"A large muddy stone is lying in the washbasin of my hotel room.
Carefully, I scrape off the mud and rinse it. The water coming out of the tap is black.
After I have washed the stone clean, it was pink as the morning sky. It is pink granite and made of two rounded segments resembling the halves of a brain.
Yes, now I can see it - it is my own brain which has arrived before me.
It is so heavy I can hardly lift it out of the washbasin."
These are the opening lines of Desert Divers, by Sven Lindqvist, a book that escapes definition. A mix of genres, testament to the literary figures who shaped the young author's imagination of the desert.
It is a source of entertaining anecdotes as well as an intriguing book of self-discovery, which, at times, resembles a mystery novel.
One where the author is not investigating a crime, but his his past.
And you get the feeling there is no place like the desert to lose and find yourself.
It is a book that makes you dream, so it is fitting that it begins with one.
Below is an excerpt form page 16, in which we get a taste of the mettle of the desert airmen.
Men who defined the very notion of adventure.
Men who risked their lives daily to deliver the mail.
Men who defied gravity to bring the comfort of words to the most desolate corners of the world.
"I loved the airmen of Saint-Exupéry's books. The pilots of those days were kind of canoeists of the air, with no more than their lower bodies inside the 'flying machine', as it was called. Flying was shooting the rapids with the propeller as a paddle.
The primitive, single-engined machines flew below the clouds to see their way. In fog or a sandstorm, they were lost. One in six flights between Cap Juby and Dakar ended in a crash or emergency landing in the desert.
And when the pilot in his thick leather overalls, 'heavy and cumbersome as a diver', clambered out of his cockpit - then, if the rescuers did not get to him in time, what awaited him was captivity or death at the hands of hostile nomads. Altogether, 121 pilots were lost."
from Desert Divers, by Sven Lindqvist