The US Consulate has put the burden of helping American novelist captive in Muslim, Morocco on the Catholic Church
A perfect example of how “life imitates art”: The writer Roman Payne first became known internationally with the publication of “The Wanderess” in 2013. The hero of the book, a traveler and adventurer named Saul, has a price on his head in Libya. Incidentally, the author of “The Wanderess” has also just become a “wanted man” in North Africa.
Roman Payne—an American by birth—is being detained indefinitely by the government in Morocco where his US passport has been confiscated by their authorities.
The event happened after a civil dispute in court that was dismissed. Following the dispute, Payne was invited (convoqué) to visit the Préfacture of Police of Marrakech for three different interviews where the police inquired, during the first two, about his activities in the country. The reason for the third interview was unclear to Payne. Some words in Arabic were exchanged between the police and then Payne was escorted on the back of a motorbike by one of the officers to the “Cour d’Appel” (appellate court). There, he was interrogated for 15 minutes in a small room by two men in business attire. Payne did not learn the roles of these officials since he reported having not understood half of what was said in the room (Payne is fluent in French but does not speak Arabic and the conversations in the room were reportedly half in Arabic). Following the interrogation, one of the officials said that Payne’s passport was to be taken so that he could not leave the kingdom; and that “his case would be reviewed” in the coming months. They did not encourage him to seek an attorney.
One would expect the US to immediately intervene on behalf of their citizen held captive abroad, but instead, the US Consulate is refusing support, stating that such intervention should be handled by the Catholic Church.
The Catholic Church responded to this insistence with outrage and denied any responsibility whatsoever with helping Payne with his political situation in North Africa. The Colombian-born official of the Catholic Church stationed in Morocco told Payne that “Affairs regarding American-citizens held captive in Muslim countries are politics that concern the American government only, and not the Catholic Church.”
The US did not respond to this statement but proposed that the Moroccan government and Payne should work together to resolve his forced-exile in their country. The single gesture they made to help Payne was to supply him with a list of “Suggested Attorneys in Morocco to assist Americans with foreign affairs.” Payne interviewed all of the Marrakech-based attorneys recommended to him by his consulate and was disappointed by the United States’ apparently haphazard methods of selecting council for Americans abroad, especially in Muslim countries where international relations with the US range from tedious to utterly chaotic. “These lawyers were inept and confused,” he said. One attorney did not even know why he was on their list. “They put me on that list a long time ago. I am not sure why,” he told Payne.
While the US government had washed their hands of the affair, the writer continued his struggle with the Moroccan government. This week he met with Samir Merzouki, a Moroccan official working in foreign relations, who received him cordially and was sympathetic to his situation. Merzouki invited the writer to discuss the matter personally over coffee. He was shocked by the United States’ lack of involvement in a matter such as this. He said that he had great respect for America and was impressed by their tremendous global power, wealth, and influence. “Why they do not use their influence to help their citizens in peril abroad is dumbfounding,” he said.
As the matter stands today, Payne is still without representation or council, and his government is making no further attempts to remedy this. His passport is still in the possession of the Moroccan authorities and he is forbidden to leave the kingdom. He is now living in asylum on the outskirts of Marrakech.
I am thankful for all of the photos I have received from women around the world who tattoo words from my books and poems, or simply inscribe the title of my novel The Wanderess anywhere from their breasts to their dimples of Venus; or on their wrists, ankles, and toes.
A special ‘Thank You’ to this young woman (below) who sent me this testimony of her body’s permanent appreciation of my art. I only hope that she doesn’t grow to hate me before her skin withers from age and dies.
…In any case, by tattooing my words on your delicate self, I am obliged to love you for your entire life, you realize… to answer all of your letters (though otherwise I almost never answer readers’ letters [simply because I am lazy]). Yet now, I am obliged, you understand, to treat you always with profound kindness, replying with courtesy to every message you send me. For I would never forgive myself if a woman started to hate one of her body parts because she found out just how selfish, idle and monstrous the author of her tattoo is in real life. So for you, My Loves, I will offer my eternal affection, and I will pretend that I am a good person – God forbid you should learn that my soul is dirty and I am only “slightly” better than the Devil.
COMMENTS FOR ROMAN PAYNE? PLEASE FILL OUT THE FORM BELOW:
Very few novels are published with titles like: ‘The Portrait of an Artist as a Young Woman.’ While writers of coming-of-age novels about young men have a well-worn, established path to follow in the centuries-old genre of the: “Bildungsroman.” This German word, made popular by writers such as Goethe, refers to a “tale of initiation” where a boy, through worldly experience—usually involving solitary travel—becomes a mature man who is successful in the world. Female initiation tales in novels are much more rare, and when we do see them, they almost never involve solitary travel. A girl who has travelled alone has always risked experiencing social taboos—and still does, even in our “enlightened” 21st Century.
But a “girl travelling alone” is the subject and setting of the story in Roman Payne’s new novel, The Wanderess, which was published this month (November 2013) chez Aesthete Press. The Wanderess—Payne coined the word “wanderess” as the feminine form of “wanderer”—tells the story of “Saskia,” who begins the novel as a girl, and finishes as a young woman. Upon the death of her family, she inherits an income which allows her complete independence throughout her teenage years. This income far from consoles her. As she doesn’t need to work, nor aspire to the ambitions her—no longer living—family expects of her, she must ask herself: “what we are alive for?”… Her temporary answer is to search for the best friend she had while at boarding school in London, who now could be anywhere in Europe.
Like any great novel, there is a great romance. It begins when Saskia’s life gets tangled with the life of an adventurer (Saul), whose pursuit of pleasure and fortune gets tangled with the quest of this “Wanderess” for her long-lost friend and her own fortune. From the back cover description: “The two find themselves on a picaresque path that leads them through Spain, France, Italy and beyond; their adventures weaving them deeper and deeper into a web of jealous passion, intrigue, betrayal, and finally, murder.”
Payne admits that writing this, his fifth novel, wasn’t easy: “I already wrote a novel of initiation [Cities and Countries] about a young man’s solitary travels, adventures, and his coming-of-age; but The Wanderess is my first book where the hero is female. I obviously have no life experience in that role, yet the women who have read the advanced copies are unanimously positive. They expressed their delight and say that Saskia is lovable, convincing, and a highly-successful character.
About the Author: Roman Payne, born January 31, 1977 in Seattle, USA, is an American expatriate literary-fiction novelist. He left America in 1999 and currently lives in Paris. His novels are highly poetic, romantic and literary. They focus on the lives of dreamers and wanderers who travel (usually throughout Europe) looking for the meaning of their lives and of the world. You can meet him on Instagram at: @novelistromanpayne, join him on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/novelistromanpayne, or follow his blog at: https://novelistromanpayne.wordpress.com.
“Mr. Payne, your new novel, The Love of Europa, was just partially published – that is, the first 13 chapters were released to give readers a taste for what to expect. Do you intend to serial publish more of the book? Or will the next release be the entire book?”
Roman Payne: It will be the entire book, it should come out this summer. I have to finish writing it first, though.
William Sheller: It is an amazing beginning, I have to say. Personally, I enjoyed reading those first 70 or so pages more than anything you’ve ever written. I like it even more than The Wanderess, which some people believed would be your masterpiece, and perhaps your final work.
RP: Did they think I would drop dead? Or just take up watercolours instead of writing? …No, but I see what you mean. I hesitated to start a book after writing The Wanderess because I was worried that I couldn’t outdo The Wanderess. I thought that was the best writing I was capable of, and I didn’t want to make a slipshod performance to follow it.
WS: Well The Love of Europa is anything but slipshod! It is a beautiful story, beautifully written, and it will find a large market because it speaks primarily to “young women who love to travel.” And there are a lot of young women who love to travel, and those who love to travel tend to have the time to read a lot.
RP: Yes, well like all my books, it is written for the wanderers of the world.
WS: That is something I wanted to ask you… your thoughts on travel vs. wandering. May I print the first paragraph of The Love of Europa so people reading this can see what I’m talking about?
RP: Be my guest.
WS: You wrote: “She called herself Europa, and wandered the world from girlhood till death. She lived every kind of life and dreamt every kind of dream. She was wild in her wandering, a drop of free water. She believed only in her life and in her dreams. She called herself Europa, and her god was Beauty.”
RP: Do you like it?
WS: It’s excellent. You are like a classical composer who reuses bits of his own melodies in multiple symphonies. You take one of your quotes – one of your “wanderess” quotes, for example – and spin it into a new phrase, into a new literary quote, into a new poem.
RP: If you hit on something you like, why not create variations on that theme?
WS: Exactly. But my question here is about your use of the word “wandering” and “wandered” (“she was wild in her wandering”)… doesn’t wandering mean, sort of, walking about aimlessly!
RP: Not at all! (He punches the table)
RP: You know, “wandering” is the major theme of both my life and my work – and they are the same thing. Let me find something in my manuscript for The Love of Europa that I wrote to explain this. Somebody else asked me what “wandering” really means, and why I don’t use the word “travelling” instead. And I’ll tell you why. I wrote this to explain to that person why I use “wander” and not travel”; and then I thought, you know, a lot of people reading The Love of Europa are going to have this question, so I decided to include this paragraph in the book:
The word “travel” comes from the Old French word “travail” (or “travailler”), which means “to work, to labor; a suffering or painful effort, an arduous journey, a tormenting experience.” (“Travel,” thus, is “a painful and laborious journey”). Whereas “to wander” comes from the West Germanic “wandran,” which simply means “to roam about.” There is no labor or torment in “wandering.” There is only “roaming.” Wandering is the activity of the child, the passion of the genius; it is the discovery of the self, the discovery of the outside world, and the learning of how the self is both at one with and separate from the outside world. These discoveries are as fundamental to the soul as “learning to survive” is fundamental to the body. These discoveries, Dear Reader, are essential to realizing what it means to be human. To wander is to be alive.
“She was a free bird one minute: queen of the world and laughing. The next minute she would be in tears like a porcelain angel, about to teeter, fall and break. She never cried because she was afraid that something ‘would’ happen; she would cry because she feared something that could render the world more beautiful, ‘would not’ happen.”
Amazon.com: the world’s largest bookstore and literature’s most powerful decision-maker. They seem to have now assumed the position of the Minister of Cultural and Judge of Public Decency… but is this business powerhouse capable of justice in the domain of Art & Culture? It appears so, as they have just banished a work of literature from their Kindle Store with the accusation that it is “Erotica”
France-based, American literary-fiction author, Roman Payne, and his publisher, Aesthete Press, have been tried, judged, and convicted in the past few days, (without defense permissible), of publishing a novel of “Erotica.” The content of the novel, which critics agree is nowhere near erotic, is not the question. The question is the cover of the book, which displays two identical naked representations (sculptures) of a nude woman. This cover is hardly racy compared to other books that Amazon categorizes as “Classics,” “Literary-Fiction” or others of a more respected nature.
Amazon’s Kindle team has already condemned his novel, The Wanderess, to the category of “Erotica.” And they refuse to budge. Up until today, the book was available on Kindle with an Adult-Warning” attached. Now, the Kindle book is no longer for sale anywhere on Amazon.
Payne who comments, “I have absolutely nothing against Erotica, although it is not my art. I am a literary-fiction author, pure and simple,” declares that he refuses to be listed on Amazon or anywhere else under the heading “Erotica.” Amazon responded to this refusal in writing to tell him that he has no choice: “The cover image of your book contains mature content, and therefore won’t surface in our general product search,” they wrote, and added that if he couldn’t accept the label of “Erotica,” he would be forced to be removed from Amazon’s Kindle Store.
“The damage has already been done,” wrote Payne before today’s removal, “My publisher and I have been refused on multiple occasions, (and I have written proof of this), to have my novel publicized by press agencies on the basis that these agencies ‘will not publicize erotica.’ These missed opportunities have cost me a lot. […] What I expect for the near-future? I will refuse the label of “Erotica” and my book will be removed from Kindle, and possibly from Amazon USA altogether.”
Just what is acceptable in 2014 to show to citizens of all ages when it comes to art? Of course there are modern modes of flagrant expression that should be reserved for adults. But what about the classics? Marble sculptures of nudes, for example… for one, they are not photographicnudes, but only artistic representations; secondly, they have to be shown to all people in real life (for the very reason that these sculptures are in public gardens, public squares, public museums)? Why are these same sculptures not allowed on the covers of mainstream books?
Novelist, Roman Payne—who emigrated to France in 1999 and has ever since lived in Paris—had high hopes for The Wanderess (his fifth novel), which he considers “his first great masterpiece.” The Wanderess is a poetic, literary-fiction love-story about “two lost souls” vagabonding in Europe where they search for a mysterious “fortune” as well as things they’ve lost in this world. Payne, who before finding success as a novelist worked as a graphic designer, used a marble statue of a nude woman as a model to create an extremely compelling book cover. The finished cover doesn’t show frontal nudity, and it doesn’t show full backside nudity (the buttocks are concealed and an arm conceals the breasts).
“Amazon’s decision not only surprised me, it blew my mind completely!” said Payne, “I’ve always tried to ignore the puritanical label people put on America. In France, where I live, nudity showing the naked breasts and backsides of women are used in the posters that advertise health & beauty products on the windows of pharmacies and perfumeries. And this is real-body nudity—not representations such as sculpture. Yes, I was and am mystified by Amazon’s reaction.” A curious coincidence is that Payne and Amazon have a reason to share similar values: they are both from Seattle.
Payne and his publisher are asking for readers opinion of this. Please log-in to the active discussion at culturalbook.com. Payne is also happy to provide interviews on the subject. To request an interview, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last day to download my old “roman libertin” Rooftop Soliloquy for Free (Kindle version rated #2 Bestseller, category Urban Literature”)… also at the same time, pick up “The Wanderess” for Kindle for $3 (Tomorrow it goes back to 10!)…