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Picturing a World

Artist-soldier’s notebook at war

Writers jot down thoughts; artists jot down images. As a follow-up to my previous post on Edward Ardizzone's war paintings, here's a drawing from the same year, 1944, by Victor Alfred Lundy, a soldier who kept a notebook all through his service during WWII. He donated it to the Library of Congress, which has digitized the whole thing and made it available to the public. This particular page reminded me of Félix Bracquemond's etching of Bastion 84, the post where Parisian artists including Carolus-Duran served during the Franco-Prussian seventy-five years earlier. Like letters home, off-the-cuff drawings have an immediacy that historical fiction writers can plumb—but sometimes you also have to stand back and observe in silence. Six from L Company hurt here, six killed.
Thanks, James Gurney.

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In Manet's potent Rue Mosnier, the flags are hung out to celebrate France's repayment of war reparations to Germany. The one-legged man who hobbles down the empty street has paid a different price for the Franco-Prussian War. The painting moved me, and I translated it obliquely into the scene where Edward shares a glass of brandy with a veteran. Later, he finds it impossible to put into words why the chance meeting mattered to him, but it did. Likewise, I find it impossible to put into words why the scene matters to me, but it does. I lived in fear that a reader or editor would call for it to be cut. Thank goodness, it went uncontested. Read More 
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