Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Operation Booksale

Salutations Fellow Scholars,

I write to you today from the temporary housing Nero and I are sharing on Nikolausberger Weg in Göttingen, just a few minutes' walk from the library at the Max Planck Institut. We are borrowing this facility from a scholarly colleague of mine, a fellow professor and friend we have not yet met, and, although I'm sure he would, upon our meeting, be perfectly amicable and more than happy to volunteer his personal residence to us to aid in our marvelous quest, I am in no hurry to make the initial introduction. Not yet, at any rate. Nero and I are operating "beneath the radar," so to speak; we must keep as low a profile as possible, using reconnaissance, subterfuge, and other fancy French words to keep the local populace blissfully unaware of our revised mission objective. And using fancy French words just happens to be my forté.

A revised mission objective, you may ask? Oh yes, I tell you. Yes, indeed. Nero and I may have originally been sent to Göttingen to gather information about the fairytale Rumplestiltskin (identified as Type 500 in the Aarne-Thompson Folklore Classification System), but a thought occurred to me while we were being held in the Detention Center of the Frankfurt International Airport.

I suppose I should explain that entire mess first. It wasn't anything but a simple misunderstanding! You know, had Nero and I been in that same situation a mere century ago, no one would have thrown a fuss; why, in nineteenth-century Germany, a pig was an animal that commanded dignity and honor, so much so that it wasn't even called a pig! It was a boar! I was paying the Customs Agent a compliment, for crying out loud. You know, this is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the hardest part about being a linguist of any calibre at all: language changes, sometimes so quickly one can't keep up with it.

At any rate, before it was determined that we weren't really a threat to German national security, an epiphany came to me in the detention cell: why gather information on one paltry little fairytale when you could gather information on every paltry little fairytale from a single resource? Yes, fellow scholars, I speak of a document overflowing with primary sources, a holy grail of linguistic academia, a document so powerful and overwhelming that, once I wield its full power in my hands, I shall bring the intellectual community of the world to its knees! Behold, fellow scholars, for I shall invoke its name but once: the original 1812 publication of Kinder- und Hausmärchen, henceforth known as The Book, the only known surviving copy in the world, the very first, and most influential, collection of folktales and linguistic research from the Brothers Grimm!

Due to the extreme value and fragility of The Book, its exact whereabouts are kept secret at all times. It is so sensitive, in fact, that it is not even kept on public display; my sources inform me that it is located deep within a subterranean vault somewhere beneath Kassel itself. Surely this must enrage you, fellow scholars, to know that one of history's greatest repositories of knowledge is being hoarded in a dank cellar instead of being brought to the light of the world! Well, do not fester in foulness, fellow scholars; Nero and I aim to change that! We shall liberate the literature and bring it back to the Makeshift Theatre Company!

Our mission, which I have named Operation Booksale, shall start in the Stadtbibliothek of the Kassel Rathaus on Fünffensterstraβe (just four blocks from the Staatstheater, where we shall maintain our cover as interim American dramaturgists). From there, we hope to ascertain the location of the underground vault in which The Book is held and the sort of resistance we may expect to encounter. I've already made the appropriate reservations in Kassel for our internship at the Staatstheater and Nero and I are scheduled to travel on Friday from the Göttingen Bahnhof to the Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe Railway Station on the Deutsche Bahn AG's Hanover-Würzburg high-speed train. I anticipate a week of laying low in Kassel and reconnoitering the Rathaus, at which point we will have developed the contacts needed to infiltrate the Stadtbibliothek and begin our search.

As always, fellow scholars: when discussing secret plots on the internet, mum's the word. As my closing gift, I present to you a photograph that I obtained from the Göttingen public archives. It is the only photograph I have been able to find of The Book.

Wish us luck, fellow scholars.

Brilliantly Sincere,

Professor Happ
Director of Field Dramaturgy
Makeshift Theatre Co.

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