Travel: Literally Lost: 14

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The Independent Travel
The following excerpt has been taken from a classic work of travel literature. Readers are invited to tell us: a) where is the action taking place? b) who is the author? Blackwell's Bookshops will supply pounds 30-worth of book tokens each week to the first correct answer out of the hat. Answers on a postcard to: Literally Lost, 'Independent on Sunday', 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL. Usual Newspaper Publishing competition rules apply. Entries to arrive by Thursday 8 January.

"You think you're not being followed? You do? You really do?" The fish- like bulging of his eyes implied that I was gullible beyond belief. " Well, my friend, you may think you're not, but..."

"I'm not a journalist."

"Nor am I, but they follow me just the same. Always two of them. But the moment you notice them, they change."

My silence, he knew, meant dissent. "Perhaps they changed anyway," I thought. "Perhaps they were his illusion. Or maybe businessmen were followed." We were on delicate ground. Either I was naive or he was paranoid. I was thinking: this is how totalitarianism works - by creating dementia, a conviction of all- seeing authority. But its inhuman efficiency is an invention of its victims. While he was thinking (perhaps): "This is how it works - by concealing its mechanisms so successfully from the innocent (and stupid) that they do not know what is happening to them."

I could not tell how frightened he was. His goitrous eyes swelled with a look of permanent alarm. He said: "The rooms are all bugged too."

"I don't talk to myself..."

But he wasn't listening. He was filled by the evangelistic certainty that his own truth was universal. "Nobody escapes these people, my friend. They are like highly intelligent children. Their short-term tactics are brilliant, but their overall strategy is nonsensical. In other words they're mad."

Because of the postal delays over Christmas, the result to last week's competition will be announced next Sunday.