“Wings in the Night” (novelette) by Nathalie Henneberg
English Publication History: Travelling Towards Epsilon (New English Library, 1977)
Original: French (Des ailes, dans la nui…), 1962
Translated by Maxim Jakubowski, 1976
Synopsis: Representing the Service for War Reparations and Recuperations, a naive girl, who dreams of a Parisian life for her art evaluation, takes a train ride to the dark swamps of a Polish national park where a castle has an intriguing history. Felicia Ferrari meets her at the station, Krasek ushers them to the castle far away, and the very elderly Rachel sees to their needs. There for the yet-to-be-seen bounty of paintings, the castle offers an odd history, conflicting accounts, and bizarre dimensional coincidences.
Pre-analysis: What’s mainly known about WWII is just that—the war. Behind the actual military engagements lay heaps of untold stories of civilian victimization at the hands of both the Allies and the Axis, the lasting ecological damage of shelling and gassing, or the looting/pillaging/robbing of estates, banks, and museums. Though murder may be the ugly face of war, underneath its mask of death sits the silent sins of thousands bent on greed, lust, and numerous other transgressions.
Away from the arena of death and destruction of central Europe, the fringes of the war in eastern Europe offer a comparative safe-haven, where it’s ripe for tantalizing rumors of hidden loot. Combine this with the mythic lore of eastern European castles, isolated and haunted in their ramshackle estates, and the plot is fertile with possibilities.
Analysis: This story is more horror/fantasy than science fiction, as the book claims to represent. In the introduction, Jakubowski even says that the story is “on the very borderline of fantasy” (257). This is the longest story in the collection, one that doesn’t mesh well with any of the others, and is tagged on to the back of the collection. The author had nineteen other stories from 1958 to 1971 to choose from. It seems a poor example of an author’s work because it feels awkward among the other stories in the collection, like Jakubowski’s own story in the collection that he edited. Nathalie Henneberg is known for her works of fantasy rather than science fiction, like her husband. Perhaps an inclusion from her husband’s work may have been more appropriate, but at the same time his work doesn’t sounds very progressive in thought.