Author's Preface

Shakespeare Lane is only a fragment of the history of a city: some overlapping lives climbing the walls of memory like winterberry, some characters living to narrate their lives, and others to live their elapsed epochs again in the future.

Shakespeare Lane is also the third part of a trilogy all encompassed under the title uti:l Tanja.[1] I dreamed of realizing the trilogy after I finished the first part titled ya: mu:ja Ranni:.[2] My desire grew even greater after the second part, Lalla J’mila, was finished. A tie exists among the three parts: it is not a story, nor a character, nor a flourishing event; rather, it is simply the history of a city and of its people and visitors; a collective memory living and breathing with the characters playfully telling the story.

Shakespeare Lane is, simply put, a hopeless and difficult love story. Lovers meet and share the space of a garden of an English-styled house where one can breathe love without contact or carnality. Conflicts and hereditary rancor transform the tangled emotions into a hopeless love. Some words well out from particular sites in Tangier. They make of the past the geography of the present: a text that carves the characters’ stories out of the soil of portrayal and the chemistry of flashback.

Does Marshana[3] reciprocate love with Albarrani?[4] Hesitancy is the ongoing response to this question. Her state of affairs is constantly asking, "do I love him or not? That is the question." Yet the presence of Albarrani – who works for her as a gardener – is as life’s essential flower. Most important of all is her struggle to control this attraction. She doesn’t want people to know about these emotions, not even Albarrani himself. Since she is married, and the mother of a child suffering from a chronic illness, she rebukes and blames herself for this love.

Submitting to the will of her departed father Si Istanbuli, Marshana married Elmehdi;[5] but, it was a marriage of convenience and although she gave up the relationship with Albarrani she never managed to forget him. It is hopeless love due to her torn emotions, it is made worse by the historical enmity between the grandfathers and the parents of Marshana and Albarrani. Within this background, replete with the ebb and flow of emotions, the storms of the rancor are deviously blown stronger by Lady R’himu (the nurse) against the secret lovers (Marshana and Albarrani). R’himu plays a scheme: she provokes Marshana against Albarrani, then Elmehdi (Marshana’s husband) against them by feigning slander. Eventually an illusive love letter provokes a scandal.

Shakespeare Lane is not only a two or threefold love story, it is also characters springing from the ashes of memory to shine on stage bearing the elegance of the past in the raiment of the present. Bu Mwaret,[6] the Fqih,[7] is appointed by law to settle the estate of Lady Scott. Cabesota,[8] with a country guitar, clings to the hippie utopianism he had absorbed in the Petit Socco[9] when throngs of hippies went to Tangier in the sixties and seventies. Elmehdi was the son of a risqué dancer who worked for Barbara Hutton at her garden soirées in the Qasbah neighborhood. He pretends political strife and confinement while juggling titles and positions to defraud and steal from individuals and city-society. He is a disciplined clown who masters playing with procedures and laws and despite his clownish dancing manages to keep his legal equilibrium. He is also a professional fraud who knows well how to benefit from democracy.

Yet how relevant is Shakespeare to Shakespeare Lane? First, it is the name of a street in the Marshan neighborhood; during Tangier’s international era it held an eminent and magical supremacy for the English people. Second, Shakespeare universally symbolizes the essential themes of the tragedies Hamlet, Othello and Romeo and Juliet. These themes take their human dimension, in a century other than the sixteenth and seventeenth, with the characters and stories of this Tangier street that boasts the name of Shakespeare.

Hence, conflicts of power and hopeless love, along with slander, jealousy, envy, hatred, vengeance, fortune of Shakespeare Lane reflect a contemporary reading of Tanjawi society springing from a pen never touched by Shakespeare’s fingertips.

―Zoubeir Ben Bouchta

(Translated from Arabic by Rajae Khaloufi)

[1] Hotel Tangier.
[2] O Wave Sing.
[3] Derived from the name of a neighborhood, "the Marshan", where Zanqat Shakespeare is located; "shan" and "mershan" are also used by Moroccan’s to refer to people of high social standing.
[4] Meaning "the stranger", a Moroccan word; it is an ironic name since he turns out to be the rightful owner of the villa despite his blue-collar social standing.
[5] The name is ironic; it simultaneously refers to supposed virtue while also reflecting limitation and shortcoming.
[6] A name ironically related to the division of inheritance.
[7] The legist: someone versed in legal matters.
[8] A name that combines the Spanish word "cabeza" meaning "head" and "sota" from a popular card game; the character is like a Shakespearean jester.
[9] su:q adda:khil.