Hemingway and I continued our attempt to analyze deeper meaning from the tome that he had brought back from Albany; whose corruption appears to grow greater, day by day. (But I rant – and have once again – detoured from my path on the story of Akbar)
The section on Language and Literature (approximately page 36) was brief. Only one trait is worthy of recollection. It noted that the literature of Akbar was one of chimera — a hope or dream that is extremely unlikely ever to come true — and that its chefs-d’oeuvre and meisterwerkes referred not to reality, but to the two imaginary regions of Tlejnas and Mlãn… The bibliography enumerated four volumes which we have not yet found, though the third – Silas Haslam: History of the Land Called Akbar, 1874 – can, at times, be found in the catalogs of Bernard Quartich’s book shop.
Silas Haslam had written, during the first years of his impending blindness, this elegant book; a masterwork of scholarship. Adding to its appeal are the hauntingly beautiful illustrations, all provided by Haslam’s wife Anna, a Viennese art student who was later treated for schizophrenia and died in an English sanitarium, three years after his death. Starting with a discussion of labyrinthine symbolism seen in prehistoric cave paintings, Haslam traces the development of the labyrinth through Celtic neolithic spirals to the mythic “lost labyrinth” of the Chinese governor Ts’ui Pen. No stone is left unturned as Haslam skillfully weaves an intricate tapestry of mazes across the warp and weft of time: the Cretan masterpiece of Dedalus, the fanciful hedge mazes of the European aristocracy, the twisting letters of illuminated calligraphy seen in both the Scriptures and the Qu’ran — even the religious discussions of Uqbar, the topic of his first book, are likened to mazes. Haslam expertly displays his particular genius in the way he relates the nature of physical labyrinths to other, more metaphysical ideas, such as religion, philosophy, and the then emerging field of psychology.
In vain, Hemingway and I exhausted atlases, catalogs, annuals of geographical societies, travelers’ and historians’ memoirs: no one had ever been in Akbar. Neither did the general index of Hemingway’s newfound Albany philosophical dictionary – a copy of Voltaire I must remind you — discuss that name without innuendo and confusion. The following day, Josh Crimmins, to whom I had related the matter by phone, noticed a – gold-on-purple — cover of the Anglo-American Cyclopaedia in a bookshop in Utica, near the corner of Bleeker and Mohawk Streets. He entered and examined the 1st Volume (Aardvark to Dystopia). Of course, he did not ﬁnd the slightest indication of Akbar.