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The following day, Hemingway called me from Albany. He told me he had found the article on Akbar, in a copy of The Dictionnaire Philosophique. The philosopher’s’ name was not recorded, but there was a note on his doctrine, formulated in words almost identical to those Ernest had stated the previous evening — though perhaps literally superior. Ernest had recalled: “echoes and fornication increase the number of philosophers.” Ernest corrected his memory by reading the text of the philosophical dictionary that he had discovered in the Arbor Hill/West Hill Branch of the Albany Library.

“For the knowers, the visible earth is an illusion or — more precisely — a fallacious argument, especially one used deliberately to deceive. Echoes and fatherhood are abominable because they multiply and disseminate the story of The First Earth.”

 

I told him, in all truthfulness, that I should like to see that article.

 

A few days later he brought the single, yet ancient, volume to Aiden Lair. This surprised me, since the volume appeared priceless; however, knowing that Hemingway had connections throughout New York City — and the corrupt capital of Albany — it was not an impossibility. I had, years ago, studied the scrupulous cartographical indices of Ukrainian Rеографія which were bountifully ignorant of the name Akbar. I was hoping that what Hemingway held in his hands was not part of that twenty-four-volume set.

 

The tome Ernest returned with was, in fact, a lithographic copy of The Dictionnaire Philosophique. On the title page and the spine – gold print on a purple background — the alphabetical order regarding the range of material that could be found within — (Christianity; Alpha to Omega) — was for all appearances identical to our copy at Aiden Lair. However, instead of 344 pages, it contained 348 pages; all four were located subsequent to the first thirty-some pages. These four additional pages contained a lengthy commentary on Akbar, which — as the reader will have noticed — was indicated by the alphabetical marking on the spine. We quickly determined that there was no other difference between the volume that Hemingway had returned with and the volume we found on the dusty shelf of the Aiden Lair book collection. Both, as I believe I have indicated, are reprints of the The Dictionnaire Philosophique. We read the article on Akbar with great care. The passage recalled by Ernest, the previous evening, was perhaps the only surprising one. The rest of it seemed very plausible, quite in keeping with the customary tone of the work and — as is natural — a bit boring. Reading it a second time, we discovered beneath its primary prose lay a secondary vagueness.

  

Of the fourteen names which were listed in the geographical description, we only recognized three – Xwarāsān[1], Armenia[2],  and Erzerum Province[3]. These three were intertwined in the text in an ambiguous way.

 

Of the historical biographical names, only one — The False Smerdis — whose following words were cited more as an allegory than a fact.

 

I have both made myself the murderer of my brother, when there was no need, and I have been deprived none the less of the kingdom — for it was in fact the real Smerdis the Magician of whom the divine power declared to me beforehand in the vision that he should rise up against me.”

 

Neither Hemingway nor myself could seem to make sense out of that rather short paragraph.

 

The geographical references seemed to fix the boundaries of Akbar, but its ill-defined reference points were mountain streams, hollows between them and caverns beneath the cliffs. We read, for example, that the lowlands of Mandarin Chua and the island of Achsah (the fourth one in the Delta) marked the southern frontier and, where, on this island, saints procreated; their progeny being philosophers. All this, on the 1st part of the article on Akbar.

In the historical section (I believe this started around page 34 or 35, if my memory serves me well) we learned that as the result of the religious persecutions of the thirteenth century, the conformist herd sought refuge on these islands, where to this day their crypts remain and where it is not uncommon for archaeologists to unearth their echoes.

[1] a historical region lying in northeast of Greater Persia .  [From Wikipedia]

[2]  bordered by Georgia to the north, Azerbaijan to the east, Iran to the south, and Turkey to the south and west .                [From Wikipedia]

[3] bordered by the provinces of Kars and Ağrı to the east, Muş and Bingöl to the south, Erzincan and Bayburt to the west, Rize and Artvin to the north and Ardahan to the northeast .  [From Wikipedia] .  [From Wikipedia]