…I’m already dead. And that – I hasten to add – isn’t a posthumously posted farewell from a despairing blogger, rather it is the title of a recently published novel by Scottish author Andrew Nicoll.
I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but its protagonist, real-life character Otto Witte, is a familiar face. He was, you may recall, the circus performer who claimed to have ruled Albania for a few days in 1913 (a Tirana circus rex, if you will), sticking by his far-fetched story as he lived out his “exile” in Berlin. The premise of the book is intriguing:
Otto Witte is an old man. The Allies are raining bombs on his city and, having narrowly escaped death, he has come home to his little caravan to drink what remains of his coffee (dust) and wait for the inevitable. Convinced that he will not see the sunrise, he decides to write the story of his life for the poor soul who finds what’s left of him come the morning.
And it’s quite a story. Years earlier, when he was in either Buda or Pest, working at the circus, a dear friend brought him the newspaper. Inside was an article about how Albania was looking for a particular Turkish prince, because the country was in need of a new king. This Turkish prince is the image of Otto… A plan is formed; adventure, disaster, love and sheer, unabashed hope await.
This isn’t the first time that the fable that Witte concocted of his own life made its way into someone else’s fiction: German author Andreas Izquierdo’s 2007 novel König von Albanien also explored Otto’s putative seizure of the temporarily unoccupied Albanian throne.