Death and All His Fakeries

Some will have struggled to suppress a yawn when reading the contents of my last post. ‘Oh goodness me,’ they might have murmured, post-yawn: ‘Not another fake death conspiracy. Is there anything more tedious?’

Not that I was offering any new information or anything. In fact, the article to which I provided a link (written, I must stress, by Carl Stensson – not by myself) is a few years old now. And, though I am almost certain that his word can be trusted when it comes to Lucas de Boer, I will happily join the ever expanding queue of mockers aiming small packets of scorn at his claim that Van Gogh faked his own death. Not that I’ve looked into the case all that deeply, but the fact remains that I’ve yet to hear any convincing evidence from Stensson, beyond his statement that the old Dutch man to whom he was introduced as a child looked ‘just as anyone might imagine Van Gogh to look at the age of ninety-one’. Quite frankly, it could have been any old mad Dutchman sitting on that deckchair.

As to the tedious nature of death-related conspiracies, I am once again keen to concur. I once knew a man who was convinced that death in itself was a conspiracy – and that people were simply being shipped off to Australia, or possibly the moon. Suffice it to say, he could be tiresome company, until one day someone shipped him off – to where I’m not quite sure.

There are, of course, two sides to the death fakery issue. There are those who, like Lucas de Boer, are alive but pretend to be dead. Then there are those, like Paul McCartney (he says, grasping at a passing butterfly of lies) who are dead but pretend to be alive. Interestingly, Underneath the Bunker was once subject to the latter sort of hoax, whereby we were systemically flooded with e-mails, letters and phone-calls informing us of the death of Constantin Doyez, the great Viennese scholar of Spanish literature. Seeing it as our duty to announce this sad fact to the world, we did so, only to find out (from the mouth of the man himself) that said scholar was still alive.

No sooner did we clear the mess up then it happened again. Someone, somewhere, was strangely obsessed with leaking the news of the death of someone who, as far as the world could tell, continued to feed greedily on the fruits of life. Could it be Doyez himself? It seems unlikely: he has always seemed, to me at least, the retiring type; highly if not insufferably publicity-shy. Indeed, he appears to have found the situation increasingly unpleasant, despite the glowing obituaries we always gave him. He once went so far, in fact, as to suggest that the ‘almost constant and stressful news of my death was directly responsible for sending my mother to an early grave’ – a weird thing to say, perhaps, when you consider the fact that his mother has yet to pop the proverbial clogs.

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