Transcriptions: Writing

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'Transcriptions: Writing' is a project inviting MA Creative Writing students from Birkbeck, University of London, to write a short fiction response to a National Gallery painting.

Manet: 'The Execution of Maximilian'

Gul Davis

Edouard Manet, The Execution of Maximilian
Edouard Manet: The Execution of Maximilian, about 1867-8 

Hateless, colourless eyes aim, cock, fire and striking a light to their nicotine-pinched mouths they lounge round as a line of red smears a sickle smile on corpse crumpled at their feet. The picture curdles in his throat as He lets the paint dry. At least, he thinks, now the truth will out.

So when He opened his eyes to see, beneath a banner of Dictator Brought To Justice, his brushstokes of grey gun smoke hued a jaunty cartoon bright, the yellow and red of dead sliced up and re-arranged into liberation of a people by surgical disposal of a thankful man receiving bullets with a smile.

Holding the ashes of his burnt hands before him He lifts flames to his studio, smears against the charcoal timbers.