Fuckin Sushi

Author: Marc Degens
Translator: Joseph Given

I only went to Godesberg because of Yannick. He was my best friend at school, apart from being my only one. He had the most often wrongly spelt name I’ve ever come across: Jannik, Yannik, Jannick, Yannic. On the way over to his place, I stopped at the sweet shop and bought a few things. Yannick lived with his parents in a castle-like villa on the banks of the Rhine. The villa had towers, battlements, an alarm system and thousands of surveillance cameras. His mother stayed at home 24 hours a day, his father never. When Yannick wasn’t at school, he was sitting in front of his computer sucking the Internet dry and moving massive amounts of data from one hard disk to another. This wasn’t about having fun. It was hard work. Yannick even slept in front of his computer, melded to a homogenous lump with his blanket and the swivel chair.

I got used to the new school after a few months, even the politics and history lessons in English. Uncanny things were happening in the world. I couldn’t talk to Yannick about that. He would either show me shaky videos on YouTube or send me links to obscure websites. I never really found out what his opinions were. In one of the windows he’d watch the newest cinema hit whilst in another he’d be lying in wait, looking through rifle crosshairs. At the same time he was posting photos, chatting, listening to rap or some audiobook. It probably didn’t make any difference to him whether I was there or not.

Yannick was always the first to know which series was due to start in Germany, having finished running in America. Whenever I was looking for a song or a particular episode from some old cartoon series, I only had to ask him. It took about quarter of an hour then he’d hand me a USB stick with a perfect discography or every single episode that had ever been broadcast. Yannick didn’t believe in God, but he did believe in Ewoks and he knew the names of every single Knight of the Jedi. Whenever he got bad marks in a class test or was asked to take the rubbish out, he would curse the dark side of the Force quietly. It was also down to Star Wars that Yannick and I ended up arguing: he liked Jar Jar Binks and I didn’t. He threw me out for that and once I was on my bike, riding off, he came out and shouted the ending of my new series after me:

“Joffrey ends up king,” he laughed evilly, “and Ned Stark dies.”

I stopped, turned around and swore perfidious revenge.


My threat had obviously impressed Yannick. He even stayed away from our school-year party, which was supposed to be obligatory for all pupils. All of the teachers were there and some kids even brought their parents. To be on the safe side, I didn’t even tell mine about it. The meeting place was the open-air stage at the banks of the Rhine. There was a barbecue and beer. At some point I ended up sitting with Livia on the grass with the sun burning a hole in my head while she talked incessantly about her foster horse Giacherini: a gelding with Holsteiner genes that had won show-jumping prizes and was the half-brother of some other horse. After about half an hour it was getting on my nerves listening to her. I picked up a can of beer and walked off, starting up the hill on my own.

There were Roman headstones all around and I tried to decipher the names on them. All at once I found myself standing in front of the entrance to the Zen garden, a place for peace and relaxation. Or so it said on the sign. Exactly what I was after. I went through the wooden gate, took a step to my right and walked around anticlockwise – as recommended on the sign.

In the middle of the garden, there was a large pool. I was the only visitor and the trees looked like happy ghosts. I stepped onto a small jetty. On either side of me there were massive fish with red, white, blue and gold marbled scales. Grandma and Grandad Dannenfeld also had fish like this in their garden pond, but these ones here were much bigger. They surfaced like U-boats between the water lilies, steered off to the reeds and opened their enormous mouths to pick at the stems. I watched them for a while then I took a sip out of my can and walked on.

The stone steps beside the pavilion led directly to the water. I kicked a couple of empty booze bottles to the side and sat down on the lowest steps. A duck flew over, curious, landed clumsily and continued in my direction, swimming excitedly. Once it noticed that my attention was completely given over to the fish, it turned around and paddled off leisurely to the opposite bank.

The fish, just under the surface, swam close to each other, moving calmly with just the occasional whip of their tails. I leaned over, intending to reach into the water and grab one of them, when I noticed René behind me. I didn’t know how long he’d been standing there. He nodded to me, sat down on the stairs beside me and tapped his finger on my beer.

“Do you mind?”

I handed him the can. He took a swig and gave it back to me. An old pensioner couple came into the garden. Both of them were wearing beige from head to toe. Arm in arm, they trailed their slow way through the garden, stopping every six inches. The old man scratched at the ground with his walking stick. They both looked down and giggled. Then they trailed on.

“That would do me nicely right now,” said René turning to me. “Just pension myself off here and now.”

“Pension yourself off?” I asked.

“Yeah, pension myself off,” answered René. “Do nothing except read chemists’ magazines, eat pensioners’ special offer meals, and cruise through the parks.”

I laughed.

“Spend all week running to the doctor and sitting in the waiting room?” I asked.

“Yep,” answered René. “Get the shits when Crimewatch comes on, dream about Reader’s Digest.”

“Shoo the young people off their seats on the buses,” I enthused and took another swig of beer.

René nodded.

“Go on coach trips every six weeks,” he said.

“Chiropodists,” I shouted.

“Automatic door openers,” declared René.

“Spend the present talking about the past,” I added.

“Fango mud packs and hot-cold treatment,” said René excitedly.

I smiled and spoke grimly, “No beer after 4 o’clock.”

I handed the can to René. He drank the rest and we looked up at the grey stone tree.

“I think I’d even go into an old folk’s home for that,” mused René.

“Me too,” I proclaimed loudly. “Right here and now.”

The old couple had reached the pavilion and were sitting down on the bench. René grabbed one of the two earbuds hanging out of the top of my T-shirt and put it in his ear.

“Turn it on,” he said.

“Oh, come on,” I sighed.

“Turn it on”, he repeated.

I took the iPod out of my trouser pocket, put the other earphone into my own ear and pressed play. Long, pacific tones, then hammering and humming. The bass started to get threatening: once, twice, then every time.

“What’s that?” asked René.

“Drone,” I answered. “Doom metal. By Sunn O))). One of their more mellow pieces.”

“Let me hear some more,” he spoke.

There was a clicking – then the drums were in command. The kind of sounds you’d hear on a slave boat. The cymbal was crashing and the organ was whirring like a dentist’s drill.

“When’s it going to start?” asked René.

He grabbed the iPod out of my hand and pressed on the skip track button before the singing had started.

After that there was a song from the new, unreleased Chemical Brothers’ album. Yannick had given me the song, but René clicked on the skip track button again. Drumbeats and glockenspiel.

“Bring out your dead,” roared the drunken voice of the singer.

“Bring out your dead. Bring out your dead.”

“Fucking brilliant,” shouted René. “That’s Jim Morrison. What’s he saying there? Dad or dead?”

“I think dead,” I replied.

We listened to the song to the end.

“Brilliant version,” said René. “I’ve never heard that before.”

“Live in New York,” I told him. “It’s over 17 minutes long.”

“Have you got People Are Strange?”

“No,” I answered. “Too short.”

“Too short?” he questioned.

“I’ve only got long songs on my iPod,” I explained. “The longest one goes on for nearly an hour.”

“Why?” he asked.

“Why not?” I answered. “I only listen to long songs.”

René looked at me with raised eyebrows.

“Really?” he asked.

I nodded. In that moment, Ricarda with the big tits came running over the jetty laughing. She was being chased by some nutcase from the rowing club with arms like a removals man. Ricarda stopped running. They fell into each other’s arms and started snogging.

“I think I need another beer”, said René and got up. “You coming?”

“Yeah”, I answered.


 From Fuckin Sushi  © DuMont 2015

Crow eater
Wooden house

Author: Michael Krüger
Translator: Joseph Given

Crow eater

Crows, tells one
who survived the war,
have to be cooked
with the wood of the pine,
to bind the poisons,
and served with sorrel
which animals spurn.
The order of a world at peace
is hard to understand.
Here we sit in the open air
and marvel at the sunset.
The crows on the pine
will have the final word.


Suddenly someone comes up with cinnamon
as if that were the explanation
for all the secret entanglements
of heaven and earth: cinnamon.
My grandmother saved four stalks of it
through the war, no more.
The birch shakes off the winter;
the wind tests its resilience.
And all I can think of is cinnamon.
As far as I’m concerned, you can call
the moon a pumpkin,
but when someone says cinnamon,
I can’t feel anything except the warmth of the dead.


It takes a hopelessly long time
to get a rough idea of who you are.
The ineffaceable love of apple trees,
the history written in the clouds.
Research on grass, not intended
for printing, enchanted water,
rendezvous in the accessible darkness.
Nothing for gods, really.
Breathe to escape the curse;
hopelessly long, yet so short.
Too short.

Wooden house

for Alfred Kolleritsch*

You have to stand with your back
to the wall in the evening light.
Then you’ll see the storm
announcing its arrival in the crown
of the lime. The mad blackbirds
as if from some late work.
We will be judged on the number
of times we withheld the truth
although the word lay warm on the tongue.
A glance at the hastening clouds,
and you understand the gulf
between the heavens and the earthly world.
Your back to the warm wood,
and then the sunset.

*Wooden house
Alfred Kolleritsch, born 1931, is an Austrian writer, poet and philosopher, particularly known for his opposition to the “return of the never-changing”; i.e. to a society plagued by narrowness and stagnation. As founder of the Austrian literature magazine Manuskripte he has aided many lesser known writers to greater success.

From Michael Krüger, Umstellung der Zeit © Suhrkamp, 2013
Translation © Joseph Given

Joseph Given’s translation of Michael Krüger’s collection Umstellung der Zeit will be published by Seagull Books under the title Seasonal Time Change in 2015.

The Story of my Evaluation at the Beginning of the Third Millenium

Author: PeterLicht
Translator: Joseph Given

I was fine. I was healthy and I had money, maybe not in unbelievably high amounts, but I had it. I could afford everything I wanted to afford and even treat myself sometimes. And even if the treats were not very big treats, still they were middle-sized treats. Well, let’s say a little bit more towards the lower boundary of middle, or the upper end of low, so not at the very top. Say a bit more of a healthy distance from the upper threshhold, with just a slight tendency to the “middle”. So:
I HAD MIDDLE AMOUNTS OF MONEY. In the middle of the “low” areas. Now, I should really try to be precise about this: just as it is in the nature of money to rise and fall, so the nature of my money was maybe not really middle but more just a tad downwards, a little bit under the middle of the lower areas. And since that sounds a bit complex, you could, for the sake of simplification, also just describe it as “low”.
SO MY MONEY WAS LOW. OK. But money was somehow there, though maybe it would be more accurate to say that money as a subject was somehow there. That indeed could be said. The subject of money in my life was so completely high in the high up areas that you could say that I was full of money. It seeped out of all of my pores. Money money money money. Money flew around in my thoughts, jingling tirelessly. Everything I touched just opened up and jingled at me. Coins coins coins. Or to describe it another way: my debts had gotten smaller, had passed me by like winter passes and now the only way was up. Back up, in the sense of being on the best way up, that is in the sense of moving towards a point at which the new debts could be seen to be getting smaller. So you could say, I wasn’t going further into minus; I wasn’t in over my head as I once had been. There’d been a time I’d been swimming in minus. I can really say swimming. Crawl. Dolphin. Everything. There comes a point, you can only stay on top by doing the dolphin, you know, like, above: on top of the minus, like a paddle steamer with a flat keel. Or I’d like to put it like this: I lay like a stranded whale on a Lakeland of minus money. Or perhaps – or in fact: yes, you could also say that it was more like a sea of money, lying under it. Or maybe better: “ocean”.
So, I lay like a stranded whale, though perhaps it might be better to speak of an ocean liner or aircraft carrier, or why not just say oil rig? But oil rig maybe puts it in a bit of a favourable light. So perhaps it would be better described as – let’s say – just for the sake of it – a stranded island.
So this would seem to be my interim finding:

But okay. Otherwise I was fine. The Sun was shining, and my thoughts were lighthearted. Somewhere the Sun was shining above me. Just an occasional look to check: Ahh, ok Sun – there you are and Ahh – here’s me! Yes, here’s me. So there Sun. Here me.
Good. Not really every day, only Sun. I mean, what does only Sun mean? There are some grey nuances, shades of grey, a few little darker spots, now and again a cloud, a little Cumulus-Amigo, let’s say – a white swirl, lost in the distance, on the horizon, above the gleaming land. And it’s very natural indeed of course that an occasional disturbance should cross the path of the eternal Sun – then, just for an instant, there’s a shadow, then for a moment it’s a little bit darker. A moment or maybe a short phase, a length of time, seldom anything like a short-lasting period of anything at all like the opposite of Sun. A momentary spell of cloudiness. And then it’s not quite as light and gleaming, but has a bit of a darker shade. You might even confidently say there were seldom moments that weren’t so bright, and then when the Sun breaks through again through those dark phases, then, and I have to say this, that is a joyous moment indeed, even if not always continual.

OK: I’M HAPPY, WHEN NOW AND AGAIN THE SUN BREAKS THROUGH in the grey sky which occasionally might get darker and even a little suspiciously black. In fact in some moments it’s raven black, i.e. moments in the sense that they might last a little bit longer, the raven black sky which, to be more exact, doesn’t really count as sky any more: more like muddy earth. In the eternal black there were isolated flashes of light. But they actually made everything even darker, since they didn’t give me the time I would have needed to get used to the dark. So I was constantly reminded of the fact that it didn’t really have to be dark.
OK. The result is as follows:

I LIVED UNDER A STRETCHED ETERNITY OF TOTALLY BLACK NIGHT. I WAS TRAPPED INSIDE OF A MOUNTAIN RANGE. I WAS LOCKED IN ABSOLUTE BLACKNESS. Never mind – at least it wasn’t raining. It was dry and I was bearing up pretty well in fact. You could describe my situation as follows: it was undoubtedly a little bit dark, but it wasn’t raining and with the warmth of the night wafting around me, it wasn’t all that tragic. It was OK, yeah, which of course should not imply that it was in any way really uncomfortably dusty-dry itchy. No, a few drops fell from the sky occasionally. And sometimes, being the lucky guy that I am, the occasional drop landed directly on my lip. Ah you wonderful rain, that’s the way I like it. Lips dry, alakazam, sprinkle sprinkle, drop on the lower lip. Isn’t that fine.
What maybe isn’t quite so OK is when it occasionally – though it seldom happens but it does – starts to drizzle or teem down or the monsoon comes (a very rare occurrence indeed, but if, then a little more occasionally than frequently, although, on occasion, slightly more often with a tendency to always) then the streets are transformed into canals of muddy water, and you’re wading chest deep through the floodwaters. Then there are the valves of the drains that can’t hold down the rising pressure of the water pushing up from the sewers any more, then you’re walking through sewage, inscrutably impossibly dirty and then you don‘t notice one of the open drains, the lid of which is gone, and you put your foot down and find nothing, I mean sink into mucky water – and a city, I can tell you, has a lot of muck to offer. And you sink and you sink and everywhere nothing but brown muck water full of filtrates and diverse objects, whereby that might also be things that were once alive, which you don’t really want to hear, particularly not when you’re in that situation. And you know how it is: don’t always have your oxygen with you and even if you did, it’d probably be torn off your back anyway, since the vertical pipe leading downwards down to the lower regions of hell is so narrow that you wouldn’t get through with your pressurized air on your back. So, you‘re travelling downwards without air, which of course sets limits to the length of time that your journey through the underground sewage of the city will take. Very narrow limits in fact. And I’d like to say as well: if you think about the sheer masses of water, the surface of which is being constantly whipped by additional masses of water, by the storm, then it seems to me to be like a rough description of the feeling I get when I consider the complex theme of “love”.
The phenomenon of love: the drain covers are washed off of their hinges and you sink in holes that you just can’t see because you’re up to your neck in something, and every hole holds another unfortunate soul, who either didn‘t see where they were going or just wasn’t looking. Then there’s a general flood, so to speak: a whole load of stuff floating around. A society like this one really produces an awful lot of stuff.

So that, roughly speaking, was my experience of love.


© by PeterLicht
Translation © Joseph Given