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I received this book by mail in an anonymous envelope apparently sent from Sweeden. It has 21 numbered pages, and purports to be a translation of a Sweedish translation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's lost manuscript. The text is a disjoint composition of narrative, quotes, warnings, editorial remarks and personal notes. Some parts seem to be disordered. Many allusions to or quotes from Hofstadter, Doyle, Sartre, etc. are found in the book. Page 13, contains a rectangular hole where some words (3?) have been cut out of the book in a discussion of the meaning of life with reference to Adams. This seems like an elaborate viral marketing campaign, but for what I am not sure.
I got a book in the mail yesterday. It came from Sweden, with sufficient postage. It was in a white envelope, with my name and work address written by hand in pen. On the envelope, there was also a note that said "Will tell you more when I return!" Inside was a white volume, hardback, called "Being or Nothingness", with the well known picture by Escher on the cover of two hands recursively drawing each other. The author is given as "Joe K". There is also a sticker that says "Warning! Please study the letter to Professor Hofstadter before you read the book. Good Luck!". Inside the front cover is, indeed, a neatly typed letter to Doug Hofstadter, with the right Bloomington address etc. It is dated Nov 9, 2006. It relates to what is presumably a prior acquaintance between the letter writer and Hofstadter. The letter is signed "The Writer". I'd reproduce the whole letter, as this is getting interesting at this stage, but then I'd have to do the same for the whole book, because it is an interesting little text, quite incoherent in an artistic way, that mingles themes from Hofstadter's Strange Loop, Douglas Adams, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The text is vaguely related to some christian themes, but also to recursion and the meaning of life.
November 9, 2006 Dear Professor Hofstadter, Your last e-mail had an encouraging tone that made me happy. I was afraid of making some statement that might jeopardize our good relationship. Instead I went ahead and sent the letters. For the same reason I didn’t acknowledge receiving your articles. I have browsed through them and realize that I have interesting studies ahead of me. Thank you for your generosity. By now the seven letters should have arrived and hopefully you are a little curious. As you get ready to read “The full circle”, I want to give you a word of caution. When I encountered the manuscript, many years ago, I was totally unprepared. I had found some old typewritten pages carelessly thrown in the corner of an abandoned railroad station, where I had taken refuge after leaving a party that had gotten out of control. As circumstances would have it I started to read and discovered patterns I had to explore. The manuscript has a reproduction of Escher’s “Drawing Hands” on its cover. Should the text resemble what its cover implies it to be, reading it could be dangerous. Had I sent a copy without comments, it might have caused harm. Our correspondence assures that you have a vision of a writer as you read. Also, by disclosing passages in advance I hope to have intrigued you enough, not to dismiss the manuscript as esoteric nonsense. Before you proceed, I should mention that the manuscript can be viewed as a religious document. The text can be incorporated into both the Jewish and the Christian tradition, but doing so with too much vigour would be to narrow its scope. Whether it is embraced and cherished or rejected and condemned does not depend on what religious or ideological belief system the reader subscribes to. Deep down it is a matter of faith and choice. There you are! I have disclosed almost everything I know about the manuscript. It is time for you to address this strange loop. It would please me if you were to give me some sort of feedback. The manuscript has not been made public, partly because, like Conan Doyle, I hesitate whether the world is ready but also since I am not sure that the patterns I perceive are really there. I realize that I might be mistaken and will neither object nor be offended if this turns out to be your opinion. With kind regards, “The Writer”