Thursday, March 19, 2009

they thought God had left the museum for good

I'm reading The Madonnas of Leningrad right now; it's about a woman's memories of hiding from the Nazis in the Hermitage during the siege of Leningrad.

When we were at the Krakow film festival, there was a Russian filmmaker who had spliced together footage from the recently released archival reels of the siege. It was all images, little if any dialogue. It was really arresting, just one stark black and white image of suffering after another.

Last night I was reading a passage in the book where the main character and her colleagues (she's a docent at the Hermitage) are working around the clock to pack up all the artwork so it can be shipped out to safety, when I suddenly remembered the lyrics to an old Tragically Hip song, "Scared":

you're in Russia
and more than a million works of art
are whisked out to the woods
when the Nazis
find the whole place dark
they'd think God's
left the museum for good

I've listened to that song many times before, but I never realized what those lines were about until I read that passage.

1 comment:

Ro said...

That sounds like an excellent read! I'll have to add that to my read list. There was a book that came out by I believe a German woman in Berlin about living through the Russian occupation of the city, an almost taboo subject because of course the world had little interest in war endurance stories from a German's perspective, even one that was raped by a Russian soldier. I'll have to try and recall the name of the novel. Also, Have you read "A Fair Country" by John Ralston Saul? He has an excellent take on the future of Canada combined with Aboriginal ideals and perspectives