We are in Belorus, the land of a thousand lakes, that of the White Russians, which in February 1940 is once more waiting to be one of the stakes in a game of War. Stalin has signed a non-aggression pact with Hitler, but we know what happened to that. For the moment, the Gomel Theatre is packed full of people, while the rest of Europe is already conquered and chopped into pieces.
And what is it that is attracting so many people to the little baroque theatre of this town, where the Nazis will soon leave no stone standing? A “magician”, that the strict country of rationalist Marxism rather curiously tolerates. It is true that the artist, whose name is Wolf Messing, is not just anyone. He has stunned Einstein, Freud and Gandhi, and Hitler has put a price of two hundred thousand marks on his head. Not only because Messing is Jewish. But above all because he dared to predict the Fuhrer’s death… Someone else would doubtless have been able to vaticinate with fewer risks. But Messing is the greatest telepath of the first half of the XXth Century. The one who, upon a mental order from Freud, pulled some hairs from the moustache of the father of Relativity, and who uncovered the jewels of the Czartoryski family in the belly of a stuffed bear, where an astute thief had hidden them…
It is understandable that Hitler, who lived surrounded by astrologists and fortune-tellers, would have liked to know more about the little Polish Jew. Particularly as he is capable of modifying the thoughts of others, and to oblige them, if he wants, to do the most surprising things, which is rare even among the greatest telepaths.
So the Russians are being careful not to deliver Messing, who has fled unhappy Poland where the Germans had briefly succeeded in getting hold of him. Locked up in a police post, he succeeded in telepathically convincing his guards to all go into the same room, then escaped.
When he presented himself at the frontiers of the East, the Russian authorities declared that they had no need of fortune-tellers. He probably gave a demonstration of his strange powers, for in Moscow, the Minister for Culture immediately hired him, as if he were a singer or a marionettist. To uphold the morale of the populations, as it were. And that is how Messing began a tour of White Russia, which will result in something which completely escapes him for the moment, in spite of his gifts…
What does Messing do on stage?
He takes, for example, from the pocket of a spectator seated in the middle of the room, a sponge that is hidden there, and by telepathic order to another, has it cut into a dog shape with scissors, which he has also telepathically discovered, somewhere in the room. Above all, he knows how to bend another person to his Will, as we have already said, or to completely control him, which, as can be guessed, in a country where the first brainwashings were perfected, in these black years of Stalinian purges, could not fail to create interest.
When, on this particular evening, a spectator in the theatre extracts from the pocket of a notable, a notebook where he crosses out a date by telepathic order from the paragnostic, a date which he had previously communicated to the public, the crowd erupts once more into applause. Messing returns to the scene, ready to surpass himself. But in the wings, two people in bone-coloured coats and loden hats, signal to him. Messing approaches them. They tell him that the show is over and ask him to accompany them…
Messing finds himself in a black car, with a silent policeman on either side of him. He asks about his possessions, and who is going to pay his hotel bill. One of the men tells him that his possessions are in the boot of the car and his hotel bill has been paid. He is then ordered to keep quiet.
The car travels only for a few minutes. It soon stops in front of a building which appears to Messing to be another hotel. He is made to alight and is introduced into one of the bedrooms. After a short wait, he is made to return to the corridor, and one of the policemen gently knocks at a door. Without waiting for an answer, he pushes Messing before him. Behind a table, there is seated a man with a moustache and sparkling eyes. It is Joseph Stalin himself.
At this time, the Little Father of the People already concentrates all powers into his own hands. For the moment, he is not very interested in seeing a demonstration of the telepath’s talents. He knows that the Fuhrer’s thoughts are more fleeting than ever, and that Messing, who knows most of the leaders of his Polish country, could perhaps usefully inform him. He had been a personal friend of that other iron moustached man, Field-Marshal Pilsudski, the uncontested Polish leader and Soviet vanquisher, and that until his flight, most of the members of the Polish Government, today in exile, had confided in him. For a long time, Joseph Djougachvili listens, while chewing on a pipe which makes him look like an affectionate grandfather.
But when Messing has finished his analysis, he says only:
“Good. And your famous powers?”
Messing explains that there is nothing to explain. Stalin then says, while looking at him fixedly from the corner of his eyes,
“All right. You can go. We’ll verify it!…”
Messing is immediately put into the hands of a Commission, formed principally of scholars who serve Science for the triumph of Socialism. For long weeks, he is put through the most unbelievable tests. He comes through them perfectly well, and soon the scientific telepathic experiments are succeeded by “practical work”, which Messing is forced to accept.
To be continued.