The last birds.

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    This is the adventure of space-building millennia, the gift of land to the sea. Why do islands feed imagination and nurture travelling? A few open books, the world’s immensity travelled by a child’s blue-stained finger, dipped in the ink and the wet of an atlas.

    Since I was a child, whenever I look at a map my eyes always search for an island; they skip the names of cities, provinces and regions to explore the big blue … I must have read Robinson Crusoe but I have forgotten it. I do not think it is its fault if I start daydreaming every time I read the strange name of an island on the blue of a map. Nor can I blame the novel for the fact that I am so fond of islands, though it just might as well be true. As soon as I locate an island on a map, feelings of love and friendship start throbbing inside of me. Immediately I can see: a dog looking me in the eyes, a taciturn fisherman, of slow gestures but swift hands, covered with a thick cape, a heavy and crude boat which smells like worn out rubber and whose wooden boards are all blackened and its paint is worn out, a bird which will not stop following the boat, fishing nets, fish, scales, beautiful children on the shore, honest sheds, a dish of boiled John Dory or rooster fish, the smell of celery, a steamy black pot, a misty sea under closed horizons…

    Nature is nearly always a friend. Even when it appears to be an enemy, it is like a strict father giving man the opportunity to test his own strength and power. It teaches him to swim when the tempest is sinking his boat; it allows him to show his wits and build the most solid hut roof after being blown off by the wind; and it puts the strength of his muscles to the test by abandoning him to a sea monster.

    I could continue dreaming like this, indefinitely, without ever stopping looking at all those dots amidst the blue of the maps, somewhere in those immense seas which skirt the big continents, thinking that in those places completely surrounded by water, you can only live in accordance with nature, whose winds, tempests and monsters make men keep their muscles strong and great solid friendships, and support and help each other, honestly, day and night, to be able to resist the waves that beat against the rocks for days, even weeks; for we were given the gift of incisive judgement in order to accompany reason, be it narrow, modest, slow or even non-existent. And if clothing smells well, it is to be shared among those who have none; and maybe men do not know all this if they never had a good, big-hearted mother.

    I always have a map hanging on the wall of my bedroom, so that I can see it every time I lift my eyes, a little sceptical and bored, from the book I usually read at night before I go to sleep. On contemplating the map, I immediately find the dot of an island, and on seeing the island, I remember the tempests, the howling of the wind, the sharks and, finally, the honest inhabitants of the island. And even though I also become engrossed contemplating those tortuous-shaped islands on the maps – imagining things like an old female fortune-teller trying to see the future of a couple of lovers in every nook and cranny of a piece of molten lead –, I still feel more strongly attracted to those shapeless little islands which appear represented by a simple dot on the sea.

    The last birds. Sait Faik.