Sunday, October 05, 2014


It is 6pm on the day of Tabaski. I am sitting alone on my sunset terrace watching an unremarkable sunset. The above sheep, on the roof and in the luggage hold of the bus I saw in Bandiagara last week will all be dead by now, slaughtered by the paterfamilias of Bamako, which was the destination of their last journey.

I went to Bandiagara with my dear Austrian friend Elisabeth (above with her car mechanic in Bandiagara) who lived there a couple of years ago with her husband Hinnerk. She was on a two week return to Mali and visited  Djenne, staying at the hotel for a few days which cheered me up hugely, especially since she let me practise my German on her without complaining. My head is whizzing with German, which is my favourite language in the world- because of its great poetry, of which I am no expert at all, I hasten to add.  My taste for German poetry is quite narrow and old fashioned and limited to Goethe and Schiller. Elisabeth and I  did not read poetry together, but deep down old memories were stirred and ever since she left I have odd bits of German poety floating through my head which I cannot at first place, but eventually I google the phrases that pop up, and I find they almost invariably come from Goethe. Sometimes these fragments are quite obscure, like the one that haunted me all day yesterday: ‘wir werden uns wiedersehen, aber nicht beim Tanze’ (we will meet again, but not by the dance). That one was too obscure for Google but I was determined to find it, and today, as always on Tabaski, I sat alone in the hotel bar guarding the place since the staff was all at home celebrating. This year I read through Faust again. And there it was of course, in the heartbreaking last scene with Gretchen in the prison.

It struck me that to read Faust in Djenne is quite appropriate: it is the ancient city of the marabouts and of magic. ‘Drum habe ich mich der Magie ergeben......das ich erkenne wie die Welt im Innersten zusammenhalt’ (Therefore I have given myself over to that I will discover how the world is held together in its innermost) says Faust.  He has exhausted all usual means of research and his thirst for knowledge is not quenched, on the contrary, the more he knows the more he is aware of how little he knows. The  marabouts of Djenne, what is their reason for using magic and for trying to cunjure the spirits? Often, if I believe the manuscripts in the library, the magic performed by the marabouts of Djenne tries to satisfy more common pursuits: ‘how to be loved’ how to become rich’ etc are the reasons to engage in magic in Djenne. I will ask Yelpha if the thirst for knowledge is ever a request...Mind you, once Faust entered into the pact with Mephistopheles, his objectives were no longer so lofty, and all he wanted was Gretchen, his driving force  became a case of ordinary lust, after all!


Blogger David said...

'Wer reitet so spaet durch Nacht und Wind?'. or maybe in your honour as a beacon of strong womanhood, 'das ewig-Weibliche zieht uns hinan'.

Ah, tabaski - what a reminder of the emperilled start to our Mali trip when you, dearheart, had overlooked the problem of our getting from Bamako to Djenne with the holiday begun and we were whisked straight on to a packed bus the morning after our arrival...happy memories.

8:25 AM  
Blogger toubab said...

Oh,dear! Had I really organized it so badly..? Ich bitte um Verziehung, lieber Freund!
Mit Herzlichem Grussen aus Djenne!

3:51 PM  
Blogger David said...

Tak, tak from Stockholm where it is grey and wet, but the Birgit Nilsson Prize to the Vienna Philharmonic tomorrow night will shine as presented by your native highnesses (I know how much you loved the royal wedding).

And that was all part of the holiday adventure.

9:40 PM  
Blogger toubab said...

Goodness! You are in Stockholm,wish I were there too with you!Instead I am having a sleepless night in Djenne.Did you know that Birgit Nilsson is supposed to be an extremely distant relation of mine? I am sure I told you a hundred times..

12:48 AM  
Blogger David said...

Isn't everyone in Sweden related to everyone (tease)?

I shall not taunt you with details of the food we ate last night at Adam and Albin's Matstudio - one of the best meals I've ever had in my life. But you only have to conjure a sorbet of wild herbs - actually you might achieve that from your ever-waxing garden.

6:38 AM  
Blogger Elisabeth F said...

The days with you were so wonderful

4:05 AM  
Blogger toubab said...

Thank you Elisabeth, it was so good to have you here!

9:45 PM  

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