It is Done

It is done. The memoir, that is. All ten chapters (c.70, 000 words in total) have been published online, free of charge, for your reading pleasure. Could I be more munificent?

Granted, the manuscript is not in perfect form. There are some errors along the way: misspellings, lost words and such-like. This is unfortunate, and not wholly the fault of my restless typists. When time bestows upon me several truckloads of hours, minutes and seconds, I will endeavour to put this straight. In the meantime, I am confident that the book does me proud. I believe that I have tackled a difficult subject to the best of my uncertain ability – and stand by the results, whatever one thinks of them.

In other news, I will shortly be taking another break from this blog. Relocation to a different country, coupled with a surprisingly busy work load, means that this particular blackboard will see little chalk for the next few months.

Whilst I’m away, allow me to remind you that there is always a lot to read (and re-read) in these regions. Over seven hundred posts on this blog alone, and over a hundred edifying essays on my sister site. Browse, by all means, but don’t forget that words are there to be read, not glanced at. It is in this spirit, indeed, that I have decided to stop updating for a while. I have written more than enough on the topic of obscure European literature during the last seven or eight years, yet very few of my ponderings have, I suspect, been chewed over as methodically as they deserve. Perhaps the power of my contribution to his little-watered field has yet to be fully appreciated? Let us hope so.


Reaction to my ongoing memoir, Conversations with Speyer, has been slow, steady and, I’m pleased to say, largely positive.  Less than half of the reviews have sent me into a rage, and one or two of them may even be categorised as pleasant. Here are a few choice excerpts:

‘As good as anything by Casanova, Riecke’s memoirs really are a thrilling ride’ (Transactions of the Royal Society for the Study of Molluscs)

‘Riecke’s memoirs of Johannes Speyer show both men at their best. At least one of them even comes across, at certain junctures, as vaguely likeable’ (Tamworth Courier)

‘Georgy Riecke is publishing his memoir of Johannes Speyer in short segments. So far I have only read one of them – and it is by no means the worst thing I have read this week. If I don’t die young, I may find the time to read another segment’ (Carlos Ramos, author of Fresh Nights and Vulgar Mornings)

‘I reserve the right to fully comment on this memoir until every chapter has appeared. Having read the first two sentences, however, I would like to venture the opinion that this may be the greatest memoir ever written. Whether or not I shall venture this opinion remains to be seen’ (Franz Ludo)

‘Conversations with Speyer makes little sense to anyone who hasn’t heard of either Georgy Riecke or Johannes Speyer: i.e. pretty much everyone. Other than this it has a lot going for it…’ (

More on this later…

Five semi-vigorous knocks…

It took only five semi-vigorous knocks to bring the great man to his door. The figure that stood before me, I thought, was very small and had just been crying and/or sleeping. I was wrong on both accounts. Speyer was in fact much the same size as me, but his front room, for reasons unknown, lay a foot or so below street level. His tired and swollen eyes, meanwhile, were caused by hay-fever. Why a man with hay-fever should chose to spend all his time sitting at the foot of a tree in his garden is a question I have never been able to answer – but there it is.

Like the stubborn mollusc inching towards the distant cabbage patch, so the memoir continues.

Tentacles Spreading

Cities, like octopi, spread their tentacles far and wide. But Dreiseen knew not this tentacle touch. The electric tremors of the city did not reach this town. The electric tremors of the next town down the line did not even reach this town. It was as if the three lakes around which it stretched sucked up every last elements of vibrancy or excitement, leaving the area in a state of absolute becalmment. Some would call it stagnant, but I beg to differ. Dreiseen deserves better than that…

In what may one day rank as one of the greatest acts of generosity of the twenty-first century (or, indeed, any century) I am continuing to publish my much-anticipated memoir, Conversations with Speyer, for free. Read it here.

Things I Have Been Doing

Things I have been doing in the space between last April and this January (during which, as my keenest readers will have noted, I have posted almost nothing):

1. Recovering from a short illness.
2. Learning Lithuanian in order to understand my wife when she sleep-talks.
3. Re-reading ‘Gdansk Haunting‘.
4. Pondering over whether there are better ways to get through a recession than writing reviews of obscure european novels for loss-making cultural journals with a readership of ten or less.
5. Considering a new career as a) a chutney-merchant, b) a hedge-trimmer or c) a puppeteer.
6. Writing down my memories of the late great Johannes Speyer.

Things worth repeating from the list above:

1. Writing down my memories of the late great Johannes Speyer.

Blood and Cutlets

Needless to say, after all the anticipation, Death: A Way of Life was not the best-seller the publishers had hoped for. In fact, it almost completely alienated audiences and critics alike.

When these words were written, several years ago now, they sparkled and gleamed with sun-drenched truth. No one can deny that Pierre Manniac’s truly unhinged retelling of his years as Monte Carlo’s favourite limb-remover was a ‘popular’ book. It was sensational, certainly, but it never gained the attention of a significantly sizeable set of people.

Sometimes these things take time to seep in. Not everyone creates a sensation with their first book, even when it does include a scene in which a pot-smoking giraffe kicks a panda over the edge of a cliff. If pressed, I would have said at the time that Manniac’s work would either catch light immediately or be put out for eternity. I speak metaphorically, of course. In any case I was wrong. Instead, Death: A Way of Life has done that peculiar thing: it has grown on people. Slowly, slowly, its stupefying madness has weaseled its way into readers’ affections. Admittedly, don’t expect to find it sitting on the bestseller lists anytime soon: but don’t be surprised if you find the middle classes namedropping it at dinner parties. ‘One is reminded, inevitably, of Pierre Manniac,’ says Hugh, swallowing the olive whole. And so on and so forth.

Time and tide and money-spinning sequels. Well, naturally. Like many writers, Manniac made the great mistake of writing a memoir covering his whole life, seemingly denying the possibility of a follow-up (at least, not until enough years had passed to make it worth our while). A common dilemma, just as commonly solved. To write a life is to pick and choose. One can write a life a hundred times without repeating oneself. There’s always something fresh that can be dredged up from the muck of a man’s existence. If new stories don’t exist, new perspective on old stories do. If that fails, let fiction do the rest.

All of which amounts to this: Pierre Manniac’s new memoir/novel/book/call-it-what-you-will is coming out soon and it’s called Blood and Cutlets. Make of that what you will. Suffice it to say that animals and death will both be involved, probably in large, unpalatable doses.

Considering Various Inclinations

I return to the news that Valerie Minjsk has announced the publication of her memoirs, Inclined; the title based on a complaint made by her ex-husband on reading through a draft. ‘You use the word inclined far too much’ he is said to have said. Thus a title was made – and thus a marriage died (the title is, though, the important thing, no?)

I am inclined to believe that I too use the word ‘inclined’ excessively. I so often find myself leaning towards it as a word, unstable though it may be. Indeed, I think it’s the instability I like about it. Do I fear solidity? As the fly fears the amber, the stone the chisel and the clay the kiln. Which is to say: maybe.

One is of course reminded of the first line of Jens Staenig’s otherwise lacklustre autobiography, All Work is Play:

 ‘All in all it seems to me that, to a certain extent, I remember perhaps the sense that something of this sort might possibly have occurred, in a fashion not unlike the one I now present to you, to the best of my somewhat lacking abilities

On a clearly related note, some of you may be wondering what has happened to my own memoirs, which I started working on a year or so ago. Alas, I am still haunted by the lost notebook– unable, as things stand, waddle and sit, to continue my efforts in that direction. I am inclined to feel that many liquids will be forced to complete sub-bridge manoeuvres before normal service resumes.