Deception and working truth (5), Nobel Lies…

Noble lie, big lie and the ’cause’

"There's a sucker born every minute."

“There’s a sucker born every minute.”

P.T. Barnum, were he our contemporary, might now say, There’s a true believer born every minute.

Nice people these true believers, our cousins, brothers, friends (plus that one gazing back at you from the mirror), with whom you wouldn’t refuse an espresso at Starbucks.

America, no less that Russia, has experienced its mass hysteria.  Lies..the cause?   Before we start, we’ll define terms.

[Read more…]


Deception and a working truth (4)

 Believers and fools, liars and dupes

A scene forms

 The Executioner’s Son

Destroy the Kulaks

The Great Famine of 1932-33 has always be recognized as one of the darkest periods in Soviet history. More than 6 million people died as a result of it.

It is 1960. Two brothers, Russian Jews, meet in an abandoned warehouse in the Baumanskaya District of Moscow. It had been two decades since they had last seen one another.  Blood under the bridge, my Irish niece might say.

Both had been Communist activists; Nicolai had been a shock troop leader of the “25,000’er’s”, Komsomol sent to the countryside to collectivize the peasants. The younger brother, Alexander, directed an actor troupe performing propaganda skits in an increasingly empty countryside.

It was no secret.

It was no secret…

They had shared a dream  become a nightmare. True believers both, Bolsheviks, they had served the ‘Noble Cause,’ which wasted three Soviet generations.

Now, they share a daughter, Ekaterina, her paternity uncertain; On the eve of the German invasion, the NKVD had arrested Nicolai, which sentenced him to ten years ‘without right of correspondence,’ a euphemism for execution.  Alexander had given evidence against him. In those hectic days––hectic is the correct word;  familiarity had emptied word ‘terror’ of meaning––Irena Alexandrova Stemenko had become pregnant.  In the chaos of Communist purge Nazi invasion, death today, tomorrow at the latest, who counted menstrual cycles?

Nicolai is an Odessa gangster moved to Moscow.  Alexander is a propagandist, in Soviet parlance, something like an advertising consultant. His services are in demand at the highest Soviet government levels.

Great truths had  become great lies.   Few Western books had circumvented Soviet border controls. Russian books––Dr. Zhivago, Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, and of course Khrushchev’s Secret Speech––had begun to put words to the “Great Terror.” But, in 1960, the Soviet population was dumb. The NKVD implemented Great Terror ensured the population did not question the Noble Lie. Words––genocide; mass murder of an ethnic group, or democide; mass murder of an economic class––either did not exist, of if they had, had yet to carry meaning beyond small groups of ‘specialists’. Census data were state secrets. The writer may well have subtle powers, but alas he needs words with shared meaning.

The brothers are Russian first, prone to philosophize; Jews second, educated in Talmudic disputation; and once Communist true-believers, skilled in the dialectic.  They dispute at which moment they changed from dupes to liars. They meet in cold warehouse. Each lied nobly in service to the Great Cause. Each had been a liar, a dupe and a fool.  Each had lied, duped and fooled.  Their cause is words empty of meaning and spoken by rote…Pharisees.

Suicide is not an option. Ekaterina needs them.

We––Nicolai, Alexander and I––will examine their great cause, lies great and small––the noble lie,  the big lie, even the dirty lie,  and the little white lie.  


Winter to Spring, Northern Wisconsin

March 14, 2015

Over the last several days the temperature has risen from -30F to +60F yesterday (well, +56F).  Nice.

At below zero, tamarack limps turn brittle, easy to break off. This winter I've built paths in the groves.

At below zero, tamarack limbs turn brittle, easy to break off. This winter I’ve built paths in the groves.

Tamarack Plantation.

Tamarack Plantation.

The snow this winter, three feet deep in parts of the tamarack plantation protected from wind, has melted to slush and water.  I had cut trails (Tamarack branches are brittle at below zero and can be knocked off with a steel pipe; other evergreens have to be sawn).

I had discovered snowshoes this winter. My leg muscles recalled crossing these swamps one-half century ago, snow waist high, pulling a leg out only to plunge deep the next step, the boots filling with snow. Snowshoes. Wonderful. I’ve used cross-country skis for years, though this year high winds and heavy snows erased in hours strenuously broken trails.  Now, in this morning’s dawn light, I see the snow remains only along the southern edge tree lines. [Read more…]


Winter night

West view, Morning, January 2015

West view, Morning, January 2015

The Four Seasons


The second-floor  window looks west over a moon-lit landscape, black forest the border to snow-swept fields intensifying the moon’s reflected light.  Just above the SW horizon Mercury and Venus lie close.  The nights have been clear and thus the snow fields make full moon last longer than its allotted week.

When I go out to put wood into the outdoor furnace in early morning, the spruce and tamarack plantations are photo-negative black and snow-topped white. Can it be 30 years already since I began to replant those rock-filled glacial farm fields into trees?y

Tree tops west of the house catching the sunrise.

Tree tops west of the house catching the sunrise.

We are upgrading the farmhouse. I make slow progress redoing the downstairs bathroom; old plumbing is mystifying to my dyslexic eye, so I have become buddies with Jim at the hardware store.  Five trips to Merrill.

This is the problem. Old farms and farmhouses have many tasks; those undone flit like bats through my brain when I want to write a novel scene. The mental effort required to construct a kitchen back splash is the same mental effort required to compose a subtle and emotion-filled dialogue, both equal to 1/252nd of the finished task.

In the mornings I will write The Executioner’s Son one scene at a time, one paragraph at a time if I must.  In the afternoon I will upgrade my web site. In the evenings I will finish the bathroom, one task at a time.

The kitchen will wait until April.



For friends and family who fret the world will end in CO2 rather than Rapture, I bring you a modicum of peace. To date, the 80 thousand trees I’ve planted over thirty years have sequestered 30,000 tons of CO2 to date and are projected to sequester 100,000 tons in their ninety-year projected lifetime. There, don’t you feel better?


Deception and working truth [3] Moscow

Deception in Moscow, 1961

The ‘middle morass’ of The Executioner’s Son, that miserable time when, between the sparkling first scenes and a dramatic conclusion, you sit in that writing swamp struggling to “The End.”

A 1900 Russian short story, The Beacon, by Korolenko, comes to mind (Russian version here, English translation here). It is late Fall. A young man hires a boat, which conveys him in darkness along gloomy  Siberian river. He spies a light and exclaims “We’re almost there!” The boatman glances over his shoulder and returns to rowing. “No,” he replies, “Long way off.”  The young man, flabbergasted, philosophized, as Russians are wont to do.   The beacon shines, seemingly near, now distant, always deceptive.

Lecture Hall, Soviet Union

Lecture Hall, Soviet Union

The novel’s eminence grise, Colonel Alexander Soroka,  lectures on deception. I attend the lecture.  Also in the auditorium is Danton Larionov, who wonders if this fierce Soroka is somehow related to the young beauty he met in Suzdal during that Spring 1953, the year Stalin died, Beria was executed and his father committed suicide. [Read more…]


Winter morning

Hoarfrost: It remained on the trees, seemingly renewing every night, for the second week of December (2014). On other nights, the sky was clear and the full moon rendered the middle of the night like day, save as if viewed through a photographic negative.

Hoarfrost: It remained on the trees, seemingly renewing every night, for the second week of December (2014). On other nights, the sky was clear and the full moon rendered the middle of the night like day, save as if viewed through a photographic negative.

Early morning, December 12, 2014: The Town of Russell school bus, a veritable light show of blinking and flashing amber and red  and strobe lights, flies past  in the pre-dawn darkness. The temperature hovers either side of freezing. The forest, gray and white save where for the spruce stand stark and black, is covered in hoarfrost, the fields in snow. I cross-country ski every day, the snow so right that it seems I fly over the fields. Deer and bobcat use my tracks to avoid deep snow.


Deception and working truth [2] (Moscow 1962)


Morning Fog and Snow, N. Wisconsin, Early December, 2014

Morning Fog and Snow, N. Wisconsin, Early December, 2014

Patrice and I are at the farm for at least the next year. Of late, the mornings have been fog-shrouded over one foot of snow. Beautiful.

I work every day on The Executioner’s Son. We are in 1960-62 post-Stalin Moscow. Lenin/Stalin’s genocide/democide and WWII is the near past.   It is known well enough that some number of Soviet citizens perished, but the fault lies neither with Communism nor the Soviet people, but elsewhere. It was Fascism or the “Cult of Personality” or even ” ‘mistakes were made.’

The main characters witnessed mass murder, though none save one has murdered. Each has borne witness, and each will admit or deny what they have seen. The novel’s action takes place against a backdrop of deception: State-to-state, person-to-person and, self-deception. [Read more…]


Deception and working truth (1)


There are so many ways to lie, so few ways to hold a working truth. Then, It takes but a moment to create another lie; it takes forever to disprove it (unknown)

Define the word

I am writing a dramatic novel with the working title,  Executioner’s Son.  

Wooden Church, Suzdal, Russia

Wooden Church, Suzdal, Russia

Deception is the backdrop against which the characters act out their roles.  The locations are three: Suzdal, Russia; Moscow, and Mariel, Cuba. It opens in Suzdal, a medieval Russian town, where those who survived the Mongol extermination of 1238 emerged from the forests and ravines to form modern Russian from under the ‘Mongol Yoke’. It is 1953. The Bolsheviks, Mongol-like, regained Russia to reimpose the “Mongol Yoke” while, Mongol-like,  exterminating millions and enslaving the survivors.  Suzdal’, once Russia’s spiritual center, has become prison in the Gulag system.   The Bolsheviks exhort with slogans.  “Building Socialism!”  “Life’s becoming better, sweeter.”  “Work makes you free.” [Read more…]


Upon a long road

Colorado landscape–one actor in the novel,  "The Wounded"

Colorado’s Mt. Wilson, an actor in the novel “The Wounded”

Dubai Fountain

Dubai Fountain. I look out on the pool and fountain.  I have yet to tire of watching it.

It has been a long road across storied lands – Croatia, Germany and the United Arab Emirates before I go to the farm. Patrice is teaching these two months in Colorado, and felt I would be underfoot, so…I’ve come to Dubai to write and visit my child.

The United Arab Emirates, financed by European and American petrodollars, is a collection of sultanates (princedoms) of which Abu Dhabi and Dubai are the wealthiest.  Thirty years ago a sand wasteland, it now advertises itself as a commercial ‘crossroads’ and so they are, insofar as gazillions of dollars and euros cn convert ‘vision’ into hotels, fountains, airports, malls and office buildings.  This is not unprecedented––sudden wealth and sudden building boom––in the history of the world.  Dresden was once a newly build city as I see growing around me here.  [Read more…]


A Simple Plan

The Wounded (To Blog)


  Two down; three to go

There is a recent novel, A Simple Plan, where two brothers and their friend stumble upon the wreckage of a plane–the pilot is dead and his duffel bag contains four million dollars in cash. In order to hide, keep, and share the fortune, these ordinary men all agree to a simple plan. The title is ironic.

I have a simple plan:  write five linked historical novels set against the backdrop of the cold war deception. Two down; three to go. [Read more…]