Monday, 14 January 2008

Nazi ciphers and Voynich novels...

Two big news stories today, both of them far more amazing than fiction...

Firstly, a story about a Nazi cipher, allegedly by Martin Bormann detailing the location of a cache of gold and diamonds hidden in 1945. Dutch journalist Karl Hammer has written a book called De tranen van de wolf (The Tears of the Wolf), published by Elmar, which is basically a dossier of his notes. Much copied in the blogs, but here's the source page (with pictures of the so-called "runic" cipher hidden in the rests in a piece of sheet music, as well as a series of numerals at the bottom which is doubtless discussed in the book). 224 pages, 17.50 euros here.

And secondly, a fascinating Wall Street Journal story about a cache of microfilms of early copies of the Qur'an being unearthed. For decades it was thought that they had been destroyed in the bombing of the Bavarian Academy of Science (which was housed in a former Jesuit college in Munich) in 1944, but the truth turns out to be much more subtle and complex.

It's one of those strange things: if a novelist had used either of these two stories for their plots, he/she would probably be ridiculed for over-egging their cake, for going too far. I mean, Nazis treasure and a cipher hidden in music, or Nazis and the lost origins of Islam, really?

Incidentally, I've mentioned how my stomach turns when I see the word "Jesuit" pop up in Voynich-themed novels, and - as a historical literary commentary on the penny dreadful Jesuit cliche - that's perfectly OK. But as with every rule of thumb, there is bound to be an exception, and perhaps Enrique Joven's book is that: now that I found a better description of it, I can see that the Jesuit connection he appropriates is probably based on real history (I'm guessing the movement around Europe of the various Jesuit trunks containing the VMs), and so for a surprising change his Jesuit plot connection there actually makes good sense.

But this is really not to endorse every other Jesuit/VMs so-called plot "twist" out there: repeat after me, "it almost certainly predates the Jesuit Order, which was founded in 1534"... *sigh*

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