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Memorials

said: unfinishedbusiness, bringingus togetherandsettingus apart, whoseunravellingwill tell measmuchaboutmyself as of themanwhohasgonebefore. Michael the poet, Michael the essayist, Michael the translator. Michael intheearlydays as areluctant academic. Michael in theearly afternoonwatchingsnookeronthetelly. It has always beeneasier towrite of the parts thanaccount for the whole. Sotothe ‘manof letters’ I wouldhave writtena letter today about my ripeningapples andshouldprobably have received a reply by return of post, as his countless correspondents always did. For this most prolific of letter-writers (loyal in the age of e-mail to his ancient, page-perforatingtypewriter) wouldlet nothingandnobody comebetween. Eventhatmostaugustof visitorswasrequired to wait until the day’s correspondence was dealt with: Michael’sfinal replieswerepostedonthedayof hisdeath. His letter wouldhavetoldmewithcharacteristicemphasis of hisownfruit, andhisownpredicaments: ‘Whatisnotclear tomeishow, if thiscrisisgoeson, Ishall managetheharvest this year.’ But ahardpartitionhas comebetweenus now. To usethepast tensefor thefirst timedemanded–asurprising strandinthetangle–cruelty. (I knowdeaths always call for severance, andalways forget.) Michael thefriend. Andfroma distance: Michaelthefamily man.Forashort moment afterthe funeral, before repairs to a window, before the quotidian, relentless and severe, washed away its contours, something suggestingawholelifedidappear: thedesk(not, however, the onebrought fromtheBerlinof hischildhood) withits letters still piledintheorderinwhichtheyhadarrived, therelevant files rangedalonghis bay windowhandy for reference at a moment’s notice, the afternoon light on his trees, family foregathered, friends, the order of a work in progress – instantlycomplete. Apples! The forbiddenfruit hadbecomethebutt of jokes inthe Hamburger household, nay, of curses (mala diction – apple-speak, a LatinpunMichael might have enjoyed). Full

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