apoplexy.

  33. Yes, “Today the news…” is superb. I like the idea of “naming names” in the German corruption of the French Press scandal.

  34. George~~

    Please. I’m begging you…..More output for my input, please, oh, please, oh…..wah-sniffle…..please. I can’t take it any more…..I’m going m…..No. No. I won’t say it. I won’t!

    Meanwhile, the World Ice Hockey Championships in Zürich and Basel, Switzerland started today and runs through the 12th. [Spoiler: Canada wins]

    Roy Harrod wrote a letter to a limited number of Conservative MPs today.

  35. timothyMN says:

    Come back George all is forgiven.

    Was all those who who made fun of your posts on eggs that put you off? I’m sure if you ask nicely they will stop teasing.

  36. Happy 23rd birthday this 4th February 1939 to Gavin “exclamation mark” Ewart, editor of “Other People’s Clerihews” etc.

    From To Margo

    In life’s rough-and-tumble
    you’re the crumble on my apple crumble
    and the fairy on the Christmas tree!
    . . .

    In life’s meet-and-muster
    you’re the luster of a diamond cluster –
    a blockbuster – just a duster, me!

    After the First Night
    the Sun kissed the Moon
    “Darling, you were wonderful!”

    Hail, tribes of Outer
    Alcoholia – the Rednose
    and Goutfoot Indians!

  37. zenomax says:

    Surreal realities…

  38. andrew says:

    i wonder if his trip to the mountains broke his diary habit.. what’s he at now?

  39. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…..

  40. Mmmm… not quite the same though, is it?

  41. art brennan says:

    It’s not the same, but it’s better than nothing.

  42. Rest assured – Orwell will be back, but his diary writing is a little sporadic over the next month or so.

    Until then, we’ve just added a new feature, thanks to Orwell biographer Gordon Bowker, on the passenger list for the SS Stratheden which took Orwell to Gibraltar, and his unexpected reunion with one of his old pupils: http://www.theorwellprize.co.uk/the-award/works/gordonbowker3.aspx

  43. Steve says:

    What happens to the chickens?!?

  44. Hey, George, may I have the sparkling-clean Jackal Skull as a memento of our time here, please?

  45. If you wish to entertain your courage, consider the era of President James K. Polk.

  46. My general proposition, then, is this: — In the Original Unity of the First Thing lies the Secondary Cause of All Things, with the Germ of their Inevitable Annihilation.

    In illustration of this idea, I propose to take such a survey of the Universe that the mind may be able really to receive and to perceive an individual impression.

  47. Her eyes met Poirot’s. They were eyes that kept their own secrets. They did not waver.

    Poirot said softly: ‘Who would have thought the old man—’

    She interrupted him: ‘Stop! Don’t say that!’

    Poirot murmured: ‘You said it, madame.’

    She breathed softly: ‘I know… I remember… It was—so horrible.’

  48. “What’ll it be? Feast or Famine?”

    My jaw hit the table as I gaped in astonishment at the gum-chewing waitress and marvelled at the possibilities:
    All of the above.
    None of the above.
    Some of the above.
    A brief synopsis of the above.
    Viral madness.

    My wife clenched my arm in wide-eyed terror but she did not whimper as my fists became rock-hard.

    It was Valentine’s Day. We had gone to That’s-A-Burger? to celebrate our love. We, of course, vowed to celebrate our anniversary elsewhere this year. I mean. Really. The Unverschämtheit!

  49. Holden Caulfeild says:

    just passing through…

    seems to be a few empty ampules of Stelazine lying around…

  50. I wonder when we’re going to get out of Taddert… just on an earlier post… I often write and tell myself where I’ve just been.

  51. Trifluoperazine, eh?

    Well, I’ll have you know that I haven’t touched an opioid since 1939 when I left Marrakesh. So. There.

    Meanwhile, Betty Jo Berm mentioned, while describing an assortment of pills that she takes, “The blue ones are stelazine, which I use as an anti-emetic. You understand: I use it for that, but that isn’t its basic purpose. Basically Stelazine is a tranquilizer, in doses of less than twenty milligrams a day. In greater doses it’s an anti-hallucinogenic agent. But I don’t take it for that either. Now, the problem with stelazine is that it’s a vasodilator.”

  52. Three donkey carcasses.

  53. This is the 88th comment.

  54. I made an appointment for my mandatory lobotomy and I have my application in for one of the few available SG franchises, which is waiting for a permit to wend its way through the spaghetti-like corridors of various ministries. In return, the Ministry of Love has promised to think about allowing me to keep these ten-year old shoes I’m wearing; at least, for a little while.

  55. “Rest assured – Orwell will be back”

    Well, of course he will. We quite understand. War is looming. German spies are in the iron ore hills, well at least one is. George will have to be briefed.
    It’s no good this egg code, the Bosch have already cracked it. And the old service revolver from Burmah, or the .303 from Barcelona, whatever he has he’ll need a supply of ammo.
    And then ther’s the question of a short wave radio. He’ll need to keep in touch with his contact Graham Greene, alias the Liberian Wolf.
    Yes, and George will need a new codename too, G.O. won’t do anymore. Not when Monty comes.
    So, yes, we quite understand the silence before the firestorm.

  56. Steve says:


    You’ve probably eaten the chickens by now, but you’ll be pleased to know that eating all those eggs probably didn’t hurt you a bit: http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/em/fr/-/2/hi/health/7882850.stm

  57. Holden Caulfeild says:

    Maybe the sudden change in the global economy economy has the management of this site eating their chickens,and GO’s eggs….

    JL3; Viagra is also a vasodilator…. just saying

  58. art brennan says:

    Happy Valentine’s Day (early). GO will emerge and the last few eggs will go uncounted.

  59. Speaking of eggs, I once went on a hunting trip to track down the legendary Giant African Toucan. After a week of visiting abandoned nesting sites I eventually found a small village where the chief of the tribe said he could show me evidence of the beast I was seeking and also grant me lodgings at a reasonable rate in one of his huts. To cut a long story short, the next morning I was presented with an enormous bill.

  60. I have no comment [applause] at this time [applause] concerning BettyJo Berm’s incessant usage of vasodilators and/or opioids. [standing ovation with raucous cheering and hats in the air]

  61. Andy says:

    Perhaps those responsible for posting GO’s diary entries could treat us to a ‘Next Entry Date’ when there is a gap between days… please?

  62. art brennan says:

    The “enormous bill” is purely circumstantial evidence, but persuasive.

  63. Steve says:

    A man walks into a bar and orders a drink. And another. And another.

    Finally, holding a palm out about shoulder high, he asks the bartender, “are there any penguins that are -this- tall?”

    The bartender says he’s pretty sure there are no penguins that tall.

    “Oh my God!” says the man, “I ran over a nun!”

    @Andy: a next entry date would take away all the fun!

  64. Meanwhile, just a few hundred miles east of the land of mutant penguins…..

  65. Later on during that same trip, one of my colleagues heard tell of a secret enclosure where the tribe kept a vast collection of birds, of every species, and that we could each take home the specimen of our choice. But when we got to it, it seemed that the entrance was so narrow that we would have to enter one at a time.

    Needless to say, we all took a tern.

  66. George~~

    Have you started work on this, yet?

  67. Apart from me, of course – I only went for a lark.

  68. Hector Pena says:

    Another day goes by with no entry.

  69. Béla Imrédy resigned the premiership of Hungary; though he towed the party line, he was unable to deny his ancestry.

    Meanwhile, hi-res satellite photos of George Orwell’s early 1939 locale reveal a boisterous bon voyage party at which Eric Blair is barbecuing a flock of, what appear to be, hapless chickens.

  70. Stephen A. says:

    Is this the end and nothing more?
    If so, quelle domage!

  71. Alexandra says:

    I got 3 eggs today from my 9 hens. They are kicking into gear.

  72. Pingback: Orwell the blogger « Glean & Gleam

  73. art brennan says:

    If he has a barbeque, what about the bills?

    Only chickens fly home to roost STOP Rotten eggs are bad for you STOP Want new crack agent in Atlas STOP Eat eggs and unscramble codes STOP Look in chicken huts STOP Last chance saloon STOP Get going on an egg STOP Eat more eggs STOP Oil your service revolvers STOP Replace dead chickens with new STOP Get to safe house STOP Eric knows who we are STOP
    A Klax

  75. Pingback: 18.2.39. « THE ORWELL PRIZE

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