a) where is the action taking place?
b) who is the author?
Blackwell's Bookshops will give pounds 30 worth of booktokens to the first correct answer out of the hat. Answers on a postcard to: Literally Lost, Independent on Sunday, 1 Canada Square, London E14 5DL. Usual competition rules apply. Entries to arrive by this Thursday.
"We set off once more. Each interminable, empty day ended at sunset and started again at dawn. The others ate dates before we started, but I could no longer face their sticky sweetness, and I fasted till the evening meal. Hour after hour my camel shuffled forward, moving, it seemed, always up a slight incline towards an interminable horizon, and nowhere in all that glaring emptiness of gravel plain and colourless sky was there anything upon which my eyes could focus. I would notice some dots, think that perhaps they were far-off camels, only to realise a few strides farther on that they were stones immediately beneath our feet. I marvelled how Rai kept his direction, especially when the sun was overhead. I knew that camels will never walk straight; my own animal edged off the whole time to the right towards her homeland and I had to tap her back with my stick, a constant source of irritation. Rai and the others talked continuously and seemingly paid no attention to where they were going, and yet when at intervals I checked our course with my compass it never varied more than a few degrees. We reached the well at Haushi, near the southern coast, six days after leaving the Amairi. For the past two days it had been grievous to watch the limping agony of the hazmia. There was nothing here for the camels to eat but the shoots of leafless thornbushes growing in occasional watercourses. The hazmia could not even feed. She was accustomed to the grazing of the sands, and her tender gums could not chew this woody fare. She was becoming thin. Al Auf eyed her and said, "When we do kill her she won't be worth eating." We murdered her the evening we got to Haushi. We cut the meat into strips and hung it on bushes to dry, and put the marrow bones into the sac of her stomach, which we tied up with a strip of her skin and buried in the sands, lighting a fire on top of it. Next day when we uncovered it, there was a blood-streaked mess floating among the empty bones, which Mabkhaut poured into an empty goatskin. Bedu yearn hungrily for fats, but I dreamt of fruit, of bunches of grapes, and whiteheart cherries.
Literally Lost 48: The book was In Search of Laos by Christopher Kremmer. The action took place in Luang Prabang, Laos. The winner is Diana Shamash, Oxfordshire.