Robert Wexelblatt: “Surprising Consequences of Our Revolution”

Surprising Consequences of Our Revolution

_____Like all objects, the object of our revolution was unknowable-in-itself, accessible only through its secondary qualities, its taste, color, odor, texture. Like all revolutionaries, our revolutionary vanguard failed to understand that the object of their sacrifices was unknowable. On the contrary, they passionately believed in the glorious end, not just the taste, color, odor, and texture of the revolution. As we massed on the hills overlooking the spread-eagled capital—literally on the precipice of victory—our leaders smiled at one another. They could smell and touch and taste their final triumph. And it came swiftly, too.
_____Bottilini, the immensely prolific court composer, died penniless in a gutter at the age of forty-two. In his last appeal to the new Ministry of Culture he had written: “So I mastered the composition of the string septet. So I wrote over four hundred of the things. Look, I admit the string septet happened to be favored by the Ancien Régime, but is that my fault? Couldn’t you people use a few string septets too?”
_____The celebrated orator Halbschwacher fell silent. He had been the scourge of the Royalists who had not dared to imprison him for fear that he would convert the other prisoners, the guards, that his eloquence would captivate the very locks. Now that thunderous voice was heard no more. He retired to a cottage on what had once been his country estate, took up bee-keeping and knocking together wooden tables and rush-bottomed chairs. In response to an attempt by the Minister of Propaganda to recruit him, he replied, “What’s there for me to say? You want slogans. Slogans are vulgar. Without the cognoscenti of the Court my talent for invective is obsolete. Best wishes.”
_____The revolutionaries now had an inkling that all the consequences of their victory might well have been unknowable and they hastened to fill this intolerable creeping vacuum with ugly apartment blocks, agricultural collectives, hydroelectric dams, steel mills, nuclear reactors, wind tunnels, and rocket engines with enough thrust to launch the Royal Museum into solar orbit. The achievements of their frenzy were amazing. But what of their object, their original goal? Faint traces of its taste, color, odor, and texture may still be discerned from time to time in the swirling, multicolored effluents fouling our rivers.

 

Robert Wexelblatt is a professor of humanities at Boston University’s College of General Studies. He has published five fiction collections; two books of essays; two short novels; a book of poems; stories, essays, and poems in a variety of journals, and a novel awarded the Indie Book Awards first prize for fiction. Two collections, one of Chinese, the other of non-Chinese, stories, are forthcoming.

 

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