To the Lighthouse
Salman Rashid talks about a mysterious island created by Jules Verne — the stuff of adventures
The setting of the lighthouse was crafted to tickle the imagination of any pre-teen boy who read Jules Verne’s The Lighthouse at the End of the World: right at the edge of a barren, rocky dot of an island that was incessantly washed by the surf of the south Atlantic and scoured by arctic winds coming over the seas. Here the three keepers were kept company by sea birds and a few assorted wild creatures. Other than that, no man walked this island.
When I read the book half a century ago, the island rode my mind. Etched forever, it became just the place I wanted to be where I could climb the spiral stairway to the top of the lighthouse and look out upon a turbulent sea stretching all the way to the vast Antarctic ice sheets that were, in my imagination, visible in the distance.
In my recurrent daydream, I sailed an old windjammer across the seas, southward where the albatross soared, to reach the island whose name I forgot soon after reading the book. If the seas were stormy on the voyage, they were especially fierce in the deep south Atlantic. As we anchored, huge walls of surf crashed into the rocks washing the brilliant white of the lighthouse. Indeed, the roar and crash of the surf and the screaming of the sea birds was our endless orchestra.
There I remained with Vasquez, the only survivor from among the three keepers — the other two having been murdered by the dastardly pirate Justin Kongre and his mean bunch. We lived off fish from the reef and sea birds caught in an ingenious trap. Vasquez taught me knots and how to make nets for fish and I taught him nothing back.
In my imagination, centering on the lighthouse, we did not have to hide from Kongre in the caves and wait for the US ship to come to our rescue. My island and the lighthouse at the edge of the known world, was a blissful place even after Kongre’s ravages.