Even now, ten minutes before, he cannot believe that he is about to interview Thomas Mann. The writer has been a recluse since his 120th birthday, and has refused the invitations of kings and presidents.
The letter came a month ago to his house in Lubeck. The envelope, which he still has, was of thick card stock, smelled musty and somewhat clammy to the touch, and was a deep, rich cream with silver filigree along the edges. Dear esteemed sir, the letter began, and continued in a style and with a vocabulary that seemed plucked straight from the drawing rooms of the Buddenbrooks.
The letter betrayed no faultiness of mind, no trace of Alzheimer’s, no mental degeneration whatsoever. Mann admitted that as he approached the end of the 15th decade of life his knees and elbow seemed stiff and unyielding, and that he invariably found himself napping by the fire of an afternoon, where previously he would be active all day. But what is worse, Mann wrote, is that being the oldest man in the world no longer interests me, and yet death will not come. I have tried, the letter continues, to end my own life, but it would seem historically inappropriate for me to extinguish my life by my own hand when it has been so unnaturally extended. One must always consider the written words of posterity, and it seems that I, at least, will read them, whenever they may come.
The letter continued with an invitation to visit Thomas Mann on his 150th birthday (and here Mann provided an address, which prudence compels me to excise), with pen, paper, and a small bottle of the most expensive brandy he could afford. It must be expensive and it must be good, Mann wrote, for I have many things to say, and my lips are dry.
The letter ended with an elaborate signature which took up more than half the page, and spilled over onto the typed words.
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The above piece of writing comprises part of my fragments project, some of which are available on this website. I intend to add new fragments piecemeal, not in any particular order, and as the occasion take me.