Monday, January 8, 2018

Deep Sahara NBtM

Blurb:
Recovering from a nervous breakdown preceded by the death of his wife, Klaus Werner takes advice from a family friend and retreats to a monastery in the Algerian Sahara to sketch desert insects for a book. Upon arrival, however, he discovers a fresh crime scene: the monks have all been slaughtered as they went about their daily routine. Violent extremists, active in the area, are suspected. Numb and exhausted, Werner declines a police chief s offer of safe passage.

Despite the shock of the murders, the desert seems to promise solace, a vast nullity against which Werner can take stock of himself and do his work. Yet, over the weeks and months that follow, his solitude is broken by a succession of encounters with travelling hermits, desert warriors, an attractive American paleontologist and others, all strangely connected to him. Each appears to conceal some kind of secret; even the insects he has come to study are mysteriously deformed, embodying an awful, hidden reality ... Soon Werner is forced to confront the echoes of one of the darkest moments in modern history, and to come to terms with the deepest reaches of his own past.

Deep Sahara is as suspenseful as it is a subtle exploration of one man’s emotional resurgence, rendered sparingly and with great physical and psychological precision.


Excerpt:
Prologue: Memoir

The front door has just closed. I’m finally alone in the apartment, using this morning’s stillness to begin the account I’ve been wanting to write for days. It’s a letter to myself after the battering I’ve received from the media – not to mention the anonymous death threats – for attacking our so-called “pillars of society”.

I need to sift through all that happened out at the end of the world, coming back to me now like some dream. For the Sahara’s a place of mirages you can actually photograph: palm trees, oases, expanses of cool water, silent cities – there, but unreal. Conjuring up the past, I want to reassure myself that all I claimed to have found among those shifting sands, on returning here to Rome, far from being the figment of my imagination critics allege, is actually the case: that the experience of unearthing – of understanding - what I have revealed has made me into a new person.

Silence holds heavy. The blankness of this page is as intimidating as the desert itself. Still, I’ve plunged in, covering the paper like a suspect instructed by the police to write everything down. And though I’m no criminal, I’m scribbling both as a release and for the reader I sense exists, but can’t identify. This I do know: it’s someone with whom the self I’ve achieved – as well as how I’ve done so – strike a chord. He’ll see me as the solitary figure I was, in a monk’s habit like a Bedouin’s burnoose, lost against the pitiless Saharan sky. And he’ll find me faced with coming to myself in that emptiness to which life had finally brought me.

Yet, writing, so much I must recall is painful. I’m concerned that I’ve little more than my memory – that mirage – to rely upon, especially after all this time. Nevertheless, I know I must set out fully everything that took place, to see what was actually so, for my own peace of mind.

That’s why I have set aside the book I keep telling myself I should be working on. I’ve no alternative now but to write and finally establish the full story of what happened in the deep Sahara.



John le Carre recently said of his writing: "Out of the secret world I once knew I have tried to make a theatre for the larger worlds we inhabit. First comes the imagining, then the search for the reality."

For me imagining has been prompted by the Middle East where I was born, have spent large periods of my life and now live.  The search for reality dominates the main character of DEEP SAHARA, as well as my efforts to offer it to readers in their wider worlds.

The main character, who lives in Rome, wants to recover from a nervous breakdown provoked by the death of his wife. Taking advice from a family friend he retreats to a monastery in the Algerian Sahara to prepare a book on desert insects. There he encounters unimagineable crimes, actual and suspected. He decides to set them down because:

I need to sift through all that happened out at the end of the world,
coming back to me now like some dream. For the Sahara’s a place of
mirages you can actually photograph: palm trees, oases, expanses of cool
water, silent cities – there, but unreal. Conjuring up the past, I want to
reassure myself that all I claimed to have found among those shifting sands, on returning here to Rome, far from being the figment of my imagination critics allege, is actually the case: that the experience of unearthing – of understanding - what I have revealed has made me into a new person.

Entering the monastery the man finds all the monks have been murdered. He must leave. But, having come so far from home to recover himself, he decides to stay – barely understanding his impulse at the time.  It confronts him with the emptiness of the monastery, of the Sahara - of himself. He is facing his personal zero point.

How is he to survive there? For, as he says:

          Inhabiting the place ... everything took on a feeling of immense emptiness. I found myself floating in an atmosphere of unreality [that] ... could seem as much a delusion as any mirage or wild vision provoked by desert thirst ....
So at this low ebb, I asked myself if I had the will power to sustain the tedium of painstaking study. For what would I be without work, that great calmer of anxiety, of emptiness? Pity those unable to fill their time with routine!
          Here were questions to which the desert provided no answers. Equally mute were starry nights, spent against cooling granite; fiery middays admitting nothing but debilitating heat; blank, grey, shadowless late afternoons. No other sequence existed. Meaningful narrative, drama, depth, the very pattern and sensation of lived life, had apparently slipped away. Whirling sand, reeling clouds, soughing wind, were telling some story of their own: but a tale indecipherable and unrecognised, because measurelessly remote from anything of which I could be aware ...         

Now over the weeks and months that follow, the man's solitude is broken by a series of further disturbing events and strange encounters. They eventually implicate him in what surely began only randomly, like a dream. So he begins to worry out what his time in the desert has really amounted to as he flies back to Rome.

On board, I sat looking at the fast-disappearing capital, with the monastery, the desert, far behind me. They evaporated while I gazed down at a greenish-blue smudge, the sea, just as a Saharan mirage had dissolved months ago: the one beckoning me to pursue a project; to find myself; to be.
A vanished illusion, it had been replaced, I recognised up in the
plane, by a brute reality. Unimaginable horror personal to me had finally
come to match that to which I’d been a mere bystander ...
          It was as if two drivers, total strangers in an otherwise deserted
Sahara, found their cars, mere flecks in the distance, magnetised,
careering towards each other. Regardless of my planned trajectory, I’d
been made an inescapable part instead of all that had happened through
this seemingly chance encounter.

First, as John le Carre says, comes the imagining: the mirage, the dream. Then there's the reality: the reality of DEEP SAHARA.


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Don’t forget to visit the other stops on the tour.


Author Bio and Links:
Leslie Croxford is a British author and Senior Vice-President of the British University in Egypt. Born in Alexandria, he obtained a doctorate in History from Cambridge University. He has written one novel, Soloman's Folly (Chatto & Windus), and is completing his third. He and his wife live in Cairo.

Buy Links: 
Book Depository   |   Amazon US   |   Amazon UK

13 comments:

  1. What made you decide to live in Cairo?

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  2. I liked the excerpt, thank you.

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  3. congrats on the tour and thanks for the chance to win :)

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  4. Looks like an interesting book.
    Thanks for the contest. 
    slehan at juno dot com

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  5. Do you listen to music when you write?

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  6. Who is your most admired author?

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  7. What do you do for Valentines?

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  8. LAST DAY
    Thanks for the contest.

    ReplyDelete