The last letter

H.G. Wells colored © 2012 by Marcus Speh

«Whenever I begin to think about editing and publishing my father’s angry, political poems, I am overwhelmed by the multitude of images that surround my recollection of his gray head bent over the typewriter, looking up like a blind man who scans the inside of an unseen world, or perhaps of a lost world, charging ahead into the unknown like Professor Challenger, never surprised at what he finds and always willing to generously spread the treasure around among those willing to listen. He gets up, waves a piece of paper, says “pearls before swine” to no one in particular, grabs his well thumbed copy of Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra, scratches himself, which makes an odd noise because he’s wearing his tight leather pants never mind that he is in his 70s, and flops on the couch. Pulling the book over his eyes he begins to snore. Later, he will wake up, remember the rhythm in which the wings of his nose flapped during his nap, and then he will spend hours trying to transfer this rhythm to his writing, crouched at the feet of one of the great libraries of the city like a book, like a bat turned into a book, like the last letter of a secret alphabet that must memorize itself, and so it goes on and on in my head until a friend rescues me from my memory banks and takes me out for a beer in Berlin.»


Published in: MadHat Lit. — This flash piece was motivated by my reading a novelized biographical account of the last days of H G Wells in “A Man Of Parts” by David Lodge. After plowing through the book (or most of it—haven’t manage to finish it yet), I took my iPad pencil to a photograph printed in Wells’ “Experiment in Autobiography” (1934) and created the picture you see here. It has become my permanent computer desktop background. The two different eyes in the picture keep me entangled in my own dream as I’m dictating away…

[Hier gehts zur deutschen Übersetzung]

6 thoughts on “The last letter

  1. what moved me most in this well written homage, were the unsparing, unsentimental parts: such as the old man wearing the leather pants. a most endearing yet quirky image that will stay with me.

    • Thank you especially for the close reading, Susan. Odd as it may seem: the leather pants are a true detail. Old poet’s eccentricities. My father, incidentally wore those pants like an ancient word warrior until the day he died.

  2. This has such a real feel, Marcus. You capture the character with all the beautiful details of eccentricities and you place him so well in the scene. I personally found this quite brilliant and also preferred this piece of yours in English. I sense that you thought this in English. Quirina

    • Thank you, Quirina— especially for reading and commenting on both versions: as a matter of fact I thought and wrote this at first in English; it is still a mystery to me when I go as a subject using which language. I wonder why you preferred the English piece, or rather, what if anything put you off the German “Text”. The reason why this as such a real feel is, of course, because I didn’t make any of it up, I only had to listen, or rather, remember listening.

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