I have been asked to say a little more about Auracania. First, some disambiguation is necessary. I do not refer to the Kingdom of Araucania and Patagonia founded in 1860 by Mapuche Indians in territory now occupied by the Republics of Chile and Argentina, curious though that place and its history is. Orelie-Antoine de Tounens, a French lawyer, was elected by the Mapuche as first King of Araucania and Patagonia but, in 1862, was kidnapped by Chilean soldiers and deported to France. He mounted three expeditions to try to reclaim his throne, without success. In 1878 King Orelie-Antoine died in Tourtoirac and the royal house has remained in exile in France ever since, although it has never relinquished its rights under international law. The current head is Prince Philippe of Araucania, who maintains close contacts with Mapuche groups both in South America and in Europe and has spoken before the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous People as a representative of Mapuche people living in Argentina. While the Kingdom of Araucania and Patagonia is only an historical memory, the Mapuche nation has preserved its cultural identity in spite of the concerted efforts of colonial and republican governments either to exterminate it, as the Argentinians attempted, or to incorporate it into a western, European culture, as the Chileans continue to do through laws designed to erase Mapuche traditions, land tenure and language. The Auracania I speak of is a different entity entirely, as the variation in the spelling suggests. It is a geographical rather than an historical memory and so cannot be accessed with resort to documents or indeed human recollection. It has however a kind of remanence that can at times contribute images of its shadowy provenance to the present and as such project its own fragile existence towards a possible future. It may sound arrogant, and perhaps it is, but I am one of the conduits of this projection, I can sometimes detect the shadow lines of remanence which carry with them an obligation - I nearly said sacred - to transmit the glimpses so gained, howsoever fragmentary, howsoever I can. Lately I have seen among the massed conifers ranked along the endless cloudy ridges of Auracania the shapes of large hairy beasts swinging slowly from branch to branch. They are a reddish colour, with strong pelts and a propensity to hang upside down from the branches for long periods. Cone eaters, leaf-eaters, omnivores, as we are. These beasts are said to possess a kind of prospective intelligence. The humans of Auracania, who are men and women of grand stature, if not quite the Patagonian giants of legend, cut steps into the trunks of living trees and use them to ascend into the tops, where they spend hours observing, indeed listening to, the conversation of these animals, which are known to them by the name Paramylodon after the sound of their ruminative cries. The wisdom of these beasts, it is believed, comes from the fact that they have absorbed into themselves all that the trees they feed upon know. Of what use this knowledge is to the giants I cannot tell. Perhaps just the kind of knowing that the wind has, or the sea; perhaps just a cloud of unknowing. Like anything once understood, it can never be lost. Sometimes in the quiet of night, even here, among millions of sleepers, I hear a whisper of leaves in a cold dark wind and know that, just for a moment, Auracania has returned with its ice, its calamity, and its unutterable adamant that will outlast glaciers; then too I see the shadows of rough beasts in the forks of the branches of the eucalypts that grow along my street, tranced, like Paramylodon were, by the alkaloids in the leaves they eat; murmuring wyldewords.


Rod said...

alkaloids in the leaves.
murmering wyldewords.
Indeed this whole piece has an eccentric trancelike quality,you been chewing on those leaves Martin?

Martin Edmond said...

Alas ... no ...