Selectionnez une rubrique, un article ou un numéro du GUIDO
Registering complaints, drawing up judicial documents or house letting leases, drafting administrative letters or writing love letters and proffering advice, public letter-writers are in great demand by numerous citizens; they have good times ahead in spite of the sometimes prevailing electronic mail.
They find it hard to make ends meet, they sometimes have no real command of the translation into foreign languages but, at least, they exist! They are not simply letter-writers: because of their training on the job, they are also able to proffer any kind of advice. Computer proficient, qualified assistants, translators…this job is in full development. There are still some left in Essaouira, several of them gathered on the little square that adjoins Massira Street at the northern exit of the town. Customers here may be more numerous than elsewhere; they often come from the neighbouring countryside where illiteracy is more common.
A tiny office that has seen better days, an old typewriter and a computer just as old, an ashtray and tea glasses. To kill the time, the writers enjoy a cigarette or exchange a newspaper in Arabic. There is no administrative control over them: the authorisations to this trade are passed from father to son! Though they often have a school leaving certificate, they do not master either French, English or another language and they keep referring customers to one stall or another.
The first public letter-writers were the “talbas”, the men who knew the Koran by heart and who then sometimes went on studying. Sometimes customers come one after the other, they wait, chatting in a low voice and exchanging news while the public letter-writer is taking notes, listening attentively to what problem his male or female customer is exposing for all to hear, showing some papers to him or her then putting them back into a little plastic bag and carrying on his muffled conversation.
All documents don’t cost the same: the public letter-writer has a rate scale going from 25 to 150DH, sometimes to 200DH. It all depends on the length of the letter, therefore on the quantity of paper and of ink used but also on the time it takes to write the letter and especially on the intellectual effort invested into it. The necessary skills require knowing how to listen to people, how to transcribe their request in black and white, how to express coherently in appropriate administrative, judicial or amorous words what they are saying.
While there will be letters to write, public letter-writers will go on existing, here like elsewhere in the world!