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Monday, June 13, 2016

Luxembourg’s Georg Bleinstein says Don't leave the EUOIA

Luxembourg’s Georg Bleinstein (1965-2046) co-created with Tom Jenks (and with a little help from a sausage), says Don't Leave the EUOIA (European Union Of Imaginary Authors). He can see trouble ahead, as related in his short biographical note:

Georg Bleinstein was born in Grevenmucher, Luxembourg, in 1965 -




(France Gall - Poupée de cire, poupée de son - Eurovision 1965 - Luxembourg - Winner!)


- and by the age of six he’d published his first volume, based on the bilingual (German and Lëtzebuergesch) voices he claimed to hear in his head. Subsequently dropped from the Bleinstein canon, these hallucinogenic and hypnogogic poems, entitled The Transitional Object Speaks of its Subject, were greeted with derision and amazement in equal measures. (The title was provided by Bleinstein’s father, the controversial TV psychotherapy guru, Georg snr.) The Hollywood actor Tom Cruise mentioned the poems in an interview with Oprah Winfrey in 1999, describing them as ‘off the hook inspirational’. Cruise triggered unprecedented demand for Bleinstein’s work in general and The Transitional Object in particular which the publishers, having long since been liquidated for financial irregularities, were sadly unable to satisfy. Plans to turn the poems into a film starring Cruise were reportedly shelved when the actor learned of Bleinstein’s views on Scientology, which he memorably described as ‘all salad, no sausage’. Bleinstein famously used this evocative phrase as the title of the hit song on the first (and only) album Euro Autobahn Dance recorded by his retro-Krautrock-cum-Ceilidh band, KraftCheese. A copy of this was sent into orbit in 2001 as part of the Luxembourg government’s later abandoned space programme. Ironically, the name of the rocket was Schenk, in honour of Tatiana Schenk, a filmmaker, film producer and artist with whom Bleinstein lived in the early 1990s. Schenk and Bleinstein fell out over Bleinstein’s claim for a writing credit for her 1995 film The Sorrow of Canaries and did not speak again.
Three volumes of verse, Bleinstein’s General Theory, Bleinstein’s Specific Theory, and Bleinstein’s Next Theory, recycling familiar Luxembourgish tropes (eulogy to raw salmon, paradoxical encomium to poached hare, ode to black sausage and valediction to squirrel cheese) appeared in the 1980s. Bleinstein’s poetry reached maturity in 1989 with the publication of The Fall of the Whirling Ball, which embraced experimental techniques learnt from membership of the Benelux Euroulipo group. His light-hearted use of their ‘homophobic translation’ constraint (an entire anthology of gay love poetry was ‘translated’ into straight argot) was disastrously misunderstood by the Luxembourgish LGBT community, who burnt effigies of him (memorably sporting a fleshly saveloy) during their annual Gay Pride March in 1990. Tatiana Schenk’s support was vital to his rehabilitation and led to their short lived romance.
            Bleinstein changed tack with 13,333 Ways of Looking at a Sausage, a durational piece in which he wrote the same poem 13,333 times whilst looking at a sausage for 76 hours in an undisclosed location near Bochum. No footage exists and Bleinstein destroyed the poems at the end of the performance by plunging them into a deep fat fryer. The sausage itself is believed to have been purchased by Kenneth Goldsmith, who hailed 13,333 Ways of Looking at a Sausage as a proto-conceptual masterpiece.
Expelled from the Euroulipo for ‘conceptualist meanderings’, Bleinstein fell into a deep depression and a cave while hiking in the Swabian Alps. He took up false flag pseudonyms to produce a multi-faceted poetic oeuvre. Even to this day it is not clear how many of the 1990s Submergist Poets were in fact Bleinstein in disguise, transgressing the Grand Duchy’s motto: ‘Mir wëlle bleiwe, war mir sin.’ (‘We want to remain what we are.’) He is estimated to have been responsible for as much as 33% of Luxembourgish poetry published since 1995: from the works of Erwin Wertheim, Vampire Poet and schnitzel champion, to those of the minimalist enigma aurélian, author of w*rst case scenario!; from Jean Portante’s innovative investigations of loss of memory and identity in Le Travail du Poumon (The Work of the Lung), to Claudio Lombardeli’s nautical epic Lushaborg (the ancient Cornish name for Luxembourg), where the ‘old sausage trick’, as critic Titania Schenk put it, supposedly gave the game away. ‘Wherever there’s a sausage, present or absent, there shall ye find Bleinstein!’ she declared. Bleinstein famously misquoted his father in his defence: ‘Sometimes a sausage is just a sausage!’ (Titania Schenk is not to be confused with her older sister Tatiana, of course.)
Swedish Artisan Cheese
Even as late as 2014 when Anne Hoffman was commissioned by the Grand Duchy’s Office to celebrate the successful sequencing of the salmon genome, Bleinstein was widely thought to have been responsible for her contribution, a 3D work of breathtaking complexity that used the sequence as a matrix for re-telling the popular Luxembourg children’s story, Sammy the Salmon, in which the hero – catchphrase ‘Oh Flip!’ – navigates across land to Luxembourg by flipping to his spawning pond in Widow Martha’s vineyard. When the piece was permanently installed at Place du Poisson Mobile in 2018 its flipping tail, farting gills and grunting mouth were a particular delight for children and adults alike. However, on one occasion Bleinstein was forced to publicly deny his involvement in a poet’s work, when in 2001 Yann Lick was arrested for fraud in the Swedish artisan cheese market and further investigations led to accusations of his role in a poison sausage scandal in Ettelbruck (as well as plagiarism in all of his published works). Titania Schenk enthusiastically refuted Bleinstein’s denials.
Bleinstein caused controversy in 2002 when he handed back his Theodor Blank medal, awarded for services to literature in 1998, in protest at the Luxembourg government’s stance on commercial whaling. After this, he lived in Bitburg over the border in Germany, where, in 2007 a street was named after him. Bleinstein Straße has the added distinctions of housing the smallest branch of Kentucky Fried Chicken in northern Europe and accommodating no fewer than eighteen cheesemongers. In 2008 he narrowly missed being awarded Luxembourg’s Batty Weber national prize. In 2011 he again missed out on the prize, which is awarded, every three years, for a lifetime’s work, with many commentators blaming his intermittently colourful personal life for the slight, in particular his naming as a correspondent in the high profile divorce proceedings of Franco-German country and western singer and telecommunications heiress Aurélia Aulrich.
On 31 August 2012, Bleinstein made an infamously uncooperative appearance on the Luxembourg chatshow Heiße Kartoffeln (Hot Potatoes), sporting impenetrable sun glasses, a heavy beard and a t-shirt bearing the slogan Ich Schoss JR. Bleinstein began by stating that he had retired from poetry and would henceforth concentrate his energies on satirical ice sculpture. Bleinstein then proceeded to answer every question posed by host Ulli Ulrich with the word Pute (turkey). It later emerged that Bleinstein had been paying tribute to English comedian, singer, actor and variety performer Max Bygraves, who had died earlier that day, referring to an episode of UK game show Family Fortunes, hosted by Bygraves, where a contestant gave that answer to every question.


Bleinstein and Bygraves struck up an unlikely friendship after meeting on a narrow boat holiday in the Norfolk Broads in 1994, where Bleinstein was gathering primary source material for his uncompleted work of psychogeography Five Mile Drain. It is rumoured that it was Bygraves who introduced Bleinstein to the psyclobin mushroom.


Apparently serious about his retirement from poetry, Bleinstein spent Christmas 2014 in Greenland sculpting a likeness of President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy into the east face of the Kangerdlugssuaq Glacier. The sculpture itself took seven days. Bleinstein then spent a further fifty-six days melting it very slowly with a succession of matches, using some 40,000 in all. The experience cost Bleinstein three and a half toes lost to frostbite and he was badly mauled by a walrus. It also brought criticism from environmental groups and celebrities such as Dame Angelina Jolie, Dame Helen Mirren and Carol Vorderman MBE.
Perhaps discouraged by the Van Rompuy debacle, Bleinstein made a volte-face and returned to poetry in 2015 with Snowflakes, a series of haiku composed entirely of asterisks. In 2016, he published Quantitative Easing, a complex work combining macro-economics, micro-economics and macrobiotics, which Bleinstein claimed had cured his much documented bowel problems. In an interview in that year, Bleinstein stated that he had not eaten cooked food since sharing a tapas-style starter with former British poet laureate Andrew Motion at a dinner in 2011 to honour Nobel prize winner Tomas Tranströmer, after which he became violently ill. News of the damage to Professor Motion’s trousers (and to his young female companion’s stockings) made Newsnight in Britain, where it provoked Jeremy Paxman to issue one of his signature smirks and a fatwa against all poets. Bleinstein’s presence at the dinner is mysterious given his much publicised dislike of Swedes. This is attributed by Bleinstein himself to being bitten by his father’s vallhund in early childhood and reinforced by an incident where he became trapped inside an Ikea wardrobe he was assembling for his mother and had to be rescued by the fire brigade.



 Image result for sabrina salerno
In 2018, in another appearance on Heiße Kartoffeln, by now hosted by former Italian pop star, glamour model and politician Sabrina Salerno, Bleinstein again found himself at the centre of controversy. Confused by the bright lights and struggling with hay fever, Bleinstein stumbled on his way to the stage and accidently pulled down the trousers of President of the European Commission and former Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, a fellow guest on a special live broadcast to celebrate the centenary of former West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt. Juncker’s underpants, a very brief blue affair emblazoned with the word Butterberg in gold, are credited with setting back the cause of European federalism some years. The episode made Bleinstein a hero of the Eurosceptic movement, with Nigel Farage quoted as saying that he would happily take Bleinstein to Sevenoaks for a sausage sandwich. Bleinstein replied gnomically that those who seek the sausage find only the chipolata. This remark proved to be eerily prescient when, during the UK general election campaign of 2020, Farage, riding high in the opinion polls, almost choked on a cocktail sausage in the green room of BBC Question Time, being saved only by the timely intervention of gardener and novelist Alan Titchmarsh,
who performed the Heimlich manoeuvre with the assistance of London mayoral candidate Dale Winton. The ordeal caused Farage to retire immediately from politics and establish his globally renowned mail order tropical fish business.

In 2019, Bleinstein again announced his retirement from poetry, this time to focus on ballet. His five hour long piece Donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaftskapitän, set, as the title suggests, on a Danube steam ship with Bleinstein himself playing the lead role, was premiered to equal parts acclaim and derision in Ulm in 2020. The production’s run was cut short when Bleinstein, attempting an ambitious, non-choreographed vault over a mooring post, sustained a serious injury that incapacitated him for the next four years and rendered him incapable of riding his beloved racing bike for the rest of his life.

 Bleinstein returned once more to poetry in 2024, when he narrowly won a bid against Anne Hoffman to compose a poem celebrating the Medium-Sized Hadron Collider built under Luxembourg City in 2021. It was entitled ‘When Time Bent over Backwards’, and was premised entirely upon the widely reported calculations of a Scottish scientist who had erroneously used Imperial measures instead of metric ones (‘of whisky!’ Hoffman sneered on Heiße Kartoffeln, as she infamously touched the bare thigh of Sabrina Salerno) to suggest that bright light was carried by dark light faster than the speed of light itself. When the sober re-calculations were released the funding body, the Schenk Foundation, demanded a re-write and Bleinstein produced a poem composed entirely of light in which, he claimed, as long as he bathed in its luminescence and he was visible, the poem was signifying. No wonder in 2026 he was shortlisted for the Batty Weber National Prize (though losing out to a scoffing Hoffman) but was awarded the prize at last in 2029.
Bleinstein became increasingly concerned with spiritual matters. In 2032, he joined the cult sect based around the life and works of renowned fishmonger and entrepreneur Harry Ramsden, spending six months in retreat in a restaurant in Guisely, West Yorkshire. The practices of the sect are shrouded in secrecy, with a number of former members being found dead in unexplained circumstances, often accompanied by a small pot of tartar sauce and a slice of lemon. Upon emerging from retreat, a morbidly obese Bleinstein was asked by a journalist what he had been doing and replied, in characteristically elliptical fashion, ‘Battering a sausage’. The experience inspired his 2033 conceptualist masterpiece Hake, a transcription of the complete Harry Ramsden’s menu on the reverse of a copy of the Maastricht Treaty. He followed this in 2035 with a companion piece Haake, a transcription of the complete Maastricht Treaty on the reverse of a Harry Ramsden’s menu. Both documents were written using mushy peas and were completely illegible.
General von Knyphausen
Now in his seventies, Bleinstein grew increasingly eccentric and was often accompanied on public appearances by General von Knyphausen, a tame puffin he adopted during a trip to the Orkneys. His later years were devoted to avian welfare and he ploughed his life savings into an ultimately disastrous owl sanctuary, whose collapse left him destitute. In The Transitional Object Speaks of its Subject, the six year old Bleinstein predicted the manner of his own demise in haiku form: ‘dead at eighty-one / black bread in a wooded copse / the nuthatch attends’. This prophecy came true when, in 2046, a traffic officer found Bleinstein slumped beneath an elm in a picnic area near his native Grevenmucher, a solitary passerine perched upon his outstretched finger, pecking at the remains of a piece of pumpernickel. His reported, but possibly apocryphal, last words were: ‘All things come to an end; except the sausage that has two ends.’
Bleinstein’s translation of Dante’s Inferno into asterisks, A Snowball’s Chance in Hell, appeared posthumously in 2065. Its single sentence is uttered by a Usurer in Canto XIX: ‘The one grace of being bald is that one/ Can hear the snowflakes landing on one’s head!’ which caused consternation among the community of follicly-challenged Inuit loan sharks who had sought refuge in Luxembourg following the melting of the Arctic tundra. The work may be apocryphal (or the work of Hoffman) but was included in  Collected Poems and Doubtful Poems which was published in 2086, coincidentally the year the first Luxembourger landed on Mars to establish Base Bleinstein. All Salad No Sausage was reprised as Luxembourg’s interplanetary anthem, but the book was pulped at the request of General von Knyphausen, Bleinstein’s literary executor, following pressure from the estate’s Alaskan creditors.
Image result for jeff nuttallDespite his colourful and eventful life Bleinstein is perhaps still best known in the Anglophone world as Dirk Bloodaxe. Along with Blinky Peet, he is the doyen of Luxi Noir crime fiction, with his Heft quartet, featuring the portly and asthmatic detective of that name. The first of the series, All Fat No Fun is about a serial killer who targets obese men, leaving at each crime scene an enigmatic KFC carton filled with lard and topped with a barely nibbled frankfurter. After an ill-fated trip to the gym, during which an exercise bike was pulverised, Heft realises that he is to be the sixth victim. (It was televised by Channel 5 in 1998, starring Jeff Nuttall as Heft and Peter Capaldi as the villain, under the title A Fat Load of Good.) The novel’s opening line set the sardonic and world-weary tone for the entire Luxi Noir genre: ‘Heft had a way with women – it didn’t work.’ Heft’s words have often been read as autobiographical, as Titania Schenk points out repeatedly in her study of Bleinstein’s work and life, All Gristle No Skin (from which most of the facts in this account are drawn). (Tom Jenks and Robert Sheppard)

Read now Tom Jenks' own response to the EU Referendum:

We have lost control of our borders the long one that goes past Hadrian’s wall piled up with peach stones and the ones with wet water in a trench like in show jumping that are called cliffs and the soil ones with loam and dandelions and the dandelion clocks you have to put them forward one hour because that is the time in Ghent and you can’t say anything about it because if you do you are a racist. We have lost control of our trees those trees they do what they want bending this way in the wind and bending that way in the wind and the wind they make it all in a factory in Poland now they’ve got a big wheel there and they’ve got these monkeys that spin it round and they burn them with hot croissants and raisins and you can’t say anything about it because if you do you are a racist. We have lost control of our birds it is all Chinese birds now Chinese birds like the Chinese woodcock and Chinese birds like the Chinese hooting owl and you can’t even understand what they say at the call centres it is all Chinese owls these days in the call centres and the British birds like the British mud sparrow and the British birds like the British stunted finch you can only get them on eBay now and they come flat and their nests are all full of Romanian butter and you can’t say anything about it because if you do you are a racist. We have lost control of our plumbing the lead pipes and the copper pipes now they are full of the salty mackerel that the Portuguese put there and the sausages the Germans put there and the green olives the Spanish put there and the black olives the Spanish put there the lead pipes and the copper pipes the French they fill them with perfume and the Italians send their spaghetti down the bends and you can’t even get the orange spaghetti anymore oh no it has to be the yellow spaghetti because it is isotonic and if you ask them for orange spaghetti in Tesco’s they say they haven’t got any and you can’t say anything about it because if you do you are a racist. We have lost control of our ports the crusty ports and the tawny ports going the wrong way around the dinner table and the cheeseboards we have lost control of our cheeseboards it is all French cheese on the cheeseboards now and there are no British cheeses now like the British river cheese or British cheese like the British divot cheese or British cheese like the British blue axminster cheese and if you ask for the British blue axminster cheese in Tesco they say they haven’t got any and you can’t say anything about it because if you do you’re a racist. We have lost control of our beer the foaming brown beer that came from the wells that the maidens used to draw up in their buckets down in the dingles and it’s all German buckets now made of iron and steel from the European iron and steel community not the old British buckets made of wattle and daub and you can’t get British beer now like a pint of British creeping treecreeper or a British beer like a pint of British furtive nuthatch or a British beer like a pint of British austin allegro and if you ask for a pint of British austin allegro in Tesco they say they haven’t got any and you can’t say anything about it because if you do you're a racist. We have lost control of our shandies the old British shandies made by hand down in the forest frothing up out of the ditches and they’ve filled in the ditches now all the old British ditches filled them up with Dutch rubble the old British ditches filled them up with Belgian waffles the old British ditches filled them up with Luxembourg squirrel cheese the old British ditches and if you ask for a British hand shandy in Tesco they say they haven’t got any and you can’t say anything about it because if you do you’re a racist. We have lost control of our waterways the rivers now they are full of algae and whitebait the British rivers and the whitebait they come up the pipes and lay eggs that are more whitebait and you can’t get rid of them because they are tapas and the algae it is invisible algae and it clogs up the sluices and the stopcocks and you can’t say anything about it because if you do you’re a racist. We have lost control of our otters they have to wear protective gloves now the British otters and they can’t live in the rivers anymore because of the algae the invisible algae and they have to live in special turrets now the British otters and they don’t even let them have a fast boil kettle in their turrets in case it sets fire to the Dutch elms and you can’t say anything about it because if you do you’re a racist. We have lost control of our salmon they can’t go upstairs to spawn now the British salmon they have to spawn downstairs now the British salmon just in the living room behind the sofa and you can’t hear the television all the salmon spawning and you have to clean it up yourself in a plastic bag and they charge you 5p for the plastic bag and you can’t say anything about it because if you do you’re a racist. We have lost control of our eels they can’t even go up a Spaniard’s trouser leg anymore the British eels like they used to straight up a Spaniard’s trouser leg the British eels and it was harmless and the Queen Mother had some at Balmoral in a big wine glass and Winston Churchill had one in his pocket for his speeches on YouTube and Henry VIII had one in his codpiece when he wrote the music for ice cream vans and they’re all gone now the British codpieces and if you ask for a British codpiece in Tesco’s now they say they haven’t got any and you can’t say anything about it because if you do you’re a racist. We have lost control of our currency the old British pounds and the old British pennies and the other ones like the old British florin and the old British half Nelson and the old British full Nelson that was fourteen and sixteen-seventeenths pence it was the old British full Nelson and you can’t say sixteen-seventeenths anymore when you go down the bakery now it’s all mozzarella puffs and gorgonzola yum-yums down the bakeries now and they’re all in decimal to ten significant figures the gorgonzola yum-yums and you can’t even put an old British full Nelson in a Christmas pudding anymore and if you ask in Tescos for a Christmas pudding with an old British full Nelson they say they haven’t got any and you can’t say anything about it because if you do you’re a racist. We have lost control of our piggy banks they’re all eighty percent water now the piggy banks and they’re all subsidised now the piggy banks and every piggy bank you get now the front right leg belongs to the Bundesbank which is the German for front right leg and they don’t run free in the forest anymore for acorns and filberts the piggy banks underneath the ash trees and every pound you put in a piggy bank eighteen pence of it goes to bacon growers in Denmark and it’s got no rind the Danish bacon they call it rindless bacon and you can’t get rindless bacon with rind anymore and if you ask for rindless bacon with rind in Tescos they say they haven’t got any and you can’t say anything about it because if you do you’re a racist. We have lost control of our bumbags they’re all fibreglass and Teflon now the bumbags not like the old British bumbags made from cured crackling and antlers made by craftsmen they were the old British bumbags down in the royal forest they’d whittle them by moonlight the old British bumbags then leave them to mature down in a ditch one of the old British ditches full of rain and stilton cheese down in the holly grove the old British ditches and they’d last a century the old British bumbags made from cured crackling and antlers and there are no deer anymore you can’t get the old deer meat like a hunch of deer or the old deer meat like a deer goujon or the old deer meat like a pulled deer nacho and if you ask for a pulled deer nacho in Tescos now they haven’t got any and you can’t say anything about it because if you do you’re a racist. We have lost control of our countryside the cows and the sheep they are all getting dismantled now the British cows and sheep the British cows like the British Colonel Mustard or the British cows like the British Captain Mainwaring and the British sheep like the British Albert Steptoe or the British sheep like the British Lionel Richie and it had such a soft yet durable fleece the British Lionel Richie perfect for a cardigan the British Lionel Richie perfect for a cape or a tabard the British Lionel Richie and if you ask in Tescos for a British Lionel Richie tabard they say they haven’t got any and you can’t say anything about it because if you do you’re a racist. We have lost control of our parks they are all getting dismantled now the British parks all the green grass and the white and yellow daisies they are all getting rolled up now the green grass and the white and yellow daisies and they take them all to Strasbourg the green grass and the white and yellow daisies and they put it all on the floor of the boutiques and brasseries and we want them back our daisies our white and yellow daisies can’t even get a proper cup of tea and a sausage in one of these brasseries a proper British sausage like the British frankfurter or a proper British sausage like the British schnitzel or a proper British sausage like the British winky and if you ask them in Tescos for a proper British winky they say they haven’t got any and you can’t say anything about it because if you do you’re a racist. We have lost control of our gardens they are all getting dismantled now the British gardens you can’t even put up a gun turret in your garden anymore or landmines you can’t even put landmines in your garden now because of the environment and there are no real buttercups in them anymore the British gardens just plastic buttercups because of allergies it is because of allergies and if you put a real buttercup in your garden now they come and arrest you like when they sent Jeremy Clarkson to Robben Island and if you ask in Tescos for a book about Jeremy Clarkson getting sent to Robben Island they say they haven’t got any and you can’t say anything about it because if you do you’re a racist.

A guide to all 28 EUOIA poets, and biographies and poems here.
 
I am pleased to announce that Shearsman Books will be publishing the EUOIA anthology.  It will be called Twitters for a Lark and will appear in June or July 2017, in time for the EUOIA evening at The Other Room, Manchester.