In a corridor of the Royal Geographical Society's building, I noticed on the wall a gigantic seventeenth-century map of the globe. On the margins were sea monsters and dragons. For ages, cartographers had no means of knowing what existed on most of the earth. And more often than not these gaps were filled in with fantastical kingdoms and beasts, as if the make-believe, no matter how terrifying, were less frightening than the truly unknown.
Now, as Fawcett slipped away from the secluded base in Ceylon [present-day Sri Lanka] with his treasure map in hand, he suddenly found himself amid verdant forests and crystalline beaches and mountains, and people dressed in colors that he had never seen before, not funereal blacks and whites like in London, but purples and yellows and rubies, all flashing and radiating and pulsating–– a vista so astonishing that even the arch cynic Mark Twain, who visited the island around the same time period, remarked, "Dear me, it is beautiful!"
At times all I need is a brief glimpse, an opening in the midst of an incongruous landscape, a glint of lights in the fog, the dialogue of two passersby meeting in the crowd, and I think that, setting out from there, I will put together, piece by piece, the perfect city— if I tell you that the city toward which my journey tends is discontinuous in space and time, now scattered, now more condensed, you must not believe the search for it can stop.