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I must thank two uncertainties for the discovery of Akbar[1]; an echo and a philosophical dictionary.

The echo disturbs anyone who finds himself in a specific ancient dusty great-room which has the odor of yellowing print material. This great-room is located in the once grand summer lodge of Aiden Lair. Aiden Lair may be found with great difficulty (if at all) in the depths of the Adirondack Mountains. The    philosophical dictionary was possibly labeled The Dictionnaire Philosophique, Voltaire, 1764. It was a literal but anachronistic reprint of the Philosophical Dictionary, Stanford, 1995. The event that I am about to describe to you took place a half century ago – therefore you must forgive my memory – for the ‘possibly labeled’ comment.

Ernest Hemingway invited me to an evening meal of trout and venison that he had prepared over a wood fire. He had gathered the wood from the forest behind Aiden Lair lodge. We became engaged in a long dial0gue over how to go about composing a short story by an author who would omit or lie about the facts and not be bothered about the amateurishness of his research. We finally decided that this would permit very few readers to perceive the appalling and boring reality that would face them throughout the entire text.

But, once again, I wander as I traipse around the edges of plagiarizing Borges.

From the remote darkness of the great-room, the echo listened to Ernest and me as we continued our discussion. We found that such a discovery as an echo is inevitable in the quiet of the Adirondacks. Echoes in these North Woods – and especially at night — have something supernatural about them.

Then, once we were sure that the echo was no longer interested in our conversation, Ernest recalled that an unknown saint who had influence over Akbar the Emperor had declared that echoes and fornication increase the number of philosophers. I asked him the origin of this remarkable observation and he answered that it was written in The Voynich Manuscript[2], in its section labeled “Akbar.”

We had rented The Aiden Lair Lodge in its entirety, yet totally unfurnished, except for two cots, two sleeping bags and a magnificent library. The great-room held the library, and this is where we found the The Dictionnaire Philosophique. It was located on a dusty shelf next to a pair of over-used snow shoes. On the last pages of Voltaire’s work appeared an article on The Telugu people.[3] On one particular page of Voltaire was a paragraph on the race, which may or may not have populated the Nicobar Islands, but not a word about Akbar. Hemingway, a bit astounded, poured over every page of the index of the manuscript. In vain he considered all the imaginable codes, diagrams, schemas and symbology. Before we finished the meal of wild game, he pompously informed me of his knowledge — several times. One such piece of information that Hemingway shared with me — even though I implored him several times to stop his incessant chatter — was that Akbar was not only a Mughal Emperor but also a region of Andhra Pradesh or Asia Minor. A second piece of information, once again unconvincingly shared by Earnest, was that this region was named after Abu’l-Fath Jalal-ud-din Muhammad Akbar. I must confess that I agreed with this conjecture but informed him that his apparent self-importance was giving me a headache. I speculated – to myself — that this undocumented country of Akbar and its anonymous saint were a fiction devised by Ernest to rationalize his proclamation. As I remember, Ernest was not typically straightforward.

After Hemingway departed the library for a cigarette, I located an 1838 Holmes Hutcheson Atlas on a lower shelf (beneath the old fractured snowshoes). Subsequently this atlas also proved to be unproductive in the search for Akbar. This atlas justified my doubt about Hemingway’s grand proclamations.

Later that evening, Ernest and I agreed to forego the Akbar question for the sake of friendship. I only acquiesced to this because he said he would travel to Albany, NY the following day. This I allowed, if only to see what he could find in the libraries and archives of that corrupt city. Knowing Hemingway and his search for a good story, I felt comfortable that he would succeed in locating some text relating to Akbar. We finished up the evening discussing how Theodore Roosevelt had stopped at this very lodge – Aiden Lair — on his way to assuming the presidency from McKinley on September 14, 1901. Hemingway recited the entire story from memory.

“President McKinley was visiting the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, NY. He was rubbing elbows at a social function — where other muckity-mucks could meet him — when he was shot twice by Leon Czolgosz, a member of an anarchist movement. Roosevelt immediately went to Buffalo. McKinley’s health appeared to be on the mend. Therefore, on the advice of the president’s office, Roosevelt departed Buffalo to return to the Adirondack Mountains. Roosevelt traveled to the Tahawus Club near Newcomb, NY in the Adirondacks. Word reached Roosevelt that McKinley’s condition suddenly turned worse. In the middle of the night, Roosevelt became impatient. Against the advice of others at the Club he decided to head for Buffalo. Nineteen miles later, he stopped at Aiden Lair Lodge to change his horses. Mike Cronin, the Aiden Lair overseer, accompanied Roosevelt the rest of the way to the North Creek train station.”

[1] Abu’l-Fath Jalal-ud-din Muhammad Akbar, popularly known as Akbar I IPA, was the third Mughal emperor, who reigned from 1556 to 1605. [From Wikipedia]

[2] The Voynich manuscript is an illustrated codex hand-written in an unknown writing system. The vellum on which it is written has been carbon-dated to the early 15th century (1404–1438) [From Wikipedia]

[3] The Telugu people or Teluguvaaru are a Dravidian ethnic group that natively speak Telugu. The majority of Telugus reside in the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and town of Yanam in Union Territory Pondicherry.  [From Wikipedia]