The Beach Cafe & The Voice

Beach Cafe

Translated by Paul Bowles, these are two stories by Mohammed Mrabet, recommended by Patti Smith for immediate consumption. The Beach Cafe follows the narrator, Driss, as he spots a shack on the beach and befriends its owner, the elder man named Fuad, who asks him to bring him some mint when he returns. Driss comes laden with kif and mint, always paying for his tea and always bringing things for Fuad. In return, Fuad spouts lies about Driss to Driss’s girlfriend Betsoul and her mother, along with anyone else who comes into the cafe, just besmirching Driss’s name to whomever would listen. Driss laughed and kept on bringing mint and kif to Fuad, helping him out however he can. Fuad is a lech, as well, grabbing young American women who come to stay on the beach, eyes bugging out with delight about all the nubile flesh around him; he also tells Driss’s girlfriend to take a taxi back to the cafe and spend the night with him. She declines. In the end, Fuad refused entry to a girl, Zineb, who took Driss’s side against Fuad’s and dumped her rich boyfriend in the process. Driss finally announces that he knew what was going on with the lies Fuad was telling about him the whole time, and how he was a better man for ignoring it and continuing on.

I was always your friend. And when you saw that I was still your friend after all you’d said, what went on in your head? Did you think no one was going to let me know all the crazy stories you were telling people?

What crazy stories have I told about you?

I looked around at the others and laughed. If you don’t remember them, there are plenty who do. I’m not going to give you the list. It didn’t happen yesterday. You’ve been talking for years. On and on, lies and insults.

Fuad had stopped looking angry. His mouth was open.

What you can’t understand is, if I knew everything you were saying about me, why I went on being your friend. I went on because I thought that when you saw how I treated you, you might change and stop spreading your poison. Some men would have. But not you. What you’ll be tomorrow is what you are today, and you’re nothing. You don’t exist. I’ve bought your life with a little mint and some kif. It didn’t cost much, but it was more than you were worth… I’ve always been your friend, and when I leave here today I’m still going to be your friend. And there’s nothing you can do to change it… You’re an old man, and you still haven’t learned anything. You can’t think of anything but yourself.

After this diatribe, Driss leaves, and never went back to the cafe. A year later, he ran into a friend who had been there that day, who tells him that Fuad is now singing Driss’s praises, “Driss was the best of them all. He was a real friend.”

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The second story, The Voice, was much creepier and shorter. Mseud is born and hears a voice, which he continues to hear as he grows up. He respects the Voice more than his parents and does whatever it asks, like set fire to a pen of sheep or kill a man. Eventually he enlists his grandfather’s advice on how to get rid of the voice, and the Voice sends a beautiful girl who he’s also controlling to kill Mseud. The girl and Mseud conspire to kill the Voice and live happily ever after.