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The Snow of the Admiral is thus introduced as a sort of final story, the author presenting himself as familiar with the whole Maqroll history and this just one more adventure that he's learned about to add to the lot -- even as, of course, the character is essentially a new one to the reader. So The Snow of the Admiral -- with the bulk of the novel presented as entries from Maqroll's diary -- flings the reader right into an episode from somewhere well into his clearly storied life, with backstory and apparently very colorful personal history mostly barely more than hinted at and only occasionally described in somewhat greater detail.

Yet it's not a bad way to introduce the reader to Maqroll, a character defined by, as the author already notes, a life of 'unfortunate wanderings' -- an eternal seeker of sorts. True, we only get some sense of the man here -- but it is the essence.


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As to the details -- well, as Maqroll soon enough admits about this particular adventure in his diary: It's always the same: I embark on enterprises that are branded with the mark of uncertainty, cursed by deceit and cunning. And here I am, sailing upriver like a fool, knowing ahead of time how everything will end, going into the jungle where nothing waits for me. The author reports finding this diary in the back pocket of an antiquarian book he had long been looking for and finally come across. Maqroll describes reading the work in his diary, even taking issue with Raymond's handling of it, and Mutis certainly makes it sound as though it were a heftier work, at the very least misleading readers about its scope.

She had money to invest, and heard of this potentially incredibly profitable venture, of sawmills deep, deep in the jungle, and Maqroll hopes to negotiate a timber deal to cash in.

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There are only a few people on the boat, and barely anyone manages to stay in it for the long haul. Occasionally, additional passengers are taken on, or take it on themselves to join the trip for a stretch -- a native couple with two young children; two soldiers -- while on the return journey even Maqroll abandons the ship, taking up a generous offer of easier transport, leaving the barge and the only ones remaining on it to their fate which he learns of, and which is hardly surprising The captain -- whose life-story has also taken him far and wide, as Maqroll eventually learns -- is long in a state of constant semi-inebriation, steady drinking the only thing that keeps him going; Maqroll is warned to make sure the captain always has enough on hand to stave off sobriety -- but when the captain does stop drinking the consequences aren't quite the ones Maqroll or likely the reader will have expected, in one of the book's very nicely done turning points.

Maqroll's trip is long and uncomfortable, and even though the reader knows to expect the predictably stifling heat and hardships Mutis evokes all this very well. From very basic carnal encounters with the natives who are briefly on the ship to the fate of some of those picked up by the major who takes an interest in the boat and its passengers and arrests two of those aboard, to Maqroll being gripped by a sickness that sees him briefly close to death and out of commission for a while , Mutis impressively describes a torrid and drawn-out journey -- with Maqroll never managing to work up much enthusiasm even about the potential gain that he reminds himself he's going through all this trouble for.

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Indeed, Maqroll's fundamental attitude seems to be one of fatalism -- plowing always ahead, but with few hopes: The best thing is to let everything happen as it must. That's right. It's not a question of resignation. Far from it. It's something else, something to do with the distance that separates us from everything and everybody.

Great Lines: “Where are the snows of yesteryear?” | Micah Mattix | First Things

And, indeed, Maqroll seems always isolated -- far from civilization on his long voyage deep into the countryside, and hardly close to any of the people he does come in contact with over the course of it. Like most great poets, Villon does both.


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What we need is divine intervention:. On the one hand, it refers to the faded white beauties of yesteryear as Villon laments the bitter shortness of life and points to the folly of living for the present.

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Micah Mattix is an assistant professor of literature at Houston Baptist University. Close Login. Web Exclusives First Thoughts. Intellectual Retreats Erasmus Lectures. Video Podcasts. In all climes, under every sun, Death admires you At your antics, ridiculous Humanity, And frequently, like you, scenting herself with myrrh, Mingles her irony with your insanity! What we need is divine intervention: Jesus, our Prince, who reigns over us all, let hell have no hold over us sinners, let us owe it no debt or allegiance. Prev Article. Next Article.

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