‘Cowardice’ by Abdeslam Boulaich

Cowardice by Abdeslam Boulaich, 1971

The magic trick:

Starting like a joke, ending like a sermon

During the very first week of this website, way back in June of 2014, we looked at Paul Bowles’s “A Distant Episode,” an exceptionally dark fantasy about the gruesome demise of a translator in Morocco. Well, here we are three years later, looking at a story from a Moroccon author translated by… Paul Bowles.

It begins like a bad joke: “A Moslem, a Jew, and a Christian were sitting in a café…” There is no punchline though. It’s a very serious little tale. It’s short – about one single page – but it posits questions about the very nature of our existence on this planet. And that’s quite a trick on Boulaich’s part.

The selection:

You have to have the right clothes, the Christian told them. I always wear a jacket and a tie.

Let’s go and see, said the other two.

They started out, and when they got close to Heaven, the Moslem and the Jew stopped walking, and the Christian kept going until he reached the door of Heaven.

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