(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The story begins with a description of the Professor (who is not named) being transported by bus to Ain Tadouirt, a town in eastern Morocco. The Professor had spent three days in the town ten years previously, during which time he had established a friendship with a café keeper named Hassan Ramani. The driver asks the Professor if he is a geologist, and the Professor tells him that he is a linguist “making a survey of variations on Moghrebi” dialects. The Moghrebi are a people who live in a region in Africa north of the Sahara.

When the Professor arrives in the town, he visits the café and is told by the waiter that his friend Hassan Ramani is now “deceased.” This same waiter—whose tone of voice is insolent and whose face takes on a look of anger when the Professor inquires about getting camel-udder boxes—agrees, for a price, to take the Professor to the place from which he can “get camel-udder boxes if there are any.”

When they arrive at the place, the waiter-guide tells the Professor that he must proceed ahead alone. The Professor pays him fifty francs and dismisses him. Then, after experiencing mingled feelings of fear of what dangers might lie ahead for him on the desolate road and relief that the guide did not play a trick on him, he starts down the path, which leads into what looks like a quarry. As soon as he reaches the bottom, he is attacked by a wild dog, and while the dog is unrelentingly tearing at him, he experiences the sensation of something “cold and metallic . . . pushed brutally against his spine.” It is at this point that an echo of a phrase or maxim that the Professor has heard in many shops and marketplaces in town reverberates in...

(The entire section is 693 words.)