89. Fireworks

THE MASTER DOES NOT think highly of my work. He considers me to be an artist of small consequence. On the other hand, he believes himself to be the finest artist of his generation. His name is whispered with reverence from one end of the nation to the other. No major project is undertaken without his involvement. He is on speaking terms with the Supreme Leader. It is he, for example, who painted the mural of the Great Leader that adorns the ceiling of the Supreme Council. Of course, he did not really paint it himself. Twenty-seven of us worked to paint it in time for the inauguration of the Auspicious Leader, the father of the Supreme Leader, after the unexpected death of the Great Leader. I can say without boastfulness that much of the Great Leader's face is painted by my own hand. See the way in which the bright, many-coloured lights of the distant fireworks bursting on top of the Eternal Mountain seem to illuminate the Great Leader's face with a kind of inner glow, as if the fireworks are an almost miraculous emanation of the Great Leader himself: this was my innovation. This is my specialty. It has since been copied many times, but no other artist can achieve this effect with the same subtlety. The Master believes this is all I am capable of. Each time there is a new mural, he now includes fireworks on a distant mountain just so I can paint the face of whichever leader is being honoured. As for my other ideas, the Master is not interested. I have lost count of the number of times I have pleaded with the Master for the chance to include other innovations. For example, for some time I have been planning something truly revolutionary - an innovation truly befitting the people's revolution. Why should the lights of the distant fireworks be only reflected in the skin of the leader's cheeks and forehead, I ask you, without them also being reflected in his eyes? I imagine a mural bigger than any mural ever previously undertaken, a mural commemorating the tenth anniversary of the accession to power of the Supreme Leader, perhaps, to be painted on a building ten storeys high built for the occasion, a building with a facade without windows. The building is to house the very best of the artists who have dedicated their lives to the honour of the Supreme Leader. On the facade without windows, a portrait of the Supreme Leader unlike any other, in which - rather than his entire face being shown, as in a conventional portrait - only his eyes are shown, a gigantic pair of eyes, the beautiful eyes of the Supreme Leader, strong and tender at one and the same time, all-seeing, all-knowing. From a distance, all we see are the eyes, and yet the closer we approach the mural, the more detail we discern reflected in the surface of each of the eyes: multitudes of the Supreme Leader's adoring subjects, behind which rises the Eternal Mountain while, rising above the entire scene, fireworks such as have never been seen in a mural. I have told the Master of my idea and, after much persuasion, he finally reluctantly agreed to submit it to the High Committee for Revolutionary Arts and Public Instruction. A week later, he told me the idea had been rejected. I am ashamed to admit lost my temper. I told him I did not believe him - the highest insult. We argued, very briefly, but the end result of it is that I now find myself in prison on charges of sedition. The Master is a powerful man. He is on speaking terms with the Supreme Leader. Yet I am convinced of the worth of my cause. Nothing lasts forever. If I am tried, I will at least have occasion to tell the world of my dream, the finest expression of the indivisibility of the Supreme Leader and his people yet conceived.