Thursday, September 29, 2016

Jorge Luis Borges, Writer, b. 1899 Argentina, d. 1986 Switzerland

On Exactitude in Science
Jorge Luis Borges, Collected Fictions, translated by Andrew Hurley.
...In that Empire, the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Cartography as their Forebears had been, saw that that vast Map was Useless, and not without some Pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of that Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars; in all the Land there is no other Relic of the Disciplines of Geography.
—Suarez Miranda,Viajes de varones prudentes, Libro IV,Cap. XLV, Lerida, 1658

Maps, LA Times, May 26, 1999

Maps are more than a means for locating places throughout the world. Meteorologists use maps in forecasting weather and geologists use them in predicting earthquakes. There are skills that can help you become a more effective map reader. Explore the world through map-making or cartography by using the direct links on The Times' Launch Point Web site:
Here are the best sites for getting your schoolwork done or for just having fun.
Level 1
Mapmaker, Mapmaker, Make Me a Map: How do mapmakers take a three-dimensional object like the Earth and represent it using a two-dimensional object like paper? They use different systems of projection, which means that some dimensions are in perspective while others are distorted. Learn how different types of maps are made and find out what it takes to be a cartographer.
Weather Maps: Weather maps summarize what is going on in the atmosphere at a certain location and altitude. Learn about the symbols on a weather map and find out how meterologists use these maps to predict the weather.
Color Landform Atlas of the United States: Relief maps show elevation by color. View the 50 states through a variety of perspectives, from relief and satellite maps to historical maps from the 1890s.
Level 2
Learning About Maps: Learn about the concepts of latitude and longitude, find out how undersea maps are made and used, and try some mapping activities.
Cartography: The Art of Making Maps, the Science of Where You Are: Scientists use maps from different perspectives for many uses. Explore Puget Sound using satellite maps, topographic maps and weather maps and discover a variety of uses for maps.
National Geographic Xpeditions: Whether it's a state, province, country or continent you want to view, use this interactive collection of more than 600 maps to get a clearer picture of the world.
Level 3
Mathematics of Cartography: What Are Maps? Maps can be used to represent anything that can be spatially conceived. Learn more about different kinds of maps, read about the history of cartography and discover the mathematics behind mapping, including some fun map challenges.
Finding Your Way With Map and Compass: Maps are drawn to scale, which means that the distance between points on a map is in mathematical proportion to the actual distance depicted. Learn what the symbols mean on a topographic map and how to use one with a compass to get your bearings.
The Map Room: Early Polynesians created stick charts to mark navigational routes between islands while the ancient Babylonians made durable maps from clay tablets. View photos of the first maps and measuring devices, develop your map-reading skills by learning about scale and projection, and enjoy an assortment of maps and fun map facts.
Launch Point is produced by the UC Irvine department of education, which reviews each site for appropriateness and quality. Even so, parents should supervise their children's use of the Internet. This column was designed by Bret M. Lynes and Anna Manring.
The answer to this Internet quiz can be found in the sites at right.
If one inch represents one mile on a map, what is the map's scale?
CLUE: See Finding Your Way With Map and Compass
Find What You Need to Know: Have a project on California history? Need help doing a math problem? Launch Point now covers more than 80 topics for getting your schoolwork done. Go to for the full list of subjects and links to the best Internet sites.
source link here

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Julia Harrison, Artist

Generous spoon, 2012, 9x2.75x1.25", apple wood

Generous spoon, 2012, 9x2.75x1.25", apple wood

Ten Fingers, Ten Toes, 2009, dimensions variable, largest 3x1.5x1.5", pear, wax

Daikoku, 2006, 2x1.5x1", pear, gouache, wax, nickel, magnet

Generous, 2010, 1.5x1.25x1.5", maple, wax

Prufrock, 2006, oak, boxwood, gouache, wax, sterling, magnet

Thursday, September 15, 2016

History of Victorian Mourning Jewelry

Compass Rose Jewelry's line inspired by Victorian mourning jewelry, which has an interesting cultural and natural history. Mourning jewelry of the late Victorian era (1860s – 1880s) represents not only the love, loss and grief of Queen Victoria as a human being – but of the experiences of people across Europe and the Americas experiencing loss of loved ones on the teetering edge between the old world and the modern era. A time bridging an older world of European tradition and a new world of innovation and technology – the Victorian Era was steeped in layers of social convention, personal stories and political change.
Queen Victoria, in her decades of reign, influenced politics, fashion and social convention of the country, and indeed much of the world.  Utterly devoted to her husband of more than two decades, Victoria was distraught after his death in 1861.  Victoria and Albert’s was a marriage based truly on deep respect and romantic love, though was firmly contextualized within the constraints of the time.  Though it took Victoria several years to share responsibilities of ruling with Albert as she was rather controlling and precise in her dedication to the responsibilities of the throne. However, Albert’s expert administrative abilities and grasp of global political shifts at work surpassed Victoria’s, though neither of them imagined the how much the world would change in their children’s generation. 
Victoria came to rely on Albert heavily for political advice and decision-making.  Albert was member of a minor house of the Sax Coburgh and Gotha line – a smallish German-speaking Duchy (Germany did not exist as a unified country until 1871). The British people were not excited about a “foreign” king, so Victoria would rule as Queen and Albert would be her Prince Consort. Because Victoria’s mother was also a member of the Sax Coburgh line, Victoria was also fluent in German, which was the prmary language used between Victorian and Albert and their children in their private household.
Though both the Queen and Albert were fascinated by the emerging array of technologies it was Albert who was involved with the organization of the 1851 World Fair and Great Exhibition – home of the famous Crystal Palace. Victoria understood herself as a guardian of morals and an example to the realm, which by the middle of her reign included Great Britain, The Republic of Ireland, and India. It was at this exhibition that Albert received one of the first commercially available keyless-wind watches – a new jeweled design of watch that sparked a watch chain and fob trend that lasted several generations.
As a personal embodiment of the royal line and the Empire, Queen Victoria observed and emphasized the reserved traditions of the time. Intimacy, sex and indeed the acknowledgement of being in a physical body, were ideas her highness preferred not to dwell upon. Tightly constricted in tight corset and expansive crinoline hoop skirts, the 1850s-1870s mid Victorian fashion very specifically circumscribed the ideals of gender, class and fashion. She supported the introduction of the new science of ether anesthesia in childbirth, which had been used in the birth of her seventh and eighth children. However, Queen Victoria was adamantly against breastfeeding, which seemed to her backwards and overly bodily, and was horrified when several of her daughters wanted to nurse their own children.
When Albert died in 1861, Victoria’s world came crashing in around her. She went into a state of mourning that lasted forty years.  In this historical moment, we are reminded that the great Monarch was also a person. Upon Albert’s death, Victoria collapsed to the floor, then gathered up the youngest child, Beatrice, only four, and wrapped her in Albert’s nightclothes and lay their until dawn.  
As so eloquently stated in Victoria’s Daughters, “When Albert died, not only did the normal physical and emotional love that passes between spouses vanish with him, but so did the one person over whom this queen did not want to reign.”
So complete was Victoria’s state of mourning, she withdrew almost completely from politics for several decades and brought the whole country into mourning with her.  Until her death, she wore black widows weeds, demanding that her children did the same.  Consumed by her grief, she did not tolerate laughter or joviality from her children.  Casual expressions of missing their father were disallowed - seen by the Queen as being disrespectful to his memory. Victoria's relationships with her children (and indeed her own mother) were complicated – a somewhat difficult combination of love, disappointment, respect and criticism.  Intimacy was not a strong suit of the Victorian age. The family palaces, especially Albert’s private rooms at the family home at Balmoral, Scotland became mausoleum-like shrines to Albert’s memory. Nothing in the Prince Consort’s rooms was altered. Victoria ordered that fresh clothes and warm shaving water was changed by valet’s daily, waiting patiently as if he would, at any moment walk into the room. The Queen – a monarch and figurehead, was clearly a woman overwhelmed by grief.
As political change and upheaval shifted loyalties and boundaries in Europe, Queen Victoria continued to mourn in her private world. In addition to her strict black mourning dresses, the Queen wore only black mourning jewelry.  Despite her absence from public life, she mandated that only mourning jewelry could be worn in court until about 1880.
Because of its somber and dark appearance, Queen Victoria took to wearing black jet jewelry, from Whitby, in Yorkshire. As a limited and fairly difficult medium to work with, jet was expensive. It’s a hard material, requiring skilled craftsmanship to avoid breakage during carving. Black glass became a popular alternative, as it was more available, less expensive, and easier to work with. Other common materials for mourning jewelry used between 1860 and 1900 were Onyx, Vulcanite, Gutta Percha, and Bog Oak.
Mourning was the backdrop of the time. The entire late Victorian era has been described as “the Cult of Mourning” where mourning entered social conventions, fashion and indeed infused most aspects of life.  Indeed, throughout the 1860s, Queen Victoria was not alone in her Grief. 
In the United States, the Civil War raged, and women from both North and South donned mourning clothes. President Lincoln was shot – throwing the already unstable nation into further uncertainty. This was a moment in time when the photography became more commercially available, when the faces of people could be captured in light and shadow instead of pen and ink. This new form of visual memory converged with the development of longing and sorrow as a way of life. Lockets, hair jewelry, and love tokens abounded as mothers and wives held on to these keepsakes of hope or remembrance.
Mourning required strict protocol. The first year was full mourning, where only black clothing and jewelry was permissible. After that, half-mourning colors including as gray, mauve and purple were suitable.  Victorian mourning conventions have influenced the aesthetics of many subcultures over time, including gothic, steampunk, punk, s&m, fantasy and anime.

Text and Image source Compass Rose Design 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

American Football, Radio Lab

to American Football, a podcast from RadioLab. Link here.

(flickr: Dewayne Neely/ CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Along with conflicted parents and players and coaches who aren’t sure if the game will survive, we take a deep dive into the surprising history of how the game came to be. At the end of the 19th century, football is a nascent and nasty sport. The sons of the most powerful men in the country are literally knocking themselves out to win these gladiatorial battles. But then the Carlisle Indian School, formed in 1879 to assimilate the children and grandchildren of the Native American men who fought the final Plains Wars, fields the most American team of all. The kids at Carlisle took the field to face off against a new world that was destroying theirs, and along the way, they changed the fundamentals of football forever. 

Carlisle Indian School's 1903 football team (U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)

More photos to see. Link here

Whats in a Name, David E. Brown, Cabinet Magazine

Issue 5 Evil Winter 2001/02

What's in a Name

David E. Brown

A few years ago, an odd machine whirred in a back room at New York's Ace Gallery. A feeble motor turned a wood platter studded with hammered nails. A cam was moved back and forth by the nails; a homemade pantograph (a kind of tracing device) transferred that movement to a ballpoint pen poised above a seemingly endless roll of paper cash-register tape. Slowly, the pen scrawled out the signature of the artist, Tim Hawkinson; when it was complete, a guillotine cut off calling-card-size pieces of signed tape, the original creations of Hawkinson's original creation. The paper spilled down to the floor for days and weeks, piling up into a four-foot stack, from which a few gallery-goers snatched a souvenir.

Signature Piece, as the machine was called, was a deft bit of engineering, but even more clever was its premise. That unruly stack of paper represented what should have been the artist's most valuable possession: the proof of his authorship, his signature. But the pile of scraps undercut more than the monetary value of a signature. By giving a machine the power to sign his name, Hawkinson destroyed the usual deference we give to the signature, our most common means to legally identify ourselves. And in doing so, he pointed at a long-running confusion over how identity is presented and assured, and how a signature works in that kind of transaction.

For centuries, identity was a fairly simple process, closer to God's Burning Bush tautology—"I am that I am." You were so and so, who had this seal and this family and these church birth records. Signatures helped—they've been around since Roman times, presumably as substitutions for seals—as did hereditary last names, which were a French and English invention around 1000 A.D. As the Renaissance brought economic and cultural progress to Europe, and people—especially merchants—started to move around more, rulers became more interested in keeping track of their subjects. New forms of ID arose.

Until the end of the 19th century, notes Alain Corbin, "a clever person could change identities at will."A new town, a dead person's birth certificate, and maybe a strong resemblance to someone, and poof, you were him. Modern bureaucracies, new technologies, and the application of scientific methods to social problems put an end to this free-for-all. Bertillon's system of cranial measurements started the move to definite ID; that was superseded by Scotland Yard's fingerprinting system, which in turn is being replaced by ever-more-specific ID technologies such as iris scanning. Through all of these changes, though, the signature has remained the accepted proof of who you are.

The search for verifiable identity intersected another of the 19th century's revolutions—electricity. Soon after the domestication of this natural force, people began thinking about how the phenomenon could be used to transmit information. By the late 1830s, British inventors and the American painter Samuel Morse had created the telegraph, and within 20 years thousands of miles of wire connected all major cities. But some were not satisfied with telegraphy. For one thing, telegrams could be faked. And dots and dashes seemed as cold and impersonal as ones and zeroes do now—they bore no trace of their creator, and thus had nothing of the real essence of their creator. So began the endless quest for more personal electric (or electronic) communications. Dots and dashes begat typed letters, and then the telegraph begat the telephone; today, ASCII-text e-mail has been largely replaced by HTML- and graphics-equipped systems such as Microsoft Outlook.
A 1905 article on the teleautograph machine.

Enter the teleautograph, the 1888 creation of Elisha Gray, who had famously lost the race to patent the telephone by a few hours. It's not clear exactly why Gray thought transmitted writing would be better than transmitted words. But it didn't take much for a 19th-century inventor to start inventing. Once he got it working, his teleautograph wowed the crowds at the 1893 World's Columbian Exhibition. Here's how it worked: The transmitting person moved a writing stylus across a metal plate; its movement was measured by potentiometers. The varying levels of electricity put out by those components were transmitted by wire, just like a telegraph; the receiving instrument translated those levels into the motion of a pen-holding armature. Handwriting and signatures were finally moving through the wires. 

The teleautograph never worked well over long distances, and within a couple of decades the telephone and speedy mail system had a firm hold on personal communication. But the dream of a machine that could "prove" a writer's identity reappeared after World War II with the Autopen, made for people whose signatures were in great demand. 

An Autopen looks like a cross between a school desk and a pantograph—an arm jutting out of a 1960s-looking enclosure grips a felt-tip pen. Inside the machine is a model of a signature; the penned arm extends out onto the desk and accurately re-creates the signature "matrix" inside, hundreds or thousands of times a day. Early users were presidents and CEOs, who could have spent weeks signing their names, barely making a dent in the demands of the important identity. (A more recent application is direct-mail marketing, which benefits from a "personal" touch.)

The Autopen was a lifesaver for important men. But the Autopen undid some of the progress that had been made in identification. Your signature, with its practiced flourish, is as close to you that writing can get. "I am that I am," your signature wants to say. And that closeness-to-you is what convinces governments and banks and landlords that you are who you claim to be. But how can that certainty exist along with a machine that can sign and sign and sign, with no care as to who has told the machine to sign? (It can't, as evidenced by a series of unauthorized, autopenned Donald Rumsfeld signatures that appeared on official documents in early 2001.2)

To say nothing of value. After the Autopen was adopted by US presidents (LBJ was a big user, as was Nixon and everyone since) it found new markets among celebrities. It really is hard to sign your name for hours and hours, but maybe not so hard as disappointing one's fans. So by the late 1960s many famous people had their own Autopens churning out signatures for the people. And while Autopen signatures from presidents and business leaders had been accepted at more or less face value, they did not have to deal with the invisible hand of the collectibles market. An Autopenned document may be good enough for the Department of Defense, but don't try to convince a collector that a machine carries the emotional—and thus, in the irrational economics of nostalgia, financial—weight of a real autograph. 
A selection of Ronald Reagan's autopen signatures.

A recent eBay search turned up just two Autopenned items among the 60,000-plus autographed 8x10s, books, and other baubles up for sale. And of that multitude of signatures up for bid, hundreds of their sellers went out of their way to point out that they weren't Autopenned. If we accept the opinion of the collectibles market—and as odd as that market is, there seems to be no reason not to—then eBay has become the ultimate measure of desire, value, and authenticity. And that measure says that more than a century of effort to create a mechanical stand-in for the human hand, for the written personality, has come to naught.
  1. Alain Corbin, "Backstage," in Michelle Perrot, ed., A History of Private Life, Vol. IV (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 1990), p. 469.
  2. "Clinton-Cohen Holdovers Push Liberal Agenda at DoD," CMR Notes (May-June 2001), at (link defunct —Eds.).
David E. Brown is a writer and editor in Brooklyn, New York. His first book, Inventing Modern America, was published by the MIT Press in November 2001.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

An Excerpt from the book All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doer

7 August 1944
At dusk they pour from the sky. They blow across the ramparts, turn cartwheels over rooftops, flutter into the ravines between houses. Entire streets swirl with them, flashing white against the cobbles. Urgent message to the inhabitants of this town, they say. Depart immediately to open country.
The tide climbs. The moon hangs small and yellow and gibbous. On the rooftops of beachfront hotels to the east, and in the gardens behind them, a half-dozen American artillery units drop incendiary rounds into the mouths of mortars.

They cross the Channel at midnight. There are twelve and they are named for songs: Stardust and Stormy Weather and In the Mood and Pistol-Packin’ Mama. The sea glides along far below, spattered with the countless chevrons of whitecaps. Soon enough, the navigators can discern the low moonlit lumps of islands ranged along the horizon.
Intercoms crackle. Deliberately, almost lazily, the bombers shed altitude. Threads of red light ascend from anti-air emplacements up and down the coast. Dark, ruined ships appear, scuttled or destroyed, one with its bow shorn away, a second flickering as it burns. On an outermost island, panicked sheep run zigzagging between rocks.
Inside each airplane, a bombardier peers through an aiming window and counts to twenty. Four five six seven. To the bombardiers, the walled city on its granite headland, drawing ever closer, looks like an unholy tooth, something black and dangerous, a final abscess to be lanced away.

The Girl
In a corner of the city, inside a tall, narrow house at Number 4 rue Vauborel, on the sixth and highest floor, a sightless sixteen-year-old named Marie-Laure LeBlanc kneels over a low table covered entirely with a model. The model is a miniature of the city she kneels within, and contains scale replicas of the hundreds of houses and shops and hotels within its walls. There’s the cathedral with its perforated spire, and the bulky old Château de Saint-Malo, and row after row of seaside mansions studded with chimneys. A slender wooden jetty arcs out from a beach called the Plage du Môle; a delicate, reticulated atrium vaults over the seafood market; minute benches, the smallest no larger than apple seeds, dot the tiny public squares.
Marie-Laure runs her fingertips along the centimeter-wide parapet crowning the ramparts, drawing an uneven star shape around the entire model. She finds the opening atop the walls where four ceremonial cannons point to sea. “Bastion de la Hollande,” she whispers, and her fingers walk down a little staircase. “Rue des Cordiers. Rue Jacques Cartier.”
In a corner of the room stand two galvanized buckets filled to the rim with water. Fill them up, her great-uncle has taught her, whenever you can. The bathtub on the third floor too. Who knows when the water will go out again.
Her fingers travel back to the cathedral spire. South to the Gate of Dinan. All evening she has been marching her fingers around the model, waiting for her great-uncle Etienne, who owns this house, who went out the previous night while she slept, and who has not returned. And now it is night again, another revolution of the clock, and the whole block is quiet, and she cannot sleep.
She can hear the bombers when they are three miles away. A mounting static. The hum inside a seashell.
When she opens the bedroom window, the noise of the airplanes becomes louder. Otherwise, the night is dreadfully silent: no engines, no voices, no clatter. No sirens. No footfalls on the cobbles. Not even gulls. Just a high tide, one block away and six stories below, lapping at the base of the city walls.
And something else.
Something rattling softly, very close. She eases open the left-hand shutter and runs her fingers up the slats of the right. A sheet of paper has lodged there.
She holds it to her nose. It smells of fresh ink. Gasoline, maybe. The paper is crisp; it has not been outside long
Marie-Laure hesitates at the window in her stocking feet, her bedroom behind her, seashells arranged along the top of the armoire, pebbles along the baseboards. Her cane stands in the corner; her big Braille novel waits facedown on the bed. The drone of the airplanes grows.

The Boy
Five streets to the north, a white-haired eighteen-year-old German private named Werner Pfennig wakes to a faint staccato hum. Little more than a purr. Flies tapping at a far-off windowpane.
Where is he? The sweet, slightly chemical scent of gun oil; the raw wood of newly constructed shell crates; the mothballed odor of old bedspreads—he’s in the hotel. Of course. L’hôtel des Abeilles, the Hotel of Bees.
Still night. Still early.
From the direction of the sea come whistles and booms; flak is going up.
An anti-air corporal hurries down the corridor, heading for the stairwell. “Get to the cellar,” he calls over his shoulder, and Werner switches on his field light, rolls his blanket into his duffel, and starts down the hall.
Not so long ago, the Hotel of Bees was a cheerful address, with bright blue shutters on its facade and oysters on ice in its café and Breton waiters in bow ties polishing glasses behind its bar. It offered twenty-one guest rooms, commanding sea views, and a lobby fireplace as big as a truck. Parisians on weekend holidays would drink aperitifs here, and before them the occasional emissary from the republic—ministers and vice ministers and abbots and admirals—and in the centuries before them, windburned corsairs: killers, plunderers, raiders, seamen.
Before that, before it was ever a hotel at all, five full centuries ago, it was the home of a wealthy privateer who gave up raiding ships to study bees in the pastures outside Saint-Malo, scribbling in notebooks and eating honey straight from combs. The crests above the door lintels still have bumblebees carved into the oak; the ivy-covered fountain in the courtyard is shaped like a hive. Werner’s favorites are five faded frescoes on the ceilings of the grandest upper rooms, where bees as big as children float against blue backdrops, big lazy drones and workers with diaphanous wings—where, above a hexagonal bathtub, a single nine-foot-long queen, with multiple eyes and a golden-furred abdomen, curls across the ceiling.
Over the past four weeks, the hotel has become something else: a fortress. A detachment of Austrian anti-airmen has boarded up every window, overturned every bed. They’ve reinforced the entrance, packed the stairwells with crates of artillery shells. The hotel’s fourth floor, where garden rooms with French balconies open directly onto the ramparts, has become home to an aging high-velocity anti-air gun called an 88 that can fire twenty-one-and-a-half-pound shells nine miles.
Her Majesty, the Austrians call their cannon, and for the past week these men have tended to it the way worker bees might tend to a queen. They’ve fed her oils, repainted her barrels, lubricated her wheels; they’ve arranged sandbags at her feet like offerings.
The royal acht acht, a deathly monarch meant to protect them all.
Werner is in the stairwell, halfway to the ground floor, when the 88 fires twice in quick succession. It’s the first time he’s heard the gun at such close range, and it sounds as if the top half of the hotel has torn off. He stumbles and throws his arms over his ears. The walls reverberate all the way down into the foundation, then back up.
Werner can hear the Austrians two floors up scrambling, reloading, and the receding screams of both shells as they hurtle above the ocean, already two or three miles away. One of the soldiers, he realizes, is singing. Or maybe it is more than one. Maybe they are all singing. Eight Luftwaffe men, none of whom will survive the hour, singing a love song to their queen.
Werner chases the beam of his field light through the lobby. The big gun detonates a third time, and glass shatters somewhere close by, and torrents of soot rattle down the chimney, and the walls of the hotel toll like a struck bell. Werner worries that the sound will knock the teeth from his gums.
He drags open the cellar door and pauses a moment, vision swimming. “This is it?” he asks. “They’re really coming?”
But who is there to answer?

Up and down the lanes, the last unevacuated townspeople wake, groan, sigh. Spinsters, prostitutes, men over sixty. Procrastinators, collaborators, disbelievers, drunks. Nuns of every order. The poor. The stubborn. The blind.
Some hurry to bomb shelters. Some tell themselves it is merely a drill. Some linger to grab a blanket or a prayer book or a deck of playing cards.
D-day was two months ago. Cherbourg has been liberated, Caen liberated, Rennes too. Half of western France is free. In the east, the Soviets have retaken Minsk; the Polish Home Army is revolting in Warsaw; a few newspapers have become bold enough to suggest that the tide has turned.
But not here. Not this last citadel at the edge of the continent, this final German strongpoint on the Breton coast.
Here, people whisper, the Germans have renovated two kilometers of subterranean corridors under the medieval walls; they have built new defenses, new conduits, new escape routes, underground complexes of bewildering intricacy. Beneath the peninsular fort of La Cité, across the river from the old city, there are rooms of bandages, rooms of ammunition, even an underground hospital, or so it is believed. There is air-conditioning, a two-hundred-thousand-liter water tank, a direct line to Berlin. There are flame-throwing booby traps, a net of pillboxes with periscopic sights; they have stockpiled enough ordnance to spray shells into the sea all day, every day, for a year.
Here, they whisper, are a thousand Germans ready to die. Or five thousand. Maybe more.
Saint-Malo: Water surrounds the city on four sides. Its link to the rest of France is tenuous: a causeway, a bridge, a spit of sand. We are Malouins first, say the people of Saint-Malo. Bretons next. French if there’s anything left over.
In stormy light, its granite glows blue. At the highest tides, the sea creeps into basements at the very center of town. At the lowest tides, the barnacled ribs of a thousand shipwrecks stick out above the sea.
For three thousand years, this little promontory has known sieges.
But never like this.
A grandmother lifts a fussy toddler to her chest. A drunk, urinating in an alley outside Saint-Servan, a mile away, plucks a sheet of paper from a hedge. Urgent message to the inhabitants of this town, it says. Depart immediately to open country.
Anti-air batteries flash on the outer islands, and the big German guns inside the old city send another round of shells howling over the sea, and three hundred and eighty Frenchmen imprisoned on an island fortress called National, a quarter mile off the beach, huddle in a moonlit courtyard peering up.
Four years of occupation, and the roar of oncoming bombers is the roar of what? Deliverance? Extirpation?
The clack-clack of small-arms fire. The gravelly snare drums of flak. A dozen pigeons roosting on the cathedral spire cataract down its length and wheel out over the sea.

Number 4 rue Vauborel
Marie-Laure LeBlanc stands alone in her bedroom smelling a leaflet she cannot read. Sirens wail. She closes the shutters and relatches the window. Every second the airplanes draw closer; every second is a second lost. She should be rushing downstairs. She should be making for the corner of the kitchen where a little trapdoor opens into a cellar full of dust and mouse-chewed rugs and ancient trunks long unopened.
Instead she returns to the table at the foot of the bed and kneels beside the model of the city.
Again her fingers find the outer ramparts, the Bastion de la Hollande, the little staircase leading down. In this window, right here, in the real city, a woman beats her rugs every Sunday. From this window here, a boy once yelled, Watch where you’re going, are you blind?
The windowpanes rattle in their housings. The anti-air guns unleash another volley. The earth rotates just a bit farther.
Beneath her fingertips, the miniature rue d’Estrées intersects the miniature rue Vauborel. Her fingers turn right; they skim doorways. One two three. Four. How many times has she done this?
Number 4: the tall, derelict bird’s nest of a house owned by her great-uncle Etienne. Where she has lived for four years. Where she kneels on the sixth floor alone, as a dozen American bombers roar toward her.
She presses inward on the tiny front door, and a hidden catch releases, and the little house lifts up and out of the model. In her hands, it’s about the size of one of her father’s cigarette boxes.
Now the bombers are so close that the floor starts to throb under her knees. Out in the hall, the crystal pendants of the chandelier suspended above the stairwell chime. Marie-Laure twists the chimney of the miniature house ninety degrees. Then she slides off three wooden panels that make up its roof, and turns it over.
A stone drops into her palm.
It’s cold. The size of a pigeon’s egg. The shape of a teardrop.
Marie-Laure clutches the tiny house in one hand and the stone in the other. The room feels flimsy, tenuous. Giant fingertips seem about to punch through its walls.
“Papa?” she whispers.

Beneath the lobby of the Hotel of Bees, a corsair’s cellar has been hacked out of the bedrock. Behind crates and cabinets and pegboards of tools, the walls are bare granite. Three massive hand-hewn beams, hauled here from some ancient Breton forest and craned into place centuries ago by teams of horses, hold up the ceiling.
A single lightbulb casts everything in a wavering shadow.
Werner Pfennig sits on a folding chair in front of a workbench, checks his battery level, and puts on headphones. The radio is a steelcased two-way transceiver with a 1.6-meter band antenna. It enables him to communicate with a matching transceiver upstairs, with two other anti-air batteries inside the walls of the city, and with the underground garrison command across the river mouth.
The transceiver hums as it warms. A spotter reads coordinates into the headpiece, and an artilleryman repeats them back. Werner rubs his eyes. Behind him, confiscated treasures are crammed to the ceiling: rolled tapestries, grandfather clocks, armoires, and giant landscape paintings crazed with cracks. On a shelf opposite Werner sit eight or nine plaster heads, the purpose of which he cannot guess.
The massive staff sergeant Frank Volkheimer comes down the narrow wooden stairs and ducks his head beneath the beams. He smiles gently at Werner and sits in a tall-backed armchair upholstered in golden silk with his rifle across his huge thighs, where it looks like little more than a baton.
Werner says, “It’s starting?”
Volkheimer nods. He switches off his field light and blinks his strangely delicate eyelashes in the dimness.
“How long will it last?”
“Not long. We’ll be safe down here.”
The engineer, Bernd, comes last. He is a little man with mousy hair and misaligned pupils. He closes the cellar door behind him and bars it and sits halfway down the wooden staircase with a damp look on his face, fear or grit, it’s hard to say.
With the door shut, the sound of the sirens softens. Above them, the ceiling bulb flickers.
Water, thinks Werner. I forgot water.
A second anti-air battery fires from a distant corner of the city, and then the 88 upstairs goes again, stentorian, deadly, and Werner listens to the shell scream into the sky. Cascades of dust hiss out of the ceiling. Through his headphones, Werner can hear the Austrians upstairs still singing.
. . . auf d’Wulda, auf d’Wulda, da scheint d’Sunn a so gulda . . .
Volkheimer picks sleepily at a stain on his trousers. Bernd blows into his cupped hands. The transceiver crackles with wind speeds, air pressure, trajectories. Werner thinks of home: Frau Elena bent over his little shoes, double-knotting each lace. Stars wheeling past a dormer window. His little sister, Jutta, with a quilt around her shoulders and a radio earpiece trailing from her left ear.
Four stories up, the Austrians clap another shell into the smoking breech of the 88 and double-check the traverse and clamp their ears as the gun discharges, but down here Werner hears only the radio voices of his childhood. The Goddess of History looked down to earth. Only through the hottest fires can purification be achieved. He sees a forest of dying sunflowers. He sees a flock of blackbirds explode out of a tree.

Excerpted from ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE by Anthony Doerr. Copyright © 2014 by Anthony Doerr.  Excerpted with permission by Scribner, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
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