Monthly Archives: August 2014

Excerpt from “A Soldier of the Great War” by Mark Helprin ~~Glacier~~

The pieces of snow that filled the air around him as he fell were very thin …

picture-SoldieroftheGreatWar-HelprinThe sky was almost entirely clear, and he was able to see, even if not comfortably. At summer’s end, rivers of melted snow had cut new crevasses into the glacier, sometimes receding just before the cut would have opened to the sky. A perfectly flat stretch of snow only a few centimeters thick might delicately span a chasm twenty storeys deep. Alessandro had never liked walking on glaciers, even in a roped party of three or four: it was too much like walking over a minefield. Now he had no rope, no companions, no light, not even a worn path to trust more than a featureless plain.
At first he went around even the smallest crevasses. Then he began to jump them, and those he was willing to jump increased in number and width until, by the time the moon rose and lit the white expanse in which he was lost, he was running to get his starts and sailing over deep crevasses that at their narrowest convergence were more than a meter in width.
He landed on cornices and projections that sometimes lasted only long enough to take his last step and would then drop away. The cool light of the moon had not prevailed against the darkness of the crevasses, which looked like rivers of black oil.
Soon his fast progress took hold of him entirely. The risk and exertion elated him. He felt ennobled and invulnerable. As graceful as a gazelle, he flew over crevasses, and, when he hit the other side, he ran because he felt too strong not to run.
Long before first light, he took a small crevasse no more than the width of a newspaper. Four or five meters beyond it was a wide canyon for which he needed momentum, so he lengthened his stride and jumped far and high, landing hard on a flat and flawless section of snow. The pieces of snow that filled the air around him as he fell were very thin: he would have gone through even had he tried to tiptoe across.
He felt neither fear nor disappointment, and time stood still. He had a sense of great and overwhelming joy. As he was falling, snow and ice crystals blew past his face, and for a long moment he was purged entirely of regret, guilt, sorrow, expectation, and ambition.
Something wrenched him from fearless perfection and limitless joy to sorrow and determination, and he turned the long ice ace until it was perpendicular to the narrowing walls of the crevasse and both tip and head began to bounce off the ice and scrape channels into it deeper and deeper. Holding on to the shaft of the axe was like being at the end of a rope playing off a pulley and gradually slowing.
He fell slowly enough to hope that he would not be crushed on a jagged floor of ice, but when he hit he discovered that the bottom of the crevasse was soft snow. He landed on one knee, with the other leg bent and the ice axe across it. He was amazed to be entirely intact, unhurt, and happy.
Just before a January dawn at the top of Europe, kilometers from the nearest light, in a snowfield on a glacier as vast as a great city, Alessandro Giuliani knelt in the snow inside a forty-meter crevasse, in absolute and total darkness. With his blood ringing in his ears and his heart pounding, he began to laugh – because he had instantly assumed the exact pose of Sir Walter Raleigh, someone of whom he had not thought for even a tenth of a second since he was nine years old.


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Excerpt from “From Here, You Can’t See Paris” by Michael Sanders ~~Les Arques~~

picture-FromHereYouCantSeeParis-SandersAs you approach Les Arques from the south, the passing countryside tempts the eye – herds of goats and sheep, odd bits of field hacked out of the difficult terrain and filled with corn, serried ranks of vines, and drooping sunflowers. Generous farmhouses and barns peer out from far off the road, all built of la pierre blanche du Lot, the local limestone, their hand-hewn blocks weathered ocher and bisque under tiled roofs splotched with lichen.

Through the trees on the left, you catch a tantalizing glimpse of the slate-roofed twin turrets of the diminutive ruin of Domaine de Ladoux, then cross a stone bridge through a pasture filled with grazing cows. At last, you begin to climb the hill on which the village is perched like a crown. From below, you see the tower of the twelfth-century Romanesque church at its center, the burnt sienna of the tile roofs, the encircling walls rising up, as if to keep the village from plunging down the steep slope on all sides.

The road skirts the village so that, as you top the rise, the old church and its surrounding houses beckon from the left, while on the right a single imposing structure stands out, an old school-house, and behind it rolling pasture, cornfields, and forest until the eye meets the next ridge at the near horizon.


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Excerpt from “A Soldier of the Great War” by Mark Helprin ~~La Tempesta~~


“They always say about the soldier that he’s detached. That’s true, for he’s been in the eye of the storm, his heart has been broken, and he doesn’t even know it.”

picture-SoldieroftheGreatWar-Helprin“And wrong about the painting. Like everyone else, I backed off. I said, ‘We’ll never know about La Tempesta, it’s a mystery.’ I retreated to the visual elements, the technique, its strange contra-historical power. I thought it was a dream, because it has the lucidity and freedom of a dream, a dream’s unburdening, and a dream-like truth.”
The scholar agreed. “I think it’s a dream, a great dream, with – as you put it – the lucidity, freedom, unburdening, and truth of a dream.”
“No.” Alessandro said. “Though it could be a dream, it isn’t. I know now exactly what it is, and I know the source of its power.”
“Dare you tell?” the scholar asked, only half…

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