11:4: “The Artist in the Tower”, by Adam Mills

11:4: “The Artist in the Tower”, by Adam Mills

We all remember how cruel and unrelenting the Campano regime was. Such a topic has been covered on a regular basis in our public schools and universities. Months of research and polish have been devoted to condensing the tragedy and fire of that time to the space of a textbook chapter. I have sometimes, in the line of my occupation, been asked to supervise these efforts, when I am not busy with my instruction at the university, owing to my research into the stories of the heroes of that time.

There is one hero’s name I never see, however: Armin. His name is already in other textbooks and histories, but as an artist who fell victim to the Campanos during their crackdown on “renegade” art. He is a mere footnote in the study of history.

This is a grievous error. His story is widely known, in a sense; in the tale of his life and imprisonment, he is treated as an important symbol of the forces that eventually toppled the Campanos. Even so, he is treated as folklore, a man blown up into a mythic hero by a public desirous for one. I, however, wish to reintroduce Armin as a man whose achievements were in fact real, moreso than anyone could have realized.

*

He had a full name, like all men born in civilized society, but he chose to go by simply Armin. No one dared contradict him for fear that he would stop with his creations. His oil paintings, the ones that survived the Conflagration, have been sought after by bored, wealthy men and museums for decades now. His brushwork was magnificent enough, but his truest characteristic is his use of space. So many artists feel compelled, even obligated, to fill the whole canvas with color and texture; Armin entertained no obligations to any tradition, creating his own instead.

I offer an anecdote of a bystander who witnessed one of his paintings during a viewing party:

It only used black and blue paint. Aside from some concentric semicircles, fractal patterns, and rows of parallel lines that sometimes become perpendicular, it was threadbare, random scrawls on a yellowed canvas. When I saw it from a distance, standing in front of a sculpture of a horse with water pouring from its mouth, I dismissed it after a second’s examination. Something made me look back, though. I slowly crossed the busy floor of that museum and approached the painting. Shapes converged with closeness, and my mind, grasping a mental image, connected his brushstrokes. I saw a circular ruin encircled by leafless trees, with a wild dog bowing over its front legs in front of a crumbling, moonlit altar. I fell spellbound. When I came out of my trance, I grabbed the nearest stranger at the shoulders and, forgetting the day-to-day demands of human manner, told her what I saw. She smiled and confessed that she had seen a harbor in twilight, the water full with fishing boats, a lone seagull perched on a post next to a tired sailor.

In the days of Armin’s living prime, exhibitions for his creations were serious cultural events. So few working artists remained in practice, left in poverty by the Campano regime and its edicts. They rarely ever risked the disfavor of the government, and of the Campanos, since they were one and the same, despite their claims to the contrary. Armin held no fear, though; he welcomed all citizens to his exhibitions. At a given event, one hundred people could be there, with one hundred different visions of the same painting. All the while, Armin stood by, listening, smiling, nodding with affirmation whenever a patron told him what they saw but mischievously silent about explaining what it meant.

The story goes that on Armin’s last day as a free man, the Last Campano, Raoul The Lesser, visited Armin’s gallery. In the midst of an exhibition, a horde of royal guards came marching through the front door unannounced, turning everyone stiff with fear. Six or seven men in black uniform, a severe slash of red bisecting their torsos diagonally from shoulder to waist, bearing their rifles with rigged bayonets, their faces composed of stone. And, in the middle of them, the center of this miniature universe, Raoul Campano, a small man with deep-set eyes and a stiff back.

No one saw any fear in Armin, however. He welcomed the tyrant with a flashing smile and a bow and directed him to his newest painting, sidestepping him as he approached it. For the next minute, Raoul stared into the painting with intense focus. Not a sound echoed through that gallery as everyone awaited his response, aside from what would have been the occasional nervous cough or the sound of shuffling feet. Armin stood to the side, his arms folded, his eyes half-open and keen.

After a minute, Raoul turned to him. “I don’t understand. What is it?”

Armin said with a smirk, “It’s what you make of it.”

“I don’t see anything,” Raoul said, turning back to the painting. “I can see your brushstrokes and the texture of the canvas, and I can see the colors you used, but it’s not becoming anything.”

“Everyone sees something.” Armin moved to stand beside him, looking at the painting.

“What am I supposed to see?”

“Your imagination must determine that for you.” After a pause, he said, “Unless you have no imagination.”

Perhaps that statement wouldn’t have been as damaging had they been two men standing in a gallery speaking to one another privately. Then, Armin’s statement likely would have sounded like a friendly joke meant to elicit a nervous smile, or simply something offhand, like an afterthought. There were other people there, however, and these people snickered uncontrollably, and they hid their laughter by stifling it. But stifling laughter can be worse than giving way to it; it can give someone the impression that not only are they laughing at you, but they know it’s wrong to do it and can’t help it.

Raoul became red-faced and glared at Armin for a good ten seconds. “Beware what you say to me,” he said in a gruff voice, then turned on his heels and stomped out of the gallery, his men in tow behind him like a row of ducklings. When the royal guard arrested Armin the next morning, the reason given was treason by inciting subordination.

For the rest of his life, Armin lived in a solitary tower in the Campano military compound. Almost a perfect circle in shape, Armin’s room held one high window, too high to reach standing up in a tower too high to fall from without dying. The only other object in the room besides Armin was a small yellow rug, a cruel joke of a bed, too thin to give much cushion against the rough stone floor, but too thick to be rolled up and used as a noose; even in that latter regard, there was nothing to hang from. The room itself acted as an instrument used to break men’s spirits, the same way a torturer might use a rack, barren as it was of anything that might help someone bear their imprisonment or gain easy release.

What surprised Raoul and his men the most was how agreeable a prisoner Armin was. For the first few weeks, every morning when they unlocked the door to his dungeon and stepped in with his pathetic breakfast, he greeted them with a warm smile and then continued sitting on his rug in silence, presumably lost in the inner space of his mind.

One morning, a guard walked in to find Armin meditating on his rug, as usual, and laid a bowl of gruel on the floor next to him. As he rose to exit the room, he saw a design on the wall, across from where Armin sat. He glanced back at Armin, who stared into an unknown point in the distance beyond the walls of the tower. The guard approached the wall, watching the details of the design come into focus. He saw a man’s face, square-jawed and gallant, with thorny patterns painted on his cheeks. Beside the face by a few inches sat a hand, clasped around the handle of a spear.

The guard promptly held a conference with Raoul the Lesser in the latter’s main chambers, decadent as could be expected for a Campano. Raoul decided to let the situation play out, baffling as it was: Where did the brush come from? What served as the paint? Raoul did not know; he could not imagine it for himself.

The painting continued, despite the establishment of a regular watch to maintain near-constant surveillance. The face, hand, and spear transformed into a warrior over the course of a day, standing still on a grassy knoll. Another day brought two more warriors, decorated like their brother and standing at attention, rising to battle. The day after brought ten more warriors, now assembling into a regiment and bearing bows and catapults. The day after that brought revolutionary guerillas, dressed in their spartan attire and holding rifles in mid-aim. Uniforms in the pattern of the royal guard lay on the ground in front of them, torn by bullet holes. All of this rounded the walls, painted in a creamy gray color with minute brushstrokes. It overwhelmed the guards when they visited Armin every morning. They always tried to catch Armin in mid-process, but every time they observed him they found him sitting on the floor, his legs crossed under him, smiling and staring into the distance.

Raoul could only take this for so long; not only did Armin persist in perfect health, he also displayed seemingly limitless resources in continuing his passion. He first had his guards search the dungeon itself, and then Armin’s physical person, for his paintbrush, or whatever it was he used. They found nothing, no paintbrush, no stains on Armin’s fingers.

Raoul’s next experiment started with having a guard break the fingers on Armin’s right hand. When the guard came in the next morning, he found Zeus’s thunderbolt and Ares’ bloody battle-axe on the wall. That night, Raoul had a guard break the fingers on Armin’s other hand. The next morning brought a panorama of the Hindu gods: Hanuman the monkey with his golden tunic and his neverending staff, Kali and the severed heads that lay at her feet as she danced. All the guards refused to enter the room at that point. This left Raoul with no other choice but to take the next step of his experiment himself: taking one of his ceremonial swords with him into the dungeon and, without any prior warning, blinding Armin.

For the next two days after this act, no new paintings covered the walls. Armin himself lost his cheer, and he began to thin out a bit as well, according to the guards who supervised him. No more painting, and no more Armin; Raoul probably thought this was one of his better strategic decisions.

On the third day, a guard entered Armin’s dungeon to find Armin paler and thinner than the day before, stooping over slightly in his sitting position. A gleam of red caught the guard’s eye and he glanced at the walls of the dungeon. The mural had grown overnight to cover the walls completely, all in red paint. Surrounding the guard were the host of gods: the Greek and Hindu from before, but also the Norse with great Thor and his hammer Mjolnir and the valkyries, the Egyptian gods led by the falcon-headed Horus and the beast that devoured the hearts of the evil at judgment, and the gods and heroes of the Celts, led by Cuchulain in the midst of berserker fury, eyes bulging out of his sockets and muscular limbs contorted.

They circled the guard within the dungeon, climbing their way up to the ceiling, touching it and snaking back down to the floor. They mingled with the images of the revolutionary guerillas that threatened the Campanos’ rule. In the background of the mural, the Campano military compound lay in rubble, tendrils of smoke and dust floating into an imaginary sky. The guard is reported to have fainted on the spot, and every guard who tried to enter the room after him befell a variety of ills, including severe nausea and paralysis of the limbs. Those that survived venturing into the room told Raoul, who locked himself in his bedroom and refused to come out for the rest of the day.

Later that night, when the moon hung like a lantern above the Campano compound, the ground shook horribly, causing parts of the outer wall to collapse in a massive din. Those guards and soldiers that weren’t crushed under the cascade of rock and slate were startled into action. Sorting their way through the rubble of their compound, Campano’s men heard something like a great stampede roaring closer. They struggled into the open air, only to face an unbelievable sight: the divine army painted on Armin’s dungeon walls wrecking the compound and bearing down on them.

Many men scrambled out of the ruins and into the surrounding forest, babbling incoherently, their minds broken. Those who remained and stood guard saw untold levels of casualties. Some were eaten whole by Cerebus and Fenrir, victims to a contest the two held with one another. Others were scorched into ashes by Shiva or pillaged of their souls by Hades and the armies of the dead, their bodies dropping to the earth like abandoned puppets.

In this chaos, one god, Hanuman, ventured up Armin’s tower alone, climbing a spiral staircase lit by flickering torches. The shadow of Hanuman’s pole stretched ahead of him, racing him up the stairs. At last he reached the wooden door to Armin’s dungeon. He placed a hand upon it and willed it open, revealing Armin sitting on his rug, unshaken by the terrible clamor surrounding him. With his sightless eyes he looked up at Hanuman and smiled. “I knew you would come,” he said, his voice weak. Without a word, Hanuman plucked Armin up into his arms and cradled him, warming him with his fur, and he went down the stairs and out of the chaos, into the forest with the rest of the army that accompanied him, leaving the survivors to compose themselves and pray that a second surge wouldn’t strike them.

This is not an uncommon story. I first heard it when I was just a child, and I’ve heard it many times since. Historically speaking, it originated in the aftermath of the great tremors that shook the capital city, which manifested most severely at the Campano compound. Rumors of divine punishment and stirrings of wish-fulfillment gave way to the unexplainable madness of the men that escaped the destruction. These mingled with the sudden disappearance of no other prisoner but Armin in the aftermath. A singular story arose out of these ingredients, the story of Armin’s imprisonment and escape via the gods, let loose by his own imagination. Eventually, this story became a rallying cry for those tired of being abused by a ruthless dictator who murdered thousands of innocent civilians and imprisoned thousands more. They wished to be like Armin, to take up weapons of their own choosing and strike back at Raoul The Lesser, reclaiming their lives and their country. No single greater manifestation of this desire exists than what took place only seven days after the tremors: the Great Rebellion, where ten thousand men and women stormed the ruins of Raoul the Lesser’s compound and snuffed out the Campano regime.

*

I’ll leave the rest of the details regarding the Great Rebellion to other historians, who have documented that story with far better research and writing than my own. However, I seem to be the only one committing that same level of attention to Armin’s role in events. Part of the reasoning behind this, I assume, is that so much of this story operates on a level of hearsay and social construction. It does not help that the timeline of Armin’s life seems to abruptly stop after his imprisonment and suspected escape, which strains most attempts to objectively appraise his influence.

That said, I do not appreciate the denial of Armin and the true extent of his influence. There is too much resonance between this supposedly fabulist story and the very real conditions and hopes experienced by very real people, who will swear by it the same way we now swear by the supposedly objective re-tellings of “true” events that comprise the majority of textbooks. What is there to say the events of hundreds of years ago were true, aside from enough people coming together to say they’re true? History itself is suspension of disbelief, and the kinds of things we’re willing to suspend disbelief for. It is the stuff of people’s lives, and those lives are not lived from a distance, or at least the distance that historians often claim to possess. They are lived up close, utterly subjective, and often unbelievable. What I propose, ultimately, is a change of distance. It is much like one of Armin’s paintings: a change in perspective and approach can mean the difference between confusion and enlightenment. This may be our true purpose, embracing and commemorating lives that might otherwise be unbelievable.


Adam Mills is a writer, editor, and teacher currently living in the Missouri Ozarks. He is a recent graduate of the Stonecoast MFA Program, based at the University of Southern Maine. He currently works as Managing Editor at Weird Fiction Review and as an editorial assistant for Cheeky Frawg Books. His work can be found in publications such as The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities. You can find him online at his blog adamwmills.wordpress.com. He says:

One of my favorite possessions is a copy of this anthology, The Book of Fantasy, edited in part by Jorge Luis Borges. In that anthology, there’s this little story called “The Tale and the Poet,” which reads: “Tulsi Das, the Hindu poet, created the tale of Hanuman and his army of monkeys. Years afterwards, a despot imprisoned him in a stone tower. Alone in his cell, he fell to meditating, and from his meditation came Hanuman and his monkey army, who laid low the city, broke open the tower, and freed Tulsi Das.” It’s attributed to Sir Richard Burton, but there’s no citation or acknowledgement of that being the real authorship. In all likelihood, it is a forgery written by Borges for the collection. I read it as a writing prompt from Borges himself, to see if I could “explode” that little story into something bigger. If anyone encounters Borges in their dreams any time soon, tell him I owe him my thanks.


Photograph of the library in the Kirby Hall of Civil Rights building at Lafayette College in Easton, PA, US by Benjamin D. Esham is provided by Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States.

A few weeks ago, my father caught a look at one of my son’s schoolbooks and spent the rest of the day asking me why the book’s editors thought twenty pages were enough to help people learn how horrible the Campanos were. I told him there was more in History to be told than that particular sequence of events. He just shook his head and spat through an open window.
Simply called “Painting #18″. As with most of his paintings, they are officially named for the order in which they are believed to have been crafted, due to a lack of consensus over consistent features.
From Stories of the Great Artists by Frida Coehlo, p. 147-48. That volume has many notable anecdotes of Armin and his paintings, some from experiences that occurred within Armin’s acknowledged lifetime. Accounts like these go a long way in illustrating Armin for modern readers, and even then details are scarce.
I have seen this very painting. While in Paris for a visiting professorship, I encountered this painting at the Lourve, where it was on loan for a month as part of a special exhibit devoted to artists who faced political persecution. There is indeed an uncontrollable allure that beckons one to the painting. As for what I saw: an image of a man in military garb, his saber clattering uselessly to the ground as waves of armed men swarm him. This vision still sticks with me, in part because I am convinced I saw my father as one of the soldiers.
By now, artists and historians alike should be familiar with the Blacklisted, a school of artists and playwrights who were exiled to poverty by the Campanos, only to experience a resurgence in popularity and scrutiny once Samuel Beckett named them as a key influence on Waiting For Godot. Armin himself is mentioned as an influence and kindred spirit in the autobiographical notes of Salvador Dali, who nonetheless expressed in those same notes a personal goal of achieving more “solidity and detail” in his own work than he saw in Armin’s.
As Jahi Negarestani says in his newly released biography of Armin, The Brush of the Gods, “[I]t was likely better this way; the great allure of magic is that you don’t know how it works. If anyone learned the secret of how Armin invited the viewer into becoming co-painter, into volunteering the missing piece within themselves to create the whole, they would likely lose the ability to dream as a result” (p. 12).
As multiple pieces of personal correspondence between himself and others suggests, he called himself The Unconquerable; his failure in that regard caused History to name him otherwise.
This scene is essentially taken word-for-word from a copy of The Hidden Voice, the underground paper that flourished during the latter half of the Campano regime. It was supposedly corroborated by multiple witnesses who gave anonymous testimony for the paper. This particular issue was published in the spring of 1930; an educated guess would claim it for the month of April, based on an article concerning seismologic disturbances and how they could affect upcoming protest marches.
The only evidence for this verdict comes from a piece of handwritten correspondence between Raoul and his brother Guillermo, a general in the National Army. In it, Raoul complains about the threat that Armin and other artists bear to his reign: “I grow tired of my subjects mocking me, Guillermo. I hear stories every day of citizens drawing caricatures of me and lighting them afire or pissing on them. This mockery cannot stand; otherwise, how can anyone believe in my authority? How can I show my strength to other nations and their leaders? They will not believe me; they will think me a stupid boy trying to stand in his father’s boots.” The original copy of this letter is on display in the Museo de la Luz, at the time of this writing.
Such a fate befell a friend of my father’s, who was arrested for dispersing copies of The Hidden Voice. The only reassurance my father could take from this, given to him by a man he met later in life who apologetically admitted to being a former jailer for the Campanos, was that it took much longer for his friend’s sanity to give way than it did for others. A picture of his friend stands on the mantle above my father’s fireplace to this day.
In The Brush of the Gods, Negarestani summarizes the sentiments of Armin’s former jailers after interviewing a handful of them: “A torturer is always disturbed by the dissonance between their grim acts and their victim’s mellow, even bemused, geniality, should they affect such an attitude. Such was the mindset of Raoul The Lesser and his guards concerning Armin” (p. 69).
In his seminal biography of Raoul The Lesser, The Greatest Failure, Dr. Paulo Cortez mentions a certain omnipresence of self-portraits that decorated Raoul’s chambers, often depicting the tyrant standing on mountaintops or bearing a glinting saber while on horseback. Most would probably find this slightly disturbing and narcissistic (as Cortez does). How appropriate, Cortez claims, that someone so consumed with their own power would erect monuments to it even on the walls of the room they slept in. I dwelt on another curious detail about Raoul The Lesser: shortly after his father died of old age, and immediately after he assumed control of the regime, Raoul The Lesser set about scrubbing his father’s image from the walls of the compound and replacing his father’s face with his face on all propaganda, no matter how iconic or long-standing in the public eye. I see a sad irony here: he wanted to establish a legacy of his own, but in order to do so he had to appropriate the framework his father had erected before. Even in replacing his father, he could never truly replace him.
According to Negarestani, Armin likely fashioned his paintbrush and materials from whatever foreign objects found their way into the room: “It is not hard to imagine Armin assembling a brush from the hairs and string in his rug and a utensil that a careless guard forgot. And the paint? If the facts about the horrible cuisine served to prisoners bear out, the porridge would have better served as paint in the first place” (p. 81).
For his book, Negarestani interviewed the guard who performed this duty: “ I twisted [his fingers] around, bent the joints back. I stopped short of breaking the bones through the skin. Any way I could mangle him, I did. I didn’t like it, but I had to do it. [Raoul] would’ve punished me if I didn’t do it. I never wanted to hurt him” (p. 97). I have my doubts as to the sincerity of his emotions, but I really have no way of contacting and cross-examining him. I and any other reader shall have to take him at his word; anymore, that’s all we have for these things.
This detail, like so many others in this version of the story, is revealed for the first time in The Brush of the Gods. To Negarestani’s credit, he never bothers to explain the source of the red paint, and it’s just as well; it only requires very little grim effort on the part of a reader to understand.
I cannot blame those who would find this entire scene impossible; I could have been one of them a few months ago. But it comes from The Brush of the Gods; half of Chapter Seven in that book is devoted to detailing this scene. Given the strong research that Negarestani exhibits elsewhere throughout his book, and the authority with which he writes, I have no real option except to suspend my disbelief, as hard as that act may be.
The testimony of the guards interviewed in Negarestani’s book is divided in regards to their opinion of Raoul’s actions here. Half of them chide Raoul The Lesser for showing his cowardice, which had long been suspected of him during his reign, so small and feeble in comparison to his towering father. The other half of them sympathize; as one of them says, “Armin was dabbling in powers none of us had access to. Perhaps Raoul was a coward, but he wasn’t stupid. He knew unearthly powers when he saw them. His only mistake was in failing to hide his emotions.” I would add that perhaps it was not fear, but despair that compelled him to lock himself in his chambers. For all he did to achieve even this relatively small victory, he still lost to someone with seemingly limited resources. The most dejected of tyrants will read value into small events for superstitious value within the bigger whole. In this case, such a reading was justified.
Many of the details concerning the gods’ siege on the compound come from those of the escapees still capable of speech. Most of them were either claimed by nearby mental health institutions or became homeless transients. Negarestani interviewed a few of them for his studies, and to that end he included transcripts of the interviews in The Brush of the Gods. In fact, the collapse of the compound and the accounts of the survivors make up the other part of Chapter Seven of that book. I won’t summarize their accounts here; suffice it to say that the contents of these men’s minds could fuel limitless studies and nightmares alike.
I cannot imagine how Negarestani verified this part of the story; furthermore, it is not part of the culturally agreed-upon version of events, which does not include the role of Hanuman in the rescue or Armin’s hopeful greeting for his savior. The most likely logical conclusion is if one guard did not actually flee, but somehow stayed behind to guard his prisoner until the end; even then, I have trouble believing any soldier, no matter how loyal, wouldn’t flee a crumbling fortress. It’s just as likely at this point that Hanuman himself (itself?) wrote the account. I’ve attempted to contact Negarestani regarding this aspect of his studies, but up to now I have been unable to establish communications. For that matter, contact information for Negarestani is scarce, and his publisher hasn’t responded to my inquiries either. In fact, aside from The Brush of the Gods, Negarestani has no prior publication history.
Most memorably, I heard it from my father. The version of the story that I’ve given here is sadly deficient of the detail and drama that he often inflected his version with. I only discovered why he told that story the way he did after I heard other stories about his experiences during the Campano regime, and after I discovered who the stranger in the picture on the fireplace was.
In the interest of objectivity, I must mention a soldier’s report excerpted in My Life With A Tyrant that claims the execution of multiple prisoners shortly after Armin’s arrest, an execution that was not publicly promoted or verified, in contrast to most official Campano executions (p. 312-20). There is no specific mention of Armin being among that group, however. Furthermore, scholars and archaeologists conducted an exhumation of the claimed grave site six years ago and found nothing.
If only this incident forever marked the end of woe for us. As any student of our nation’s history can attest, we had to contend with a second great war, another military dictatorship, and the subsequent collapse of our economy, which we still struggle with to this day, if my diminishing pay at the university is any indication.
I am well aware that I am breaking several rules of historical projection and research, most notably in giving the floor of academic inquiry to fabulist events and revealing personal details. My reasoning for this is forthcoming.
Aside from the mysterious Negarestani, of course. Perhaps that is why I received a copy of his book in my faculty mailbox two weeks ago.
There are some amusing rumors concerning this subject. One stipulates that Armin was carried into the heavens and canonized as the God of Art. In what pantheon, no one can say. My own theory, much more mundane but possibly more shocking, is Armin moved elsewhere, changed his name, and became an art historian. I plan to test this theory when – indeed, if – I come into contact with Negarestani. I also plan on thanking him, for a great many things.
My father swears by it, more than any creed or religious document, even decades later. He can still remember hearing this story shouted to the masses assembled for the Great Rebellion, huddled at the bottom of the hill leading up to the Campano compound. He still remembers how his blood pounded in his ears when he charged into the royal guard, the siege of the gods in his mind the entire time.
Every time I hear my father speak of how he shot down Campano’s men, feeling like every bullet was guided by forces beyond human control, knowing he was a part of the army of Armin, I cannot help but believe him. Part of this is due to my father’s advancing age. He is smaller, slower than he once was. His joints hurt, his breaths grow steadily shallower, and his eyes are almost completely clouded over. I fear that he may not be long for this world (he is, in fact, one of the last surviving soldiers of the Great Rebellion). And yet he still clings to his stories, because they are truer to him than anything else. There was a time when I did not believe him, long ago. And in those few times I expressed doubt over the story of Armin, my father would scoff and say, “Who are you to judge? You did not live my life; I did. My life is in line with Armin’s. To deny his life is to deny mine.”


2 Responses to “11:4: “The Artist in the Tower”, by Adam Mills”

  1. […] a side note, here’s a story by [I'd feel disingenuous putting the words "my friend" here, as I don't know him very well–though […]

  2. Well told and insightful about art, vision and what tyrants fear.

    Tone and style indeed reminiscent of Borges, and the footnotes are a great touch!

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