Jonathan May - La Vie, L’Amour, La Mort (2012)
"Mauritania is considered to be one of the least visited places in the world. The country’s only real exposure to photography is through journalism, and unfortunately after many Al-Qaeda kidnappings of tourists the media has ruined any potential travelers’ plans by painting it as an extremely dangerous place to visit. This in turn makes photography in the country extremely difficult. Journalists spreading fear have ruined the tourism industry, and many people’s livelihoods.
Chinguetti, established in the 13th century as a trans-Saharan trade route is considered to be the 7th holiest city of Islam. Sunni pilgrims en route to Mecca gathered here annually to trade, gossip, and say their prayers in the mosque built from stone. Desert caravans were the source of Chinguetti’s economic prosperity, with as many as 30,000 camels gathering there at the same time. The animals, which took refreshment at the oasis retreat, carried wool, barley, dates and millet to the south and returned with ivory, ostrich feathers, gold and slaves.
Today’s Chinguetti is a shadow of the prosperous metropolis it once was, and with the tourism industry basically dead the town and a lot of its workers have fled to larger cities like Nouakchott to survive.
When drinking tea with a nomad in the desert you must drink three glasses: the first glass is for life, the second glass is for love, and the third glass is for death.”
It would be lovely if a light, fickle love, the colour of tea, an ephemeral and crazy love like yours, was my last flash of life. In it I would like to recognize the veil that shields from my eyes the awaited face of death. For we die, my dear, as you are well aware, and from so much love and from all these tears, there’s nothing left, not even a memory. I yearn for this oblivion like for the greatest reward. Exhausted as I am at this late hour, after so many emotions, I tell you in an outpouring of gratitude and faith: you are alive, alive; as nimble as the flame.
Il serait beau qu’un amour léger, changeant, couleur de thé, un amour éphémère et fou comme le tien, fût le dernier éclat de ma vie et j’aimerais reconnaître en lui le voile où se déroberait à mes yeux la face attendue de ma mort. Car tu sais bien qu’on meurt, ma chérie, que de tant d’amour, et de toutes ces larmes, il ne reste rien, pas même un souvenir. J’aspire à cet oubli comme à la plus belle récompense. Dans mon nuage de fumée, abruti comme je le suis à cette heure avancée, après tant d’émotions, je te dis dans le plus sincère élan de gratitude et de foi : Que tu es vivante, vivante ; agile comme la flamme.
Joë Bousquet, Un Amour couleur de thé
tr. Michael Tweed
I have three poems,
Think of counting poems.
Emily tossed them
in a box, I
can’t imagine she counted them,
she just spread out a tea-packet
and wrote a new one.
That was right. A good poem
should smell of tea.
Or of raw earth and newly split firewood.
Olav H. Hauge
tr. Robin Fulton