August 1914

The first three paragraphs of Aleksandr Solzenitsyn’s novel, August 1914:

They left the village in the clear dawn light. As the sun rose the mountains were dazzling white with dark blue hollows, every indentation could be seen. amd they looked so close that a stranger might have thought them a two hours’ drive away.

The Caucasus loomed huge and elemental in a world of small manmade things. If all the people who had ever lived had opened their arms as wide as they could to carry all that they had ever made, or ever thought of making, and piled it up in swelling heaps, they could not have raised such an unbelievable mountain range.

The road from the village to the station kept the mountains continually before them as though those snowy expanses, those bare crags, those shadows hinting at invisible ravines were their destination. But from one half hour to the next, as the snow began to thaw on the lower slopes, the range seemed to part company with the earth, and its upper third hung suspended in the sky. It became shrouded in mist, so that there were no ribs or seams to show that these were mountains, and they saw instead what looked like a vast white cloud bank. This broke into fragments indistinguishable from real clouds. Then they too were washed away. The range disappeared as though it had been a celestial mirage, and wherever they looked they saw only grayish, heat-blanched sky. They drove on till noon and beyond, for more than fifty versts, without changing direction, until the grant mountains retreated as rounded foothills closed in–the Camel, the Bull, the bald Snake, and the wooded Iron Hill.

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