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Picturing a World

Bombed library

This morning, I ran across this photograph in a fascinating new book, Gothic: An Illustrated History by Roger Luckhurst. What interests me is not its connection to all the permutations of sensibility collected under the term Gothic. No, as the world fears a new war in Ukraine, it was the image of horrific destruction that hit me first. Then wonder at the books still so neatly shelved, then a smile at the calm, plucky Englishmen (those hat!) perusing books. But wait, it's probably staged.

War propaganda. If you are confused about what's happening in Europe right now, it's not only because of the inscrutable mind of Vladimir Putin, but because information, disinformation, and misleading tactics are as much a part of the fog in a prelude to war as it is in the fog of war itself. You can read about this photo and the suspicions about it at the Wikipedia Commons website where it appears in the public domain.
But even doubts don't rob it of its power of suggestion for a writer. Historical novelists could use it any number of ways, including in an dramatization of the day the bombing happened or discussions at the appropriate ministry on how to use it. It might suggest a story of an intrepid reporter who uncovers misinformation being created by either the good guys or the bad guys in a war. Look at the X made by the charred beams in the center of the picture; now transpose it into a robotic invader from outer space. Imagine a monastery or palace in magical world, where earthquakes have unnatural causes and some kind of spell keeps a dome of protection over the library. In its own odd way, it really is gorgeous.
All the same, may there be no opportunity for something like it to be taken in the coming days.

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