Mustard cover with peach and grey letteringThe International Society for the Official Doppelgängers of Maarten Inghels, Maarten Inghels, translated by Jon Cho-Polizzi

Ledbury Poetry Festival, 2020   available as a free download

Fear of duplication

There must be something primal about our fear of doppelgängers. My granddaughter recently discovered two identical toy mice whilst tidying her collection of cuddly toys. She thought she only had one mouse, and was seriously spooked by finding an apparent clone. ‘What if my toys are starting to duplicate?’ she asked. ‘And what if the new one is evil? How will I know the difference?’ Having a lively imagination, she slept badly for several nights afterwards.

Maarten Inghels’ surreal and entertaining pamphlet set my brain buzzing similarly.

The pamphlet, translated from Flemish, is a sequence of nine poems about nine doppelgängers of the narrator/poet, who have formed themselves into a secret society. From the vantage point of his own afterlife, the poet observes and comments on the sinister activities of the doppelgängers over the nine days immediately following his death. In ‘The evening after my death’:

My doppelgängers grow cocky in their roles
They recreate my gait and the half-flaccid handshake
Experimenting with my dubious sexuality
Playfully permitting my accent to roll across their tongues
I am alive in each of them a bit

As the days go by, the doppelgängers assume his, the poet’s, place in the world, simultaneously destroying the world’s memory of him. On ‘The eighth day after my death’ the doppelgängers bury him where he can’t be found:

I hear the heavy earth fall on the lid
Block, Plock, Flock, Mlock
The world comes ever fainter to me

On the ninth evening, he ponders his identity and his disappearance from a world where his doppelgängers now run amok. It’s both funny and unsettling.

I puzzled over the last two lines of the sequence:

De geschiedenis herhaalt zich zoals ik mezelf herhaal
Ik ben ziek als een meerling

The translation reads:

History repeats itself as I repeat myself
Sick as a multiple

I was intrigued by the word ‘meerling’. I don’t think we have an English equivalent, but it refers to an individual in utero with others, i.e. a twin, triplet or so on. And why ‘Sick’? I have absolutely no idea. But the whole pamphlet is an excellent, weird read.

Annie Fisher