The last journey Annemarie made before returning to Switzerland in the summer of 1942, was to Tétouan, Morocco.
In The Buoyancy of the Craft I wrote that …...the outcome of her stay in Tétouan is quite different from what she imagined it would be. With a newly opened heart, she loves this land. She writes several articles while she is there. She and Claude enjoy each other’s company so much that they decide they will renew their life together. She will go back to Switzerland as she has intended, make arrangements to buy the house in Sils – and there is more writing to do. And in the autumn, she will come back to Morocco and join Claude there.
...In one of the last articles she writes in Morocco, L'heure d'or/The Golden Hour, her mind is on farewells and partings ... But the sadness of farewells, she says, is mixed with other feelings too. The love we feel for the people or places we are leaving are closely connected with those emotions very close to sadness – joy and delight.
From The Golden Hour (in Annemarie Schwarzenbach, La Quête du Réel – Editors Dominique Laure Miermont and Nicole Le Bris), my translation.
An evening walk on my own to one of the foothills of the mountains, on the other side of Tétouan and the valley of Rio Martin. Of all the splendid spots that Morocco offers, that one is my favourite. I did not have much time. It was already late, it was the golden hour of the sun. Walking quickly I crossed the valley floor, the prairies dotted with horses, then the fields, and followed the river; I was captivated by the scene in front of me, flocks returning to their pens, trotting donkeys, turbaned horsemen, springs, and groves of trees.
Crossing the greenery of former gardens and following the course of a dried river bed, I climbed up in the deep and silent shadow towards the distant glow of the slope at the end of the dip in the path. I had only taken this path once before. But the memory was vivid, of the moment when I had emerged from the cool penumbra, that abrupt entry into the flood of warm light. Then, a mixture of surprise and profound well-being had swept into me, and the same feeling again took possession of me in that moment. You could say there was nothing special about this slope, it was yellow and bare, with a few spiny plants and small stones scattered around; some sheep grazed leisurely, a horse whinnied, a stinging wind blew from the overhanging cliffs of grey rock. The peak which rose above the pile of fallen rocks towards the luminous sky was shaped like the Mythen [mountain peaks in the canton of Schwyz, near the lake of the Four-Cantons - Eds] and it was turning silver, haloed with light, as happens in summer, at the end of a radiant day when a wave of light has just rinsed the horizon. But a feeling took hold of me, an abrupt wave of happiness, a recollection from the past. I drank in the golden air and closed my eyes to let it flow into the depths of my heart, and when I opened my eyes again, the vision, the surge of light, was still there.
What was it that moved me so much? Was it the farewell? Or perhaps a memory – but which one? For I can recall many other visions, the Lataband in the distance, the summits of the Hindu Kush, the hills of Thysville, the great spaces of the Congo and of Persia, Kurdistan or Lebanon, the shore of a lake, and those mountain slopes of the country of my birth – and they were always moments both of farewell and reunion, of tumultuous joy and a mood of melancholy: what is the secret of the golden hours?
I followed the dream-like thread of my memory. And it took me back along old pathways always following the same voice, which sounded like the echo of an emotion, of both grief and joy. Joy, I thought, is imperishable, and suffering merely the reminder of Beauty, whose reflections we catch in fleeting images, and love resurfaces in us each time the vision of a similar beauty claims our attention. We so much want to hold onto it and never be separated again. And so it seeps into our heart and creates a memory, a personal place of belonging, one that we both dream of returning to, and will in the end, reach again. And the farewells which I have to make now, they are nothing, nothing……
A photograph of Annemarie in Morocco in June 1942 shows her sitting on the wide trunk of a fallen tree, dressed in white shirt and trousers. She sits next to a large flowering bush and part of her body is in its shade. Her eyes are closed, drinking in the sunlight. The sun must be low in the sky. It feels like evening. There are dappled shadows on her right arm and clear chiaroscuro on her face.
My dearest...my heart was so heavy when I saw your boat moving away from the quay at Ceuta...I’m now going to count the days until October and I will despair if anything happens to delay your journey in the autumn to Tetouan...I need you in the air that I breathe.
Claude Clarac wrote this in a letter to Annemarie, just after she left.
If there was a sense of premonition present in the words penned by Annemarie in her article, and Claude in his letter, it could be put down to the fact that a war was going on in Europe and so any plans could be subject to disruption. The future could not be foreseen, never mind counted on.
But with hindsight, the depth of feeling in the farewells and the fears that their future reunion was delicately balanced on the hinges of destructive conflict – bombings from the air, the minefields of the ocean, the land invasions – could well have been because they were touched by the shadow of future events.
I’m going to post here soon, what I’ve written about the last part of Annemarie’s life.