10 December 2006

Jody Shields

[from Jody Shields's novel, The Fig Eater, 2001]

Egon had told him how messages were sent in Paris during the war in 1871, when the Germans occupied the city. He once worked with the photographer who engineered the airborne postal system. Anyone who had a leter to post brought it to the photographer's studio. There, the letters -- secret, urgent, and even ordinary -- were glued end to end into a single huge sheet, which was then photographed. In the darkroom, the image was reduced to a print of several square centimeters, rolled up inside a quill, and attached to a homing pigeon.

After the bird delivered the miniature photograph, it was inserted in a magic lantern machine and projected on a white wall. At dusk, a crowd gathered in front of the luminous square to read the letters.

In those days, the photographer had explained to Egon, the skies were full of secrets.

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