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.


Author: rjsiersk

Sierksma was born in Friesland, a 'county' in the northern part of the Netherlands with its own language which he does not speak and with an obstinate population to which he both belongs and does not belong. A retired Professor of Social Philosophy and Aesthetics, as a Harkness fellow he taught at Rutgers and Berkeley Universities in the USA, and at GUAmsterdam and TUDelft in the Netherlands. In 1991 he was awarded his PhD from Leiden University on the subject of 'Surveillance and Task: Labour Discipline between Utilitarianism and Pragmatism'. His books include Minima Memoria (1993), Lost View (2002 with Jan van Geest), and Litter Scent (2013). He has published poems and articles in Te Elfder Ure, Nynade, Oasis and the Architectural Annual. Half the year he lives in Haarlem, the other half he spends in la France Profonde, living ‘in his own words’ as the house out there was bought with the winnings from his essay Eternal Sin, written for the ECI Essay Prize (1993). In this blog, Sierksma's Sequences, written in English, he is peeping round his own and other people’s perspectives. Not easily satisfied with answers nor with questions, he turns his wry wit to a number of philosophical and historical issues. His aim in writing: to make parts of the world light up in his perspective - not my will, thine! Not being a thief, he has no cook, one wife, some children, one lover and three cats. The reader, interested in my writings on aesthetics, literature, and sociology, may want to open, where various pieces are published.

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