I bring up imagination because in my WWII novel, the protagonist Gauthier Brendel more or less lives by Einstein’s assessment of imagination’s proportions: infinitely present and infinitely free. Gauthier is a student of the arts, having left his field of Engineering as a gifted student to join a small art school in Paris soon after the Second Armistice is signed – a time when most of his countrymen are struggling to find work or a trade school. Gauthier fully immerses himself in his experimental oil or watercolor paintings and soon can find symbols everywhere in the natural world; symbols that prove that whatever Man creates is indeed just a temporary manipulation of nature. He is a devout Realist this week; perhaps he’ll dabble in Impressionism next week. He is almost embarrassingly idealized in how he sees the world of Man, war or no war; even he questions his own summation at times. All political parties are the same, for example. But, how could Communism truly work without capital ingenuity? And of course France will never become part of the German Empire -- isn’t it obvious? Berliners never look at each other as they pass on the sidewalk. The French could never refrain from looking at each other as they pass on the sidewalk! Gauthier…romanticized by a scene in the park, or a kind remark, or the plumb lower lip of his favorite singer, André Dassary...
The war will not last, and neither will Fascist rule. But how does Gauthier know this?
Often and purposefully, Gauthier uses the moon as a symbol to reality. No matter what is happening on Earth’s surface – no matter by whose hands Germany or France or England are controlled and no matter what humanity asserts is “true” – the moon can serve as a natural common denominator to any of Man's endeavors. Though just the same, the moon can serve as the perfect symbol of a higher truth than any religion conjured by Man, for the face of the moon is infinite as pi. Infinity.
As I struggle to get this story right, I feel Gauthier’s struggle, too. I feel his fear as he is discerning what his world is coming to as more time goes by and the war carries on, not knowing if his mother is alive, not sure why he is wrapped up in the enemy’s uniform, and why he has fallen in love with a man who is the enemy. No matter if I actually believe in the philosophy that I am writing – and I do not, for I must not -- I do feel the fall of Gauthier’s stomach with his every failing to suppress the terrible and growing assessment that his interpretation of life is less than ideal, his art possibly false, and the moon is less a symbol to some reality and is more just a piece of rock; a mass of orbiting rock that could possibly be conquered by Man one day and made to impose a human reality in spite of the natural laws; a swastika, like a giant spotlight ever-present and synchronized with Earth serving as the eye of the State and not of God. Could the Nazis actually reign for a thousand years, or possibly two hundred thousand years? It's beginning to look this way -- it certainly feels like they --. Are we truly stuck here on the edge of the Milky Way, and forever? Does imagination end with the machination of Man?