ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998.


"The Interview" by Joachim Frank


1. That man Cervantes knew who would read his book, but here I’m forced to aim into thin air.  

2. Now that I have your attention, I plead with you to listen, to read on. 

3. Georg Christoph Lichtenberg was a German scientist who lived in the 18th Century, a contemporary to Heinrich Kleist and the young Sturm-und-Drang-inspired Wolfgang von Goethe.  The Wiki calls him a scientist, satirist, and anglophile.

4. Lichtenberg is known for his book of aphorisms.  His lectures as a Natural Scientist are all but forgotten. 

5.  Here is one of his aphorisms: “If an angel were ever to tell us anything of his philosophy I believe many propositions would sound like 2 times 2 equals 13.”

6.  Berg means “mountain” in German.

7.  Lichtenberg means “mountain of light, or lights.”  It could refer to the impossible notion of an edifice made by piling up light so that it attains the shape of a mountain. 

8.  It could also refer to a mountain illuminated with lights.

9.  Ludwig Wittgenstein’s famous Tractatus Philosophicus, a serious investigation of the basis of any philosophical inquiry, is cast into a series of aphorisms, as well, the most famous of which is the very last one: Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.

10. Aphorisms are naked statements that sparkle with witticism but they sparkle only when all context is removed.  By the time you have read twenty of them you want to run away as fast as you want to run away from people telling as many jokes.  The one exception I know of is Wittgenstein’s Tractatus.

11.  Regarding Ludwig Wittgenstein, I again quote the Wiki: “According to a family tree prepared in Jerusalem after World War II, Wittgenstein's paternal great-grandfather was Moses Meier, a Jewish land agent who lived with his wife, Brendel Simon, in Bad Laasphe in the Principality of Wittgenstein, Westphalia.  In July 1808, Napoleon issued a decree that everyone, including Jews, must adopt an inheritable family surname, and so Meier's son, also Moses, took the name of his employers, the Sayn-Wittgensteins, and became Moses Meier Wittgenstein.” 

12.  By the time little Ludwig was born, his part of the family’s descendants had settled in Vienna, to become one of the richest families in all of Europe.

13. The principality of Wittgenstein is where my paternal grandfather came from.  As a boy I spent my summers with my uncles and aunts in Banfe, not far from Bad Laasphe, herding cows.

14. If I were to write a novel, I wouldn't wish to reduce it to a collection of aphorisms.  The author of aphorisms struts around all day like a peacock, but at night he cannot stand people like himself. 

15. As someone who is born during WW II, in Germany of all places, I bridge with my life the unbridgeable, to the present.

16. Luminosity!  Bring in the candles! There are still dark corners that have never seen the light!

17.  The woman, let me come to that, who gave birth to me during the War:  Standing in the backyard of our house, as I conduct an interview with her with my bulky movie camera (we are talking the 90s here; I’m on a different continent, just visiting), my mother keeps wondering aloud: What is in there?  How in the world can it move?  Is there a battery inside?

18.  She stands there in shoes that are stretched from the overgrown bones of her feet.  She stands there in a fragile posture because of the pain in her feet and the arthritis in her limbs.  She stands there, good-humored despite her pain, because she is my mother.

19. Conducting an interview with one’s parent is a funny idea.  What questions could be asked now, that were not on your mind already during the two decades you spent with her, day by day?

20. In this mysterious way, which my mother still fails to understand, her moving image and the sound of her voice are gathered in the box I hold in my hands.

21.  We both stand on white gravel, close to the black currant bushes, close to the neighbor’s fence.  As I operate the box with its buzzing little electrical motor and gears propelling a magnetic tape inside I take in the sky, the constellation and shapes of the clouds, the smell of the flowers, the accidental sounds of kids’ voices on a summer afternoon.

22.  Fast forward to the next century.  My mother is a memory now, neither distant nor close, she just is.

23.  She is an occasional presence in my dreams, though she does not hug me anymore.   I suppose she needs all her energy to keep up her ghostly presence when I dream.

24.  In other dreams I’m able to fly, and I enjoy it tremendously, but in those dreams my mother is nowhere to be seen.  She still endorses my independence.

25.  In one of my recollections I compared my mother to a plant.  Because, in my memory, she always has the steadiness and calmness of a plant.

26.  The magnetic tape on which I recorded the encounter with my mother, on that afternoon decades ago, is no longer readable by any known device. 

27.  Let me sign off at this point.  This is the end of the contract with the reader.  He or she will understand that I don’t have the power— or should I say spirit? — to go on.


Joachim Frank is a scientist and writer who lives in New York City. He has published short stories, flash fiction and poems in a number of magazines, including Offcourse, elimae, Cezanne's Carrot, Eclectica, The Noneuclidean Cafe, Hamilton Stone Review, Bartleby Snopes, Red Ochre Lit, StepAway Magazine, Fiction Fix, Short Fast and Deadly, The New Poet, Rivet Journal, *82 Review, Conium Review, theeel, and Black&White. A more complete list along with a blog on the state of the world is found on his website

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