[In 1953 Gregor von Rezzori published a fictional satire of an anonymous East European/Near Eastern land he called Maghrebinia. Here is an excerpt that is still poignant today…]

“I am about to report on the great and glorious country Maghrebinia. You won’t find it on a map, it isn’t in any atlas or on any globe. There are people who say it lies in southeast Europe, others like to think it is southeast Europe, but, for heaven’s sake, what is southeast Europe? … Of course pedantic people might make an effort to define the borders of Maghrebinia geographically and vaguely, but just these pedants would get it all wrong. For Maghrebinia’s true borders lie in the hearts and souls of its people, and pedants don’t know the first thing about the hearts and souls of people…”

“Maghrebinia is beautiful. The sky is strewn with myriads of sparkling stars and is redolent with the perfume of roses and mutton fat. The ether pulsates with the eternal chirping of gypsy fiddles and the rhythmic clapping of blows administered to the rumps of recalcitrant asses and disobedient wives. It is a country of a thousand idioms, but only one language. the judicious language of wise hearts, replete with garlic. The many different tribes and nationalities of Maghrebinia therefore live together in harmony, especially since a wise administration knows how to relieve all normal national tensions by the expediency of frequent pogroms. Up to the recent ouster of its last monarch, Nikifor XIV, the house of Karakriminalovitch ruled the state. The administration of the various provinces was in the hands of numerous gospodars and kaimakams (i.e., deputies of the king). Maghrebinia has in the meantime chosen a progressive form of government — democracy. A swarm of politicians scramble for administrative positions like a litter of blind sucklings for the fat nipples of a sow. Since they relieve each other frequently, they promote the general welfare when they further their own…”

“In the solitude of the Maghrebinian mountains a shepherd grew up and was a paragon of virtue. His name was Petrakje Lupu and he was a shepherd in Maglawit. One day, while he was tending his sheep, God spoke to him from a thorn bush, as he did to Moses in the grove of Horeb. And the shepherd Petrakje Lupu fell on his face and adored Him. From then on he spoke the language of prophecy and the people came in droves from far and wide to hear him. He performed miracles and healed the sick and the ailing by the touch of his hand and the strength of his faith.”

”One day he was bathing in the river when two ladies from Metropolsk came to see him. Both of them carried a sorrow in their hearts. They waited on the banks of the river for him to finish bathing. After they had waited long enough, the shepherd Petrakje Lupu emerged from the water. And he was naked. He was ashamed of his genitals, so he took his katshula (his sheepskin cap) off his head and held it in front of them. The two ladies from Metropolsk approached, and one of them said to him, ‘Place your hand on my heart, oh Petrakje Lupu, so that its grief may be cured.’ And Petrakje Lupu, the shepherd of Maglawit, placed on of his hands on her heart and she held it close and pressed it against her heart. When the other lady from Metropolsk saw this, she said to the shepherd, ‘Place your hand on my heart also, oh Petrakje Lupu, pious shepherd, so that its grief may be cured.’”

“But Petrakje Lupu, shepherd of Maglawit, did not want to let go of his katshula and reveal his genitals. So he closed his eyes and prayed fervently to God. And lo, God performed a miracle: Petrakje Lupu, the shepherd, raised his other hand and laid it on the heart of the other lady of Metropolsk. But the katshula stayed in its place.

”When the fame of the pious shepherd Petrakje Lupu of Maglawit had spread throughout the world, the scientists of the West came to see him, in order to explain his miracles naturally and comprehensively to everyone. They examined him according to the progressive methods of the West and said, “He is nothing but a fool. We’ll take him with us and cure him of his delusions.” So they took Petrakje Lupu, the shepherd of Magalwit, to the sanatoriums of the West and treated him there for many years. The most erudite scientists came in droves to try out their knowledge on him. Finally, after years had gone by, they considered him cured and asked him, ‘Shepherd Petrakje Lupu of Maglawit, do you still believe that you have seen God face to face and that He chose you to be His prophet?’ Whereupon Petrakje Lupu, the shepherd of Maglawit, replied, ‘I did believe once that I had seen God face to face and that He had chosen me to be His prophet. But since I have been with you, and the greatest men have paid attention to men, I do not believe any longer that I am God’s prophet. Now I believe that I am God Himself.’”

“So much for the miracle men of the great and glorious country of Maghrebinia.”

[Excerpts from Gregor von Rezzori, Tales of Maghrebinia, New York, Harcourt, Brace & World, 1962.]