Maya Feldman On:
Light and Space by Ned Beauman
This story was first published in the Guardian in Christmas 2013, keeping with the Christmas ghost story tradition established in Victorian England. If anyone still remembers it today it is thanks to Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, which was published in 1843 and enjoyed so many adaptations. So what do ghosts have to do with Christmas? The matter is probably related to the date established as Jesus’ birth, the 25th of December, the morning on which the protagonist of Beauman’s story stands with a an axe raised over his head in front of a monumental work of art at the MoMA in New York. These days are the shortest of the year, the longest nights; and, in pagan tradition, the days the sun disappears – days in which the dead can cross to the land of the living and resolve unsettled matters. In Ned Beauman’s story, the attempt to bring the ghost works of the fictional artist Conroy Glasser back to life turns out to be dangerous and catastrophic. In this story everyone is haunted: curators, artists, their offspring, art scholars and their successors – all are haunted by a ghost that takes on a very real and surprising guise in this brilliant story. What begins as a ghost story that focuses on the power of art turns out to be a droll cherchez la femme mystery tale.