Find Yourself a City to Live in

by zunguzungu

Paul Bowles, imagining Orientalist communism:

‘There are no true streets in the city, and neither automobiles nor wagons can enter; because the passageways are not flat, but often turn into stairways, not even bicycles can be used. Everything that moves inside the walls moves on legs, so one hears no horns or bells. What rises from the city by day is a humming: two hundred thousand human voices blended into one sound. At night there is absolute silence, unless the women of some house have gone upstairs to the terrace and are beating drums. Five times a day the muezzin calls from the tower of each mosque, as in all Moslem towns; but there are more than a hundred mosques, and they can all be heard at once from the surrounding hills. There is a custom peculiar to Fez whereby, shortly before the daybreak call to prayer, the muezzins sing for half an hour or more. If one can imagine a hundred powerful flamenco singers at varying distances, projecting their songs from the minarets over the silent city, one can understand that the effect is electrifying.’

“True” streets are present by their absence, of course; the desire for an absence of modernity that the weary expatriate brings with him to which ever fantasy of foreignness he lands in. Zunguzungu! And yet, in the “humming” which gives relief from the automobiles and horns of modern Western cities, a different kind of power line gets refracted, a society woven together by the “electrif[ication]” of a different high modernism…