Knowing that Graham Greene was both a crypto-catholic and a spy, as well of course the writer of some magnificent spy stories, I should have expected something like this. However – not this!

Nowadays, when my wife sends me a package with medicine in it, the risk is enormous that French custom officials simply confiscate it, without ever informing the addressee about it.

This happened again, this summer, with 100 tablets of the best Paracetamol – prima stuff, dissolving in water so fast that your headache has no chance to even develop. Evaporated they are, in that mysterious space between the French State and the Dutch Narco-État…

This time it is Greene’s novel The End of the Affair – methinks innocent, what! As I am very fond of reading books in hard cover, I ordered a second hand copy through one of the businesses working with Amazon.UK. Wonder Book and Video. It turned out to be an American company, located in of all places FREDERICK MD 21704 USA.

This seems a good reason for the time elapsed between its arrival in The Netherlands and my date of buying. I know from good sources that out there in The States they collect, over some weeks, various parcels and then send them off as a bunch.

However, besides a large sticker from the US CUSTOMS DECLARATION – Hooray, the book made it! – there is a second sticker which indicates that it came to me from The States through France. Ooff! Economy – P.P. France Poste.


It has been owned by one Lloyd Jonnes, Jr. and it was published in Melbourne or London or Toronto… So perhaps Jonnes was a spy who came in from the cold and entered the USA via Canada? Could it be that his ex libris is conveying deep dark secret information to this new owner?


And can it be coincidence that I am a Greene reader, a lover of spy novels as well as a wholesale user of Paracetamol and that I have also fallen victim to these mysterious ways of our Postal Lord?

Attention, attention! Two months ago, before I left my French house – where I live spring, summer and part of autumn – a friend of mine who emigrated to Scotland wrote me a letter with in the envelope ‘something’ included. Just before my departure I got a mail from him asking whether I had liked his little present. I wrote back that the envelope had never arrived.

Now – two months later that is – I received an envelope addressed to myself with plenty of stamps on it, left with my village friend in case some mail arrives after my departure which he sends through. Lo and behold, in this French envelope there is my friend’s envelope, with in it a paper clipping on a German Prince who wrote on ‘English Gardens’ in Germany – a one time research object of mine.

Are they on to me, those postal MI5’s or MI6’es? Do they know that I am a terrorist, interested in ‘English Gardens’ in Germany and even in ‘French Gardens’ in England?

Sierksma 20.11.16


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.

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