Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Pictures at an Exhibition, or Just Fantasy?

Viktor Hartmann, Paris Catacombs. People pictu...Image via Wikipedia
Recently a man living near Washington, D.C., experienced an unwelcome and alarming vision. Friends laughed it off and dismissed it as a dream, perhaps a fantasy or an illusion. The vision was clear: good people were in danger and needed his help. He and perhaps his friends were somehow destined to get involved. The appeal came through a discovered artifact -- ancient and very valuable. The artifact created clues and led to glimpses of places lost and people long dead, including war heroes, statesmen and jurists. The main character, and maybe his friends, are compelled to follow unmistakable signs leading to a burning cave situated near the famous Gettysburg battlefield park north of the American capital.

More than 100 years earlier, in Russia, a flawed yet gifted and not quite famous composer grasped a similar vision. He was Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky, in poor health and suffering from depression, alcoholism and delirium. Yet in just a few weeks Mussorgsky composed the immortal "Pictures from an Exhibition – A Remembrance of Viktor Hartmann", in memory of a dead artist friend. Most of Hartmann's paintings -- the pictures which inspired the musical composition -- are now lost to history, particularly one mysterious pastel that Mussorgsky was obsessed with to his last days, a work depicting an abandoned cave, raging with suppressed fire, with furious armies clashing at its base. If you looked closely into the cave, it was said you had the illusion of looking into a lost world, perhaps a parallel universe....the painting was last spotted in the black market Istanbul in 1933....and said to be purchased by a fabulously wealthy Syrian collector...

Gettysburg Passage is a fantasy novel by John Callahan, available for Kindle and all e-readers from Amazon for $2.99.
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