For years now, I maintain a remarkable correspondence with someone originally Dutch, now however living somewhere in the Harz area in Germany. A neighbour of Goethe’s pal Faust, one might say. A real correspondence – epistles, written or typed, with a genuine signature, envelopes coming and going.
Once upon a time he was a publisher. He also borrowed a voluminous manuscript from me, or rather a typescript once written by my father, stacked away in a bunch of enormous manila envelopes. It contains a fat book on the subject of hair – all kinds of hair, head hair, armpit hair, pubic hair, you name it.
The last time we met face to face was quite some time ago, actually on the day when a book of mine was presented to the public. That typescript he still has in his possession. After some time I did not get any letters from him, it has been two and a half years now, so one fears the worst. As far as I know, out there in Germany he does not have a telephone or a computer. Personal suffering might also be the cause of this long retreat. I know he lost a daughter. Having your child go before you is always a knock out.
So I gave up both him and that type script on hair.
Until just before Christmas, then I found his envelope in the mail box. He always wrote his letters on the back of old bills or on the reverse side of junk mail. In this manner I did gather the necessary knowledge of the supermarket industry in the land of my Eastern neighbours. One must always count one’s blessings.
His reuse of paper, and perhaps of other stuff, also seems to have stretched to the use of pens and pencils. Most of his epistles he recorded with at least two types of ink or graphite. He probably collects old pencil stubs and discarded ballpoint pens. His writing quite often changes colour mid-sentence.
This time I was also allowed to taste vicariously LEIBNIZ BUTTERKEKS, Qualität seit 1891.
He often cuts out one of the advertisements that drop into his mailbox and thus gives you second hand enjoyment of something that might have actually hit his tongue. Not only is our association old-fashioned, even the snacks he provides, cookies this time, should have a philosophical pedigree and be of ancient quality.
What joy to have him surface in these melancholic end-of-the-year days! Luctor et emergo. He announced a visit to the Netherlands, somewhere in the new year and somewhere in my own country, when my father’s script will be handed back.
Then, after all these years, the gap in one of the bookcases can be filled.