Tekeli li

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Reproduction of this image is prohibited, or at least that is the title of the painting by Magritte shown here. I guess I have involved myself in the sort of vicious logical cycle that he loved so much, and that he painted, by simply showing it here. Or buying it in a book, or on a postcard. Another one along the lines of “This is not a pipe.” A college friend of mine remarked of this painting, “What a nightmare – looking into a mirror and not being able to see your face!” Another interdiction.

The book on the mantle, by the way, is Poe’s “Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym”. That story dealt with unmentionables and things unseen and never seen – the ghastly horrors of the antarctic regions. Pym ends up there on a doomed sailing ship by way of shipwreck, psychopaths, and cannibalism. On expedition into the inland regions of the south, he meets his end, we think, at the hands of vicious natives. All chant, shout, and speak with horror the syllables, “Tekeli li!” What does it mean?

H. P. Lovecraft knew what it meant, or so he claimed. I’d always thought that he wrote junk-fantasy, and so avoided him. Recently, I corrected that error and found him to be a worthy follower, and a worshipper, of E. A. Poe. His story, “The Mountains of Madness” is an over-the-top recounting of an expedition to the south gone awry that connects with the fantastical notions of Arthur Pym – the sounds of “tekeli li” hover ominously throughout this story of the discovery of a vast polar civilization that pre-dates the rise of advanced lifeforms on the other continents. (They appear to have been of the shape of huge cucumbers, tremendously intelligent, and, as in other Lovecraft stories of aliens and ancient civilizations, have “blood” that is sticky, green, and foul smelling.)

The mere sight of the remains of the the huge urban settlements built by these creatures, with the realization that they are millions of years older than the oldest human city, and the eventual discovery that some of the inhabitants yet live, drives some of the explorers positively mad.   Lovecraft repeatedly mentions paintings by Nicholas Roerich (an early 20th century mystic and pacifist) to describe the appearance of the urban remains.

roerich.jpg

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