François Beaune wants your (true) story. Your Mediterranean story, in whatever language (French, Arabic, Hebrew, English, Spanish… the Med is a melting pot of languages too) you choose.
Inspired by American writer Paul Auster's 2001 compendium of NPR radio stories, published as True Tales of American Life, Beaune has enlisted the city of Marseille – European culture capital in 2013 – and his publisher Editions le bec en l'air in an inspired project: collect stories from thirteen Mediterranean cities from Barcelona to Tangier to Haifa to Palermo, in the language of the storyteller's choice.
HistoiresVraies.net has published our true Tangier story, The American Diplomat in Tangier Who Saved Jews in Budapest, the story of wartime Legation Chargé d'Affaires J. Rives Childs and his intervention with the Spanish occupation authorities, which we uncovered last year after years of its languishing in the archives. This kind of story is compelling, and not just for our museum visitors or library researchers: last month Spanish prime time TV aired the story of a Spanish diplomat, Ángel Sanz Briz, El Ángel de Budapest, who saved thousands of Jews.
Yesterday at Tangier's venerable-but-trendily-updated Librairie des Colonnes, Beaune enthralled the audience with his description of the project – "I have the best job in the world, travelling across the Mediterranean, listening to people's stories." 2012-2013 is his "raw material" stage. To get our storytelling juices flowing, he recounted a wonderful tale from a French woman who had traveled to Spain in the days immediately after dictator Francisco Franco's death in 1975. A gripping lost traveler's tale transformed into an uncanny insight into the fear of living in a police state.
François Beaune says "we don't all have a novel in us, but everyone has a true story to share." He has chosen his Moroccan Mediterranean city well; Tangier has stories on so many levels. Tangier International Zone. Tangier the city forgotten by King Hassan II. Tangier the freewheeling city of the Beat Generation. Tangier, Boom Town. Tangier-As-Casablanca (the movie).
One level that would perhaps otherwise be ignored would be stories by people who cannot write them, people who are struggling with illiteracy. TALIM's women's literacy program includes hundreds of medina women who are either current students or who have graduated newly literate over the last thirteen years.
We've introduced François Beaune and the Histoires Vraies de Méditerranée team to our women, and are hopeful that, like the American NGO Stories Exchange, we can get our medina neighbors to share their stories.
The story of the Mediterranean will be all the richer for it.