Somewhere in a remote region of the Sahara desert, there still hides a Queen and her servants, taking refuge inside caves. She’s a well-educated beaut...moreSomewhere in a remote region of the Sahara desert, there still hides a Queen and her servants, taking refuge inside caves. She’s a well-educated beautiful woman, a polyglot …yet, for men seeking after her charms, she’s fatal; she is queen Antinea, the sovereign of the “Hoggar”. You’re in the Blad-el-Khouf: the country of the fear.
She is the last descendant of Atlantis´ kings lineage; the offspring of Neptune and Clito. It’s written in the book of Benoit that, though sinking, Atlantis center isle didn’t submerge; it’s now surrounded by insurmountable mountains: only this oasis was left after the Sahara Sea dried out…9,000 years ago.
The book is about the story of two military men who have been there. Morhange and Saint-Avit. The latter manages to escape the hide-out; but is found moribund in the desert, by a caravan. While in hospital, in a delirious state, he utters incomprehensible phrases like “it’s the number 54!!!”. Officers say that there’s no hope of finding Morhange. What really happened to him?
Saint-Avit returned to Paris. It’s 1914. He tries to forget about the experience. While in a café, midst the jazz tunes, he recalls the veiled-Queen.
On the 1st of May he’s back in the extreme south of the Sahara desert; he’s been appointed as commander of the post. This time he wants to go it alone…through the “great solitudes…and magic horizons”.
At the post he tells the story he’s been part of with Morhange. How they found out the palace… the strange tifinar (Tuareg) inscriptions;
how they got imprisoned, separately, inside the palace; how Morhange got received by the queen; and the jealousy of Saint Avit. How they were introduced in the red marble room: where golden statues of the men of the Queen stand. An archivist has told them: “they died of love”. Only one escaped, but even that one returned. Suicide, or craziness or opium can explain their deaths. Who shall become the 54th? or the 55th?
This review is partly based on the silent movie by Jacques Feyder (L’Atlantide) of 1921. As for the book, I would like to make a short commentary about the polemics (court-case) which involved Benoit: did he plagiarize H. R. Haggard (especially from the novel Ayesha)? It’s been said that Benoit didn’t read English nor did he have any Ayesha’s novel published in France by his time. However, in the book there are plenty of English references, like:
«Je ne me souviendrai jamais sans émotion de mes dix-neuvième et vingtième années, époque où je liquidai complètement ce petit héritage. Londres était véritablement alors une ville adorable. Je m'étais arrangé une très aimable garçonnière dans Piccadilly. Piccadilly! Shops, palaces, bustle and breeze, The whirling of wheels, and the murmur of trees."
"Sur le mur, près de la fenêtre, avec son canif, il écrivait dans la pierre quelque chose. Regarde, ça se voit encore. Was it not Fate, that, on this July midnight..."
Thus, he had to understand some English. And he lost the case.
Interestingly, in the library of Queen Antinea, Morhange and Saint Avit found many books; they browsed through them: one was Don Qijote…the other was Macbeth. Plus: Plato's Critias.
At least they (Haggard and Benoit) shared something: this taste for the adventurous and the exotic, and they were good at making it live,….through words. Erudite, as some of his characters,Benoit made it well. (less)
The younger brother of Christopher Columbus speaks,...he says about the Hispañola Island (*): he himself and brother didn't discover paradise,Bible's,...moreThe younger brother of Christopher Columbus speaks,...he says about the Hispañola Island (*): he himself and brother didn't discover paradise,Bible's,...but got close to it.
(One of the three maplets, or map sketches, attributed to Bartholomew Columbus showing the new discoveries “attached to Asia”, also shown is western Africa)
(A re-drawing of all three map sketches illustrating Columbus’ view of the world)
Bartolomeo recounts the inflamed church sermons of Frei[Friar] Antonio Montesinos: in defense of the native Indians,victims of exploitation. And there's this man who travelled with Colombo in his second voyage (1493) to the New World: Bartolomeo de las Casas. Both Bartolomeos talk about the Discoveries and the cruelty it brought to the Island.
It's 1511,Christmas time. The Bartolomeos try to find the answer to the problem in the Bible.Columbus and his brother used to read a chapter of the Book every Sunday, back in Lisbon.
Oh Lisbon! once, so great you were...!
It seems all started in Lisbon,Bartolomeo recalls. He had spent childhood in Genova,Italy,with his brother. Mother Susana had arranged them to attend the worst school in the place; a school where Bartolomeo was educated in the "Holy Ignorance" spirit- the religious one...the one that made Bartolomeo think for some time that the Earth was flat.
(The “Columbus map” which perhaps was drawn by Christopher Columbus and his brother Bartolomeo in Lisbon around 1490 before the discovery of the New World, showing the known world in their time)
And then 1469: he arrives to Lisbon, and with some difficulty and luck gets a job in the office of the great Cartographer Andrea. This one will open his eyes in what concerns geography knowledge.Andrea teaches Bartolomeo: Erastotenes, Hiparco of Niceia and the Jew Abraham Cresques (author of the Catalan Atlas). Bartolomeu goes through rebellion feelings towards his previous education. He still remembers with some jealousy back in Genova: "Christopher's only interest was his Enterprise [of the Indies] and everybody cared only about Christopher".
In Lisbon, it´s a new vision of the world,timid Bartolomeo develops: Earth as a sphere.
(The "Colombus map" was drawn circa 1490 in the workshop of Bartolomeo and Christopher Columbus in Lisbon)
In the city there's so much agitation and people rush constantly to see the ships arriving; like that one that brought a rhinoceros; what a creature from another world! A mix of animal and rock...a beast not created by God,says a priest in his church: an entity issued from a "hole in time"; let's burn it!! And then the crowd wants more: a fight! the rhinoceros versus an elephant in a public plaza; it seems the rhino charged...the elephant got away,...and later, with rhino tusks, a business thrived for a short while: the magic virility tusks...powder.
I won't resist quoting Erik Orsenna vision of the Portuguese:"Inhabitants of a lovely country,and so tempered,sometimes too quiet, the Portuguese could not avoid falling in love with the wild life". Correct.
After the rhinos came the turtles and the leprosy remedies; and there's this feverish endeavor to name (in Portuguese!no savage syllables allowed!) all the wild species imported; so, "mogno" for a tree, and "lamantin" for a kind of seal, and so on.
The King expressly instituted an Academy of Translation. Yes,Italian/Genovese Bartolomeo was witnessing these manoeuvres in Portuguese land.Bartolomeu learned that the Lie is daughter of the Truth...and at the Cartographer's he understands why two kinds of maps are being made: the true ones for the King and the false ones to fool the enemies.
In 1473 he receives one visitor: red-hair brother Christopher,so busy, it's been years, voyaging through the Atlantic Ocean. Bartolomeu now is no more a child; Christopher mocks about the maps of Andrea and is obsessed with the "Journey Around"...;and reveals a true faith in the stars,the sea currents and the winds; it's a brief encounter; Bartolomeu felt the older brother,the wizard of his childhood, wanted to hire him.
(*)A major island in the Caribbean, containing the two sovereign states of the Dominican Republic and Haiti.(less)
China's revolution. Chen's sacrifice. ...And never to forget that Malraux was a friend of Borodin,sent by Stalin,or the Komintern, to tutelage the comm...moreChina's revolution. Chen's sacrifice. ...And never to forget that Malraux was a friend of Borodin,sent by Stalin,or the Komintern, to tutelage the communist movement in China.(less)
Istambul,....Turkey,....how timely* a novel on that area....
To many, Michelangelo, Italian painter,poet,sculptor and architect had always had that...more
Istambul,....Turkey,....how timely* a novel on that area....
To many, Michelangelo, Italian painter,poet,sculptor and architect had always had that allure as the Master-artist of the Renaissance, notwithstanding the fecund rivalry vis-a-vis another illustrious contemporary one: Leonardo Da Vinci.A Master too.
But the present book is about the former. Contrary to expectations of a sedentary M (contrasting with a Leonardo often “moving” throughout Italy), it seems that the supreme artist made a quick visit to Turkey, by invitation of a Sultan, for the purpose of the construction of a bridge.
(Golden Horn (center and right))
That’s the main plot arrangement of the book of Énard who visited Portugal recently [see interview in Publico, 31st of May 2013]. In an interview, he made interesting considerations about that time (Renaissance),the Zeitgeist and his book .
1-Mathias Énard is a French writer/author and translator; he studied Persian and Arabic, and for several years he lived in the Middle East.He revealed an enormous fascination for the Mediterranean: quite apparent in his previous novels, namely in Zona. “What fascinates me in the Mediterranean Sea is the relation of its peoples with destruction [and rebirth,my expression]”, he said. He gives the example of Granada: destroyed by the Catholic monarchy, in a time when Jews and Muslims got expelled since they didn’t want to convert to Christianity. But it was reborn in another form in Istambul, defends the writer: because the Sultan welcomed all these persecuted peoples. Presently, Énard lectures Arabic literature in Barcelona.
2-The book Parle-leur de batailles, de rois et d'éléphants is narrated using three voices; M´s, an unknown narrator and an androgynous being who, at night, dialogues with the Italian artist. Énard highlights the linguistic difference: in Turkish or Persian there’s no gender: so, in poems, you never know whether it’s a man or a woman. The androgynous being tries to “seduce M in a poetic language, with wine and dances”.
3-It seems it all started with the author once “in an afternoon, while at Villa Medicis library** (a residence for writers in Rome)”: by chance he picked a book about M: a biography.This sentence resonated a lot: “M received an invitation by the Istanbul sultan Bajazet II to build a bridge over the Golden Horn”. Énard didn’t know about the fact: it became his “point de départ”. Another source for fiction was another biography on M by Ascanio Condivi: more details on the assumed trip (13th of May 1506) to present-day Turkey.
4-One aspect that stands out in the story is the seemingly “absence of a separation line between Orient and Occident”; like in the 16th century: the separation between Christianity and Islam was not so well delineated. According to Énard, this idea of separation Orient-Occident emerges only in the 19th century.Before that,things were more porous. Maybe more "linked"....
------------------------------------------------- *Check on the cover (edition of June 8th) of The Economist:Democrat or Sultan?
Very interesting reconstitution of the life of the Italian philosopher Pico della Mirandola.Pico had interest in the Hebrew Bible version and not only...moreVery interesting reconstitution of the life of the Italian philosopher Pico della Mirandola.Pico had interest in the Hebrew Bible version and not only the (incomplete) Vulgata Latina. His pamphlet "Against the astrologers and his divinatory pretensions" was praised by Erasmus of Rotterdam.Pico defended human freedom, and he was a Kabalist:...:"not the superior worlds, angels and stars movements " that influence men's actions and thoughts,but the opposite. (less)