The Soldier And The Painter

A few months ago I read The Noise Of Time by Julian Barnes, written from the perspective of the composer Shostakovich in Stalinist Russia. I remember thinking at the time how difficult it must have been for creatives living under such regimes. Often it is the writers and the poets who are the first among the disappeared.


I woke in the early hours of this morning with the remnants of a dream clinging to the shirt tails of my emerging sense of self.Β The dream was of an artist-a painter, who was living in a country that was under some kind of communist or military rule. He had been called to be conscripted into the army, but his passion was for his art. He was stood before a desk being questioned by a seated officer, a strict disciplinarian, who was giving him the party line about what his duty to his country was, and what an honour it is to serve the ‘leader’ and to give your life for the cause.Β 

The young man replied that he had no intention to die for the cause, but rather to live for his art.

This provoked a concerted effort from the officer to bring the young man around to the official way of thinking.

The artist replied “I’m not going to be a soldier anymore than you are going to be my psychologist.”

That was it. I woke up with that last line rattling around my brain, a film with no closure, a story with no end.

It has been some months since I read The Nosie Of Time,Β and haven’t really thought of it since, so I’m not too sure if that was where the seeds of my dream were sown. And to be honest the storyline was not really the same as that in my dream.

But I feel a little cheated. I was filled with admiration for my conjured character, whoever he was. Maybe he served as an archetype for all of those creative types that I spoke about at the start of this post. I feel like I really need to know what happened to that young artist, and what price he paid for his courageous stance.

I probably will never know. Perhaps I should write it myself.

22 thoughts on “The Soldier And The Painter

  1. Nothing to do with this blog really but just started following you because I love the old City Jackdaw. Only newspaper to properly appreciate the great Andrea Crestadoro, 3rd Chief Librarian of Manchester, and inventor, amongst other things, of the metal balloon. So brilliant to come across your blog. I was obsessed with Crestadoro and finally wrote a book about him. And a lot of it came from dreaming. Hope the artist reappears.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Lucy, I’ve not heard of Crestadoro but will check him out. As a Mancunian, I fortuitously came across City Jackdaw at a time when I was searching for a name for my blog. Where the original one had a regular feature named Claws of the Week, I have incorporated a Claws For The Weekend into my blog. I like connections like this πŸ™‚


  2. The dream not withstanding, I’m gonna search out this novel…sounds like something right up my alley.
    And the whole (he)artist thing is precisely what you alluded to: making sense of a crazy world, creating beauty out of hardship using the gifts given to us from the Lover of All Above….
    Just sayin’.
    Keep on poetizing, Andy!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I know what happened. That person continued to answer stupid lines with bright ones, like the ones you tell about. Maybe he still is. Like the storyteller in Thousand and one night. Or like that Yossarian guy in Moment 22. He will never let them win. They will be the stupid ones and he will be the sane one.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Interesting dream and you’re on target when you say creatives are among the first people killed when repressive regimes taker power. The arts kill ideologues.

    When your artist replied β€œI’m not going to be a soldier anymore than you are going to be my
    psychologist.” thought of someone who could have been Freud and Picasso. An artist with
    an intellectual point of view.

    Liked by 1 person

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