I read an article in the guardian on Saturday morning about the fall of Ceacescu’s Romania in 1989. The article is  a bit rambly, and like most attempts at opinion by journalists it fails to reach a proper conclusion. But it has this excellent passage in the middle, which struck me as a classic moment of life being stranger than role-playing:

One day, as we walked the gallery floors, the view across the cobbled square through a large opening blown in the elegant wall by an artillery shell was of tanks grinding over charred debris, nervous young soldiers – with flowers placed in their helmets by the people – returning the occasional crack of sniper fire, and crowds come to gawp at the fallen fortresses of the Ceausescu regime. It looked like war from another time, on black and white newsreel; a week had passed since Ceausescu’s execution, but it had taken days to subdue the stench of gunsmoke, shellfire and scorched masonry.

Beneath our feet as we walked were the incinerated remains of the museum’s inventory – paintings were pitted with bullet holes, the canvases strewn like corpses in a morgue. “As you can see, there was heavy fighting here, the Byzantine room,” Cruceanu said. “And a lot of shots were fired in the 19th-century national school, where we think our army had come in. But the Securitate [Ceausescu’s secret police] must have come through the forbidden corridors from the palace, or a skylight”… and we ascended to the third storey… “so that most of the shooting was here among the European paintings, of which I’m the curator.”

My notebook recorded that there was damage to Boccaccini’s Samson Breaking the Pillars of the Temple, Gentilleschi’s Mother and Child and Rembrandt’s A Man Begging the Forgiveness of Esther. At the end of the gallery was a piano, lightly coated in snow which had drifted in through the holes punched by shellfire and the top of a dome that had been blown off. Cruceanu raised the lid and played a few notes of, I think, Bach. “It works!” she said. “So you see, there is hope.”

It reminds me of Iain M Banks’s work, or something you would see in a Cyberpunk adventure.

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