years ago in the deserts of turkistan
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“When, above the black ax-edges, the dividing compasses of the winds, and the still higher steps, the volcanoes emerged, our human prestige came to an end, just as that of the vegetable kingdom had ceased earlier. We were the lowest of beings, silent, benumbed, in a wasteland where all that existed was the presence of gray felt cactus, clinging like a lichen, like a flower of coal, to a soilless surface…We were skirting the craters filled with geological ruins, frightening wells of darkness, or bristling with desolate crags sad as petrified animals. A silent fear had come over me in the face of this multitude of peaks and abysses. Each mystery of fog, billowing on either side of the unbelievable road, suggested the possibility that depths as profound as the distance separating us from our earth lay beneath its filmy consistency. For from here, from the solid, unmoving ice that whitened the peaks, the earth seemed a different thing…” —Alejo Carpentier, The Lost Steps, translated by Harriet de Onís
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