research

6. Writing History and Linking It To Today

Welcome to my blog on Writing History and Linking it to Today.
Do you believe in coincidence or fate?

I came up with the idea of GOLDEN ICON when I was at Queen’s University Belfast studying for my MA in Creative Writing. It began as my dissertation that became the foundation for my first novel and I self published the following year in 2013.

For a long time I’ve been interested in artwork and treasures stolen by the Nazis for Hitler to build his personal museum, the Führermuseum in Linz, Austria. This has led me to read and research about wider cultural issues including the injustices done to the millions of people across the world.

Embed from Getty Images

Having travelled extensively, I’ve visited Auschwitz-Birkenau and the Salt Mines near Krakow and I’ve become aware of the cultural sites and cities that have been rebuilt and refurbished after the war across Europe.

While researching I stumbled across the book The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert M. Edsel with Bret Witter and I found it fascinating. It is a history book that explained the cultural consequences of the war, highlighted mysteries of stolen treasures and acknowledged the twelve original men who were assigned to protect heritage sites toward the end of the war. It also explained how the Nazis retreated and the Monuments Men discovered, catalogued and often returned many pieces of artwork to the original owners.

So I was delighted when, in March 2014, just after publishing my first novel George Clooney’s film Monument’s Men was released and I was able to link some marketing on social media to my book on Amazon and Kindle.

The second coincidence was even more unusual…

In GOLDEN ICON, I created a scene where Josephine Lavelle goes to the home of Dieter Guzman. He lives in a secluded apartment that he’s turned into a mini museum in Munich. So, imagine my surprise when I read about the death of Cornelius Gurlitt and the discovery of over 1,400 paintings discovered in an apartment in – believe it or not – Munich.

Gurlitt’s father was an expert on modern art and was appointed by Hitler to sell paintings to fund the Third Reich. At least 500 pieces were thought to have been stolen or bought at ridiculously low prices from Jewish collectors. Although the authorities knew about Gurlitt – it never came to the attention of the press until 2014. ONE year after I published my book!

When I read about Gurlitt in Munich – it reflected the scene in my book with Dieter Guzman that I had written the previous year and this taught me something:
Events in the past – historical facts – can be brought to life in the present day.
Now the authorities are trying to find out who owns Gurlitt’s paintings and where they came from. They’re trying to establish the provenance of the pieces to be able to return them to their original owners, as reflected in a 2015 film by Helen Mirren – Woman in Gold – a true story based on Maria Altman who seeks to have Gustave Klimt’s, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, returned to her family.

History, art, crime and culture are all themes that interest me. I believe the success of these films attest to the popularity of these subjects. Learning about our history and the past is compelling for me and I attempt to reflect my own interest and curiosity in my novels to entertain my readers.
REMEMBER: History can be brought to life, be remembered and justice can be done. Using these articles that came to light in the newspapers was also a great way to link to my book on social media to current affairs. Coincidence or Fate?

Next Blog Post: Writing About Art.

LINKS:
The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert M. Edsel, with Bret Witter
George Clooney’s The Monuments Men Film
Cornelius Gurlitt
Helen Mirren, Woman in Gold

Janet Pywell

germany-art

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