Arabia Felix is the spellbinding true story of a scientific expedition gone disastrously awry. On a winter morning in 1761 six men leave Copenhagen by sea – a botanist, a philologist, an astronomer, a doctor, an artist, and their manservant – an ill-assorted band of men who dislike and distrust one another from the start. These are the members of the Danish expedition to Arabia Felix, as Yemen was then known, the first organized foray into a corner of the world unknown to Europeans. The expedition made its way to Turkey and Egypt, by which time its members were already actively seeking to undercut and even kill one another, before disappearing into the harsh desert that was their destination. Nearly seven years later a single survivor returned to Denmark to find himself forgotten and all the specimens that had been sent back ruined by neglect.
This novel is a philosophical reflection because the trip quickly turns out to be a march towards death... But for me this book is also a reflection on creation, the beauty of a journey into the unknown, the meeting of peoples and ideas, the unlimited possibilities... and finally a choice, good or bad, concrete or sensitive, but which will end, in any case, inevitably by disappearing and being forgotten...
»No bird song preludes the day at its beginning, no crown of foliage restores the rustle of the wind. Every morning, the human voice is the first and only sign of life that we perceive in the great silence. Everything has, so to speak, withdrawn like a tide so that one can better contemplate one's own life. There is almost nothing other than it in this place. Your life is inscribed in the space around you, it is your voice in the silence, your footprints in the hot sand. It's not much, and it will fade away soon, and we can see it here: we are almost nothing.«
Fabien Lédé, 2022