Le monde n’est pas rond is a serious publication, which is why we like to give ample space to humour (be it in the form of illustration, prose, or any other discipline), as an often more subtle and entertaining way of exposing a possible truth. All the more so when the humour pokes fun at identity, empty patriotism, or the myth of the nation state.
Issue 1 of Le monde n’est pas rond includes extracts, in the original German, of Francis Kirps’ short story Planet Luxembourg. Recently, this story was adapted into English, by the author himself, with a little help from Antoine Cassar. This English version, appearing below for the first time, was recited at the Beats Against Borders open mike at the Sandkaul, Univ. of Luxembourg, the closing event of the CIEL Refugee Solidarity Weeks.
Francis Kirps is a young Luxembourgish writer and poet, co-organiser of the Lesebühne series at Café Rocas, and editor of Exot magazine. Planet Luxembourg is also the title of a collection of satirical short stories, published in Germany by Andreas Reiffer Verlag, 2012 (available on Amazon).
You have barely entered Luxembourg from the eastern flank, standing dazzled before its golden roofs and diamond office towers, when you already pop out on the other side, only to find yourself stranded in bitterly-poor Belgium, surrounded by ragged school children, begging for a penny to survive or a job in the city. Luxembourg has a way of escaping the eye of the beholder that can truly make your head spin. Time and space stretch and distort in a very strange fashion, and as a wise man – I think it was James Joyce – once put it: Luxembourg is only half as large as a medium-sized pig farm in Wanker County, Wisconsin, but twice as fragrant.To walk around Luxembourg on foot, you need almost an entire day. This drives many Australian farmers yellow with envy.
Maps of Luxembourg generally come in 1:1 scale. Particularly detailed maps are even larger than the country itself, and thus are only allowed to be sold abroad.
There is only one airport in the country, in the capital, so you can only fly from Luxembourg City to Luxembourg City and back; worse still, you have to accept tedious detours via London, Frankfurt or Mallorca.
For such a small area, Luxembourg possesses an astonishing variety of different landscape-types:
In the north, we have the mighty towering dwarf birches and the grandious hillocks of the Oesling region, also known as Luxembourgish-Siberia, where we find the highest mountain in the country: the “Pile of Gold”, which rises an incredible 500 meters above sea level, and thus places itself in a virtual line with Mont Blanc, K2, and Mount Everest.
In the centre of continental Luxembourg, the endless corn savannas and impenetrable blackberry jungles of the “Gutland” region stretch out as far as the eye can see; to the East the Volga-like Moselle, flowing with wine instead of water, rolls majestically along and, upon reaching the Wasserbillig Delta, spurts with Amazonian force over the Central German plains.
The weather holds similar extremes: In summer, the country is battered by merciless scorching heat, sometimes up to 25 degrees, whereas in winter it sometimes even happens to snow. Then there’s the rainy season, which lasts all year.
Politically, Luxembourg is a pseudocratic Auto-Monarchy, led with an iron fist by the triumvirate of Grand Duke Henri / Archbishop Hollerich / Archdictator Juncker. Adding to this, there is one black, one red, one blue and one green conservative party, so citizens can play a little democracy and have something to talk about in the pub besides football and cars.
The education system is brilliant, beyond description, and world leaders. This rock-solid certainty is not at all shattered by the repeated disastrous results in the worldwide PISA study. They probably just asked our little geniuses the wrong questions. The first seven years of school are spent learning the national anthem by heart, all 2,586 verses of it, one for every square kilometer of the country. In high school the main subjects are Power Economics, Alcohol Abuse, Church Latin, Medieval French, Business English, and money-counting.
Which brings us directly to the subject of money: Why is Luxembourg so absurdly rich, foreign observers often wonder.
And that’s a long, long story:
Legend has it that the iron ore from the ‘Minette’ region caused the economic rise of the underdeveloped Potato Republic. ‘Minette’ is a diminutive of ‘mine’, and thus the Luxembourg iron ore mines were in fact very small, perhaps two feet deep, much too small for a human. Therefore, trained gold hamsters and dormice were used to bring the earth’s treasures to the surface. Unfortunately, the insatiable rodents ate half of the iron themselves: As iron contains a lot of spinach, the animals developed such super-powers that they instigated a revolution and began a march towards Luxembourg town, plundering, raping and eating peaceful peasants on their way. After a long and tumultuous war, they were finally beaten and eradicated in the Second Battle of Mole Hill, down by the straits of Hesperange, by the Grand Duke’s Elite musketeers regiment (the “Bullet Boys”), reinforced by a platoon of war-hardened squirrel mercenaries and a squadron of fearless Japanese warrior rabbits. After these sorrowful events, industrialization was deemed too dangerous by the authorities, and as a consequence, Modern Times never really arrived in Luxemburg, and so to the present day.
In the twenties, Luxembourg then turned to tourism as a source of money. Yet the hulking Dutchmen, lured with false advertising leaflets to “Luxembourg Switzerland” or the “Luxembourg Copacabana”, brought their own food and accommodation with them, so the locals could not make any money on them. The blond buffoons were thus promptly chased back to the soggy marshes of their homeland, and advised not to show up again until they were civilized.
After the Second World War, which Luxembourg had won easily (with a little help from the Allies) against the Germans and their Austrian team manager, Grand Duchess Melissa and her lover, the demonic Prime Minister Gaston “Faustus” Thorn, had a brilliant idea: a pact with the devil. Since Luxembourg is indeed more Catholic than the Vatican itself, and Catholicism and Satanism belong as hand-in-hand as yin and yang, no earthly or heavenly force stood in the way of that plan.
On 06.06.1966 the contract with the new patron saint Lucifer was signed, and with Satan’s blessing, the radio station RTL (Radio Telepath Luxembourg) was launched. Not only did it broadcast shockingly funny entertainment programs, but it also sent out subliminal messages to Belgium, France, Germany and elsewhere. The Europe-wide mass hypnosis worked perfectly. Soon you could see wealthy people from all neighboring countries, with plastic bags and briefcases full of banknotes under their arms, on a pilgrimage towards Luxembourg, where they delivered the money at fake bank counters. After that they were given a “serum of Oblivion”, and were sent back to their respective home countries.
The thus-earned bounty flows through an underground tube system into the money bin of the Grand Ducal Palace, and from there it is distributed through an above-ground tube system to the population, such that over the last 40 years, no Luxembourgish citizen has ever had to work.
Such a paradise of a financial centre of course needs strong protection, and that’s why Luxembourg has one of the most fearsome armies of contemporary history. It consists of 1,500 military musicians who, if necessary, beat the enemy back with a bang and a blow, 200 foot soldiers, 100 leg soldiers, 15 armchair soldiers, 10 unknown soldiers, 5 khaki-coloured Hummer jeeps from U.S. army remnants, and two saluting cannons Napoleon forgot here some time ago.
Let’s jump now without transition to a very different subject, namely the Luxembourg fauna, which is praised by renowned zoologists as even more bizarre than that of the Galapagos Islands. The bird life is rich in feathered friends, as we have domestic pigeons, domestic sparrows, domestic chickens and even an owl. When this colossal griffin spreads its wings, night falls abruptly over the Grand Duchy.
The vast clover and rape steppes of the south are crossed by big game herds, mainly fox and hare of which there is no shortage, and a with little luck, one can even watch a pack of Sunday hunters on the prowl, or the mighty silhouette of a pygmy shrew drinking at the edge of the water, lit up by the glorious sunset.
The desolate and still largely unexplored north of the country has an intriguing micro-fauna: the monstrous Midget Mammoth, the odd fogey bird, the shy Nano Giant Deer, the cosy Benelux sloth that feeds exclusively on withered dividends and derivatives, the Elemental Elk which is invisible to the human eye, and a still uncontacted hominid, the Ardennes Neanderthal, popularly known as the Belgian Yeti.
This list could no doubt continue indefinitely, but then this text would end up covering a surface larger than Luxembourg itself, the sun no longer coming in, and we would all die one grisly death in the ensuing nuclear winter, so let me now turn to the last point: language. For residents of chronically dyslexic nations such as Germany and especially, of course, France, the true genius of the Luxembourgers lies in the fact that they can speak as many languages mixed up as they wish. But this is neither due to special talent, nor to a particularly effective educational system (see above), the reason is much simpler: all European languages are descended from one proto-language, Indo-Luxembourgish. That Hitler did not want to admit this as a fact, and as a result was unpopular in Luxembourg, was probably his biggest foreign policy mistake, and laid the groundwork for a united Europe under Jean-Claude Juncker, as we know it today.