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Atlantida   By: (1886-1962)

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"First, I must warn you, before beginning this work, not to be surprised to hear me calling barbarians by Grecian names." PLATO Critias

ATLANTIDA

Pierre Benoit

Translated by Mary C. Tongue and Mary Ross

ACE BOOKS, INC. 1120 Avenue of the Americas New York, N.Y. 10036

To André Suarès

[Illustration]

HASSI INIFEL, NOVEMBER 8, 1903.

If the following pages are ever to see the light of day it will be because they have been stolen from me. The delay that I exact before they shall be disclosed assures me of that.[1]

[Footnote 1: This letter, together with the manuscript which accompanies it, the latter in a separate sealed envelope, was entrusted by Lieutenant Ferrières, of the 3rd Spahis, the day of the departure of that officer for the Tassili of the Tuareg (Central Sahara), to Sergeant Chatelain. The sergeant was instructed to deliver it, on his next leave, to M. Leroux, Honorary Counsel at the Court of Appeals at Riom, and Lieutenant Ferrières' nearest relative. As this magistrate died suddenly before the expiration of the term of ten years set for the publication of the manuscript here presented, difficulties arose which have delayed its publication up to the present date.]

As to this disclosure, let no one distrust my aim when I prepare for it, when I insist upon it. You may believe me when I maintain that no pride of authorship binds me to these pages. Already I am too far removed from all such things. Only it is useless that others should enter upon the path from which I shall not return.

Four o'clock in the morning. Soon the sun will kindle the hamada with its pink fire. All about me the bordj is asleep. Through the half open door of his room I hear André de Saint Avit breathing quietly, very quietly.

In two days we shall start, he and I. We shall leave the bordj. We shall penetrate far down there to the South. The official orders came this morning.

Now, even if I wished to withdraw, it is too late. André and I asked for this mission. The authorization that I sought, together with him, has at this moment become an order. The hierarchic channels cleared, the pressure brought to bear at the Ministry; and then to be afraid, to recoil before this adventure!...

To be afraid, I said. I know that I am not afraid! One night in the Gurara, when I found two of my sentinels slaughtered, with the shameful cross cut of the Berbers slashed across their stomachs then I was afraid. I know what fear is. Just so now, when I gazed into the black depths, whence suddenly all at once the great red sun will rise, I know that it is not with fear that I tremble. I feel surging within me the sacred horror of this mystery, and its irresistible attraction.

Delirious dreams, perhaps. The mad imaginings of a brain surcharged, and an eye distraught by mirages. The day will come, doubtless, when I shall reread these pages with an indulgent smile, as a man of fifty is accustomed to smile when he rereads old letters.

Delirious dreams. Mad imaginings. But these dreams, these imaginings, are dear to me. "Captain de Saint Avit and Lieutenant Ferrières," reads the official dispatch, "will proceed to Tassili to determine the statigraphic relation of Albien sandstone and carboniferous limestone. They will, in addition, profit by any opportunities of determining the possible change of attitude of the Axdjers towards our penetration, etc." If the journey should indeed have to do only with such poor things I think that I should never undertake it.

So I am longing for what I dread. I shall be dejected if I do not find myself in the presence of what makes me strangely fearful.

In the depths of the valley of Wadi Mia a jackal is barking. Now and again, when a beam of moonlight breaks in a silver patch through the hollows of the heat swollen clouds, making him think he sees the young sun, a turtle dove moans among the palm trees... Continue reading book >>




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