Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Lost City of Z

No, I haven't been to the Lost City of Z (or sworn to secrecy if I had), but it's a city, a mythic one at that. Besides, New York (and with it The New Yorker) is one of the places along ~ literally and literarily. The closing passage of the article, evoking "lo real maravilloso," is reminiscent of similar passages in both Carlos Fuentes' La Región Más Transparente (Where the Air is Clear, 1958) and Alejo Carpentier's Los pasos perdidos (The Lost Steps, 1953)

When he vanished, Fawcett and his party had been trying to uncover a lost civilization hidden in the Amazon, which Fawcett had named, simply, the City of Z. In the next seven decades, scores of explorers had tried and failed to retrace Fawcett’s path.... [until]
An archeologist named Michael Heckenberger was doing field work in the Kuikuro village....Because of the prevailing notion that the Amazon was a counterfeit paradise—and because no stone city had ever been found—most established archeologists had long ago abandoned the remote Xingu. “They assumed it was an archeological black hole,” Heckenberger told me. “Fawcett was probably the last person who came in here looking for lost cities."
Some of the musicians and dancers were circling through the plaza, and Heckenberger said that everywhere you looked in the Kuikuro village “you can see the past in the present.” I began to picture the flutists and dancers in one of the old plazas. I pictured them living in mound-shaped two-story houses, the houses not scattered but in endless rows, where women wove hammocks and baked with manioc flour, and where teen-age boys and girls were held in seclusion as they learned the rites of their ancestors. I pictured the dancers and singers crossing moats and passing through tall palisade fences, moving from one village to the next, along wide boulevards and bridges and causeways.
The musicians were coming closer to us, and Heckenberger said something about the flutes, but I could no longer hear his voice over the sounds. For a moment, I could see this vanished world as if it were right in front of me.

From Troy and Rome on, falls, like foundings, of great cities are always the matter of myth no matter how real