A Czech expat soldier now living in Mexico recounts his part in WWII. He explains how he becomes involved in the assassination of Heydrich, the gauleiter of Prague and thus contributed to the subsequent reprisal massacre of the village of Lidice in Czechoslovakia. He was also a witness to the murder of the Czech foreign minister, Jan Masaryk, on the orders of Stalin. His subsequent, quick-witted action helped to reveal that the new communist government in Czechoslovakia lied when it proclaimed that Masaryk’s death was a suicide.
Love and war, and their consequences, are the eternal themes that power this novel.
The storyteller’s life and actions are based in truth.
From where I sit I can see the whale's huge carcass, parts of it glistening in the sun where small areas of iridescence reflect the light. Their rainbow hues caress the creature's skin and lend it grace. As the days go by these plaques, which I take to be remainders of its vibrant past, are becoming smaller and fewer in numbers. They are fading memorials. Soon only the drab dark brown of the upper part will be left to contrast with the yellowy white of its belly, proving that death is dull. I have no idea how long it will take the rainbows to disappear, nor do I know how long the carcass will stay intact. As long as the truth in my memories perhaps.
The carcass has red trails all over it that start in puncture holes. These striations are rivulets of blood that begin well inside the whale and have clung to its body as they leaked out, despite the wash of water rushing past. It looks as if the whale’s body has been decorated in preparation for a carnival, as if it were a giant float with crimson streamers, or a monster pinyata that will soon be broken open, revealing rewards unimaginable.
A strong fishing line is wound around one of its flippers, crossing to the other side through its mouth. I cannot see of what it is made. It might be of rope or even wire of some sort. It would have prevented the whale crying for help, or at least muted its voice as it thrashed about, clumsy in dying for the first time since birth.
Whales sing to one another. They tell stories, I believe. Fables, likely. Why else would they sing? Boasts, I doubt. Out of need at times they will prosaically describe their world in a low, humming monotone. We do much the same.
Some of us write our histories down, distilling the flow of events into an essence of feelings, ideas and recollections, as I am here. We do it for different reasons. I am not sure of mine but I am compelled to write. Such compulsion is the child of experience for people like us.
My memories are minatory. What do I fear? Lack of insight, lack of clear recollection, pain too well recalled...
I suppose we, like the whale, have unlooked-for, unexpected, unbreakable tethers that mute our voice, or rather, transmute it in ways we may not even realize. Our stories will be altered by strong fishing lines of emotion, cast by others, that cross our mouths, enwrap our limbs and stunt our actions.
Here and there, when I think of what happened during the war, I suspect such halters. But for most of the time I cannot see them clearly. Which is all to the good since just a glimpse is all I need to make me doubt myself, shake my illusion of free choice, hinder me again.
The whale will have felt itself to be choking.