Annals Of Fruit

The sun is a ball of flames. It feels like a torrid southern summer … I can see a port. People are strolling in the shade of the high harbour walls. Shop doors are open wide. Aromas of tropical fruit fill the air with their fragrance. Peaches, oranges, apricots, raisins, cloves, and pepper all give off their wonderful scents. The asphalt steams after being sprayed with water. I can hear the strident, guttural tones of Persian merchants offering their wares. My God! How marvellous it smells here! How pleasant is the tropical air!

Suddenly my foot tripped over my ski pole. I quickly steadied myself against the kayak, opened my eyes wide, and was dazzled by the sun. For a moment I did not know where I was. What had happened to my tropical port? How the devil had I been transported to this icy wasteland?

“What happened?” asked my companions. “Nothing,” I answered, “I tripped over my pole. The boreal landscape unfolded once more before me in an infinite expanse, and the sun which had fleetingly brought me such joy now sought only to blind and torture me.

Yet the hallucination did not completely vanish. My nose was still filled with the aromas of Mediterranean fruit. My companions were not conscious of my present condition. What did it mean? Was I ill? I shut my eyes tight once again. I was like an automaton, moving rhythmically with the pole in my right hand, and once again I could hear the monotonous tune: “Far to go, so very far!”

But what I had just experienced continued to trouble me. For strangely enough I had never liked those aromatic fruits. They had never tempted my palate.

Valerian Albanov, In The Land Of White Death : An Epic Story Of Survival In The Siberian Arctic (Pimlico, 2001)

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