Saturday, August 02, 2008


{Photos by rocketlass.}

From "Exterminate All the Brutes", by Sven Lindqvist (1992, translated into English in 1996 by Joan Tate)
The hotel is embedded in drifting sand, alone by a deserted road across a deserted plain. I plod out into the deep sand. The sun hammers down relentlessly. The light is as blinding as darkness. The air against my face is like thin ice crackling. . . . I tape the map up on the wall and consider the distances. It is 170 miles to the nearest oasis in the West, Reggane. It is 240 miles of desert road to the nearest oasis in the north, El Golea, from which I have just come. It is 250 miles as the crow flies to the nearest oasis in the east, Bordj Omar Driss. It is 400 miles to the nearest oasis in the south, Tamanrasset. It is 600 miles as the crow flies to the nearest sea, the Mediterranean, and 800 miles as the crow flies to the nearest river, the Niger. It is 900 miles to the sea in the west. Eastward the sea is so far away, it doesn't matter.

Every time I see the distances surrounding me, every time I realize that here, at the zero point of the desert, is where I am, a stab of delight goes through my body. That is why I stay.

Appropriately timed for this boiling hot August weekend, the newest issue of the New York Moon, on a desert theme, hit the Internet yesterday. Along with some original, desert-inspired music; an investigation (with audio) of singing sands; articles on New York food and water; and some great illustrations; this issue includes a couple of contributions from me: a brief piece on two of J. G. Ballard's world-destruction novels, The Drought and The Drowned World, as well as a trawl through the more arid and sandy reaches of my library, capped by a short story that forms part of a longer work perpetually in progress.

From The History, by Herodotus, translated by George Campbell Macauley
This however is added to the story by the Ammonians themselves:--they say that as the army was going from this Oasis through the sandy desert to attack them, and had got to a point about mid-way between them and the Oasis while they were taking their morning meal a violent South Wind blew upon them, and bearing with it heaps of the desert sand it buried them under it, and so they disappeared and were seen no more.

I recommend enjoying the New York Moon with a tall, glistening glass of iced tea, while sitting in the shade. Perhaps while wearing a pith helmet.

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