The Greatest Writer

“He was the finest writer ever. Finest that ever lived, unquestionably.

Shakespeare wasn’t fit to lace his shoes, had he worn them. Joyce would have been honoured to drink his piss from his boot, had he had them, which he did not, of course. Wordsworth? A jobsworth, by comparison. Goethe, Hemingway, France, Marquez, Woolf or Wolfe: all are honoured to even belong in this same paragraph as his mention.

Of course, the irony is that he never published a thing. Not a word.

In fact, he would show me some of his stuff – the most elegiac prose, the wittiest turns of phrase, compelling arguments for and against the same ideologies, heart-rending vignettes. Then, as I watched in disbelief, he would set them to the eternal flame of a bunsen burner he kept by his desk for such a purpose. Me, what did I do? What could I do? I would have killed to write even a furtive paragraph of the calibre of his stuff, but he swore me to secrecy, filled me so full of spirits and barbiturates i couldn’t recall a word of what i had read. The boxing match would commence, me clouted about the skull so often I’d pass out.


Only the memory of that sweet delicious writing remained, yet nary a phrase nor even two words conjoined could i recollect, between after the potion and the boxing, yet i would happily (and did happily) undergo countless druggings and beatings for the fleeting joy of reading what he had committed to paper.

He had developed a theory, of which I have but a broad recollection, outlining — with his exquisitive logic — why it was the only course of action available to him, to do as he did.

All we are left with — those of us who knew him, those who were invited, blessed, to read what he had written — are the muddled memories. Only now, after, have I discovered that I was not alone.

I never knew at the time, but a great many others were similarly permitted to read his writings. Groups of us, in vain, have gathered, attempting to recreate pieces, phrases, a sentences, even. The broad themes might do, perhaps, going so far as to drug and box ourselves into oblivion to bring his stuff back, but beyond the loose fumbles as a drunk might grapple to hold onto a glass of the gods’ nectar, so it is with us.

It is gone, and all we can do is try to convince others that he ought to be cherished, his memory forever honoured as his writing, tragically but logically, cannot be.

Things take their course, as is natural. Countless pieces of literature are claimed to have been written by him. It is all nonsense, of course. He had no need to do this. If he sought acclaim, why use another name? Why burn the papers?

No, he had no need of validation. It was enough to know he was the finest writer of all time. To commit that writing to eternity was to crush all other writers, and that was his abiding fear. He knew the power he held over others.

It certainly ended my ambitions there and then, the first time I laid eyes upon his writing.

It could not be surpassed.

I knew that, even with my bitter eyes. I could convince myself of many things, then, but that I could be better than this, that it lacked something that I could offer? No.

I knew in the deepest darkest pool of my Self, no part of me could offer something new, something better than that which I read. I wept, and though I had done so before upon reading the writings of another, this was for the first time because of joy.

There was no jealousy, the second-nature of any aspiring writer. This was pure unconcieved, sprung-into-being joy. This was the holy place for writing, where nothing but purity and clarity of writing can exist.

Yet each time, he would burn them, the pages. Nothing can last forever, he would remind me. Us, all of us. Nothing lasts forever. His ability to recognise that, from the very first, defined him, gave him and his writing a timelessness no one could reach. It was as if one were reading the indelible soul of man, the Word of G-d, not in the necessarily clumsy transcription of the hand of man, but His own Hand.

Of course, nothing else about him suggested sainthood, let alone godliness. He was ordinary, fusty even, in many other ways.

The old dusty quarters where he lived on the outskirts of the forgotten town, bombed-out and largely deserted since the war, certainly nothing about his appearance nor his environs suggested his brilliance, but one only had to see his script on the page to be transported to another world.

Ah, it was something other than… than what we are left with, here, now. Everything after was just… not enough. Inconsequential. It was as if all was clumsily translated, ad infinitum, until it no longer made sense. I didn’t read for years after he passed away, just tried to recreate something, anything, of what he had written, but in vain.

Seances, hypnotisms, ice baths, trances: there wasn’t anything I didn’t try. Nothing. Once or twice I thought I might have something, but when I looked once more in the cool light of day, it was gibberish, a child’s attempt at greatness. It just wasn’t the same.

It never could be, of course. Nothing tangible can last, and perhaps that was the great message he was born to give us.”

4 thoughts on “The Greatest Writer

  • April 14, 2016 at 5:14 pm
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    This is so cool! It gave me shivers. I’m so glad you don’t burn your words.
    Was he a teacher?

  • April 19, 2016 at 12:11 am
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    Ah , the sacrificial scribe ! I have always suspected one existed , but have never met one . Better you than me , though .

    • April 19, 2016 at 8:25 am
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      The altar of the High Priest of Literature demands its blood sacrifices, Dan… It’s not only budding guitarists whose fingers must bleed for their craft!

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