" Eduardo Mallea "
(1903 -1982) was an Argentine essayist, cultural critic, writer and diplomat.
" For, as he claimed, another important difference between tourist and traveller is that the former accepts his own civilization without question; not so the traveller, who compares it with others, and rejects those elements he finds not to his liking. "
Paul Bowles, an inveterate traveller who spent more than half of his life in self-imposed exile, far away from his native America, might have been describing himself here. Far from accepting "his own civilization", Bowles, like his character Port, is famous for rejecting it, shunning New York and the literary intelligentsia in favour of the deserts and souks of North Africa, immersing himself in and capturing for generations its culture. Few lives can have better illustrated this distinction between tourist and traveller than his own. Bowles defined himself by it and as a result became a magnet for all those envisioning life away from the mainstream.
See also p.10: "Whereas the tourist generally hurries back home at the end of a few weeks or months, the traveller, belonging no more to one place than to the next, moves slowly, over periods of years, from one part of the earth to another." Neither Port Moresby or Paul Bowles himself ever went "back home".
" At this point they had just crossed the Atlantic for the first time since 1939, with a great deal of luggage and the intention of keeping as far as possible from the places which had been touched by the war. "
Captured German Soldiers in French Morocco, 1943 - Credit: U.S. Army
The war referred to is the Second World War. Morocco had been partitioned between France and Spain since 1912, with France controlling the south and Spain occupying the country's far north. Tangier, if that is where you to choose to believe the novel's opening takes place, had been an international zone since 1923 under the joint administration of France, Spain and Britain, later joined by Italy, Portugal and Belgium. Nationalist political parties had begun using World War II declarations to argue for Moroccan independence but this was not achieved until 1956, when Tangier gave up its international status to join the rest of the country.
It is likely, however, as Michael Hofmann writes, that the Moresbys disembark at Oran in Algeria, not Tangier in Morocco. Algeria had fallen to the French in 1831, having been under Ottoman rule since 1792. During World War II, the Vichy government held on to Oran until it was captured by the Allies in 1942. At that time, the city had one of the highest proportions of Europeans of any city in North Africa.
" I've got to have another bottle of Oulmes. "
The Oulmes plateau in the Mid-Atlas is famous for its mineral water springs and remains the source of the main mineral waters marketed in Morocco.
" He will be as well off here as anywhere else this side of Sidi-bel-Abbes "
Sidi-bel-Abbes is an agricultural centre in an area in Algeria rich in vineyards, market gardens, orchards and grain fields. It was also the spiritual home of the French Foreign Legion, the location of its basic training camp and the headquarters of its 1st Foreign Regiment. Named after a Muslim Holy Man who is buried there, the town is surrounded by a wall with four gates and there is also a university there.
Simon Murray's book Legionnaire
is an excellent account of the Foreign Legion's last months in Algeria.