Tuesday, January 17, 2017

the last book I ever read (Moonglow: A Novel by Michael Chabon, excerpt nine)

from Moonglow: A Novel by Michael Chabon:

What he saw that day, and what he heard from the survivors he questioned, persuaded him that there was no way Wernher von Braun could have been technical director of the V-2 program while remaining unaware of how business was conducted in the Mittelwerk. Von Braun could not be crowned with the glory of the rocket without shouldering the burden of its shame. All the suffering my grandfather saw had been amassed and all the cruelty deployed at the prompting and in the service of von Braun’s dream. It turned out that the V-2 was not a means to liberate the human spirit from the chains of gravity; it was only a pretext for further enchainment. It was not an express bound for the stars but a mail rockets carrying one simple message, signed in high-explosive amatol with the name of Baron von Braun. Maybe the man’s dream had begun as something beautiful and grand. For a time, maybe, its grandeur and its beauty had blinded von Braun to all the ways in which he was busily betraying it. That was only human, the common lot. But once your dream revealed itself, like most dreams, to be nothing but a current of raw compulsion flowing through a circuitry of delusion and lies, then that was the time to give it up. That was the time to damn your dream and trust your eyes. And maybe cock your revolver.

Over the course of that long day in Nordhausen my grandfather trusted his eyes and gave up the dream he had shared with the Wernher von Braun of his imaginings. Along with it, he surrendered the memory of a rocket in a clearing, a half hour of something that had felt like peace, a midnight conversation with the rector of Our Lady of the Moon. When those things were gone, there was a bad moment as my grandfather found himself confronted once more with the void that surrounded the planet of his heart for a thousand parsecs in every direction. After that, as with the liberators of Nordhausen putting away their disgust and useless anguish, there was only the matter of his anger and where to point it.

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