Homemade twig pens stand like off-duty soldiers in a jar on Boubacar Sadeck’s worktable. The morning sun steals into a room stuffed with a jumble of papers, ink bottles and stretched animal hides. He sits thoughtfully before a blank sheet of paper, with several old manuscripts — the color of dark tea and covered with Arabic script — open at his side. Occasionally a breeze wafts in and playfully flicks one of the old brown pages to the floor. Copying the words of ancient scholars in elegant Arabic calligraphy makes Sadeck feel close to heaven.

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