Monday, July 30, 2007

Some great writing by William Langewiesche

In SAHARA UNVEILED: A Journey Across the Desert, he writes of the Belgian husband and wife and their 5-year-old son who decide to make an adventure of crossing the desert in an old Peugeot, in which they make a wrong turn, and then, break down.

The Belgians hoped a truck would come along. For a week they waited, scanning the horizon for a dust-tail or the glint of a windshield. This was in a place, more or less, where the maps still insist on showing a road. The woman felt upwellings of panic. She began to write more frantically, filling pages in single sessions. The water ran low, then dry, and the family grew horribly thirsty. After filtering it through a cloth, they drank the car’s radiator fluid. They had arrived at the danger stage...

After the coolant was gone, the Belgians started sipping gasoline. You would too. Call it petroposia. Saharans have recommended it to me as a way of staying off the battery acid. The woman wrote that it seemed to help...

The boy was weakest, and was suffering terribly. In desperation, they burned their car, hoping someone would see the smoke. No one did. The boy could no longer swallow. His name was Maurice. His parents killed him to stop the pain. Later, the husband cut himself open and allowed his wife to drink his blood. At his request, she broke his neck with a rock. Alone now, she no longer wanted to live. Still, the Sahara was fabulous, she wrote, and she was glad to have come. She would do it again.

Not uplifting, but gripping. The excerpt is from Nancy Rommelmann's review of Langewiesche's new book The Atomic Bazaar: The Rise of the Nuclear Poor