Midsummer Night

Author: Johanna Hemkentokrax
Translator: Alison E. Martin, Manja Kratzin, Michèle Fischer, Susan Kolata

In the summer my father talked to the frogs. They called to him of an evening, when the sun hung low and his shadow was almost twice as long as he was tall. He walked down the path from the house to the pond. His steps were heavy, yet you could scarcely hear him. The trampled stems which his footsteps left behind in the grass quickly recovered, so that the meadow seemed to be growing behind him. Once I crept after him, hid behind the low-hanging branches of an old willow on the bank and watched him. He was sitting on a stone, looking into the water, head bent slightly to one side, as if he were listening intently. I waited for a while, then crept back and never followed him again, not on any other evening that summer.
While Father was with the frogs, my mother watered the flowerbeds. Her earth-blackened fingers held the watering can in a firm grip. The evening wind had loosened strands of hair from her ponytail and they stuck to her cheeks. I watched her watering each plant separately, carefully pushing flowers and leaves aside so that the water could reach the roots directly. I would sit off to one side between the tomato plants with my back to the brick wall. The bricks radiated heat for a long time, well into the night. When the sun set behind the trees my mother would disappear each evening for a few moments, backlit in the glow. I picked a tomato and bit into it. Its flesh was soft between my teeth and stung the roof of my mouth. The juice ran down my wrist and disappeared into the sleeve of my jumper. By the time Mother had reappeared, I could feel the large chunks in my stomach. I sat for a while among the tall plants. The fur on their leaves tickled my ears. They were held by thin wooden stakes which smelt musty, of earth and old leaves, where they had been in the ground. The leaves around me had a strong smell, much stronger than the fruits themselves. My mother pushed her hair out of her face. Her cheeks were flushed. She came over to the house from the flowerbeds, put the watering can down and sat on the bench by the tomatoes. She lit a cigarette. The smoke drifted across in small puffs. I heard the blackbirds singing in the apple tree and watched as my mother put the cigarette to her mouth. Her lower lip sometimes got stuck to the cigarette paper. She winced and quickly tweaked the shred of paper from her skin with her thumb and forefinger.
When Mother had finished the cigarette I crept out from among the plants, the smell of tomatoes in my hair, and sat down next to her on the bench. We both waited for Father, who soon came up the meadow from the pond. He no longer cast a shadow in the twilight, now that the sun had set. His footsteps in the grass were quiet and he bore the smell of stone, reeds and pond-water. Once he returned soaked to the chest, one lens of his glasses broken. “It was the frogs,” he said, and Mother and I laughed, “they pulled me into the water.” Sometimes Father stayed so long with the frogs that it was already dark by the time he got home. My mother would put a lantern on the bench and together we’d wait for his footsteps in the grass. The candle only illuminated a small part of the meadow, but in this light the trees cast long shadows, which moved on the ground. I never knew where they’d move next, the wind seemed to drive them to and fro, dancing tree shadows which pursued me into my dreams, where I ran alongside them, trying to understand their movements. They always leapt in different directions, not bound by any logic or fixed rule, often difficult to see on the almost black grass. I followed them everywhere, wishing they would explain themselves to me, just as my father talked to the frogs. But they always kept silent, or I couldn’t understand their language, try as I might. I chased after them, but they only brushed me indulgently before disappearing one moment and appearing elsewhere the next. Sometimes I tried to pin the shadows down, stepping on them firmly, with no obvious success.
I could only feel the damp grass under my naked toes. Eventually I stopped to squat at the roots, saw ragged clouds scud across the night sky and listened to the wind blowing through the branches of my silent friends, who did not want to speak to me, my hands resting on their rough bark even though I couldn’t hold on to their image on the ground. Sometimes I dreamt a small owl was looking down at me from the branches. It held its head drawn down into its feathery shoulders and looked at me sometimes worried, sometimes reproachful, or so it seemed, but always observant, as if expecting something I knew nothing about. I would awake restlessly from such dreams, my cheeks damp with sleep, the smell of tomatoes in my hair.
Sitting next to my mother, I would only follow the tree shadows in my mind. She had put her arm around me and the wool of her jumper against my cheek smelt of tobacco. I drew the smell in deeply, in the same way that my mother drew on a cigarette. The white smoke quickly dispersed in the darkness, more quickly than by day, although it should’ve been easier to make out at night. The wind carried the frogs’ calls over to us from the pond. The candle flickered next to us on the bench and made the shadows dance. I’d have liked to know if one of the voices belonged to my father.
My mother’s eyes looked into the shadows. They appeared to me larger than during the day. I knew she could see my father sitting by the pond, leaning slightly forward as if listening intently. One black stone among others, over which the small waves broke with a murmur. I imagined him reflected in the depths of the dark water before him, the image only broken by frog shapes surfacing to bring him news from the bottom of the pond. My mother never spoke on evenings like these, when night gradually fell and the voices of the day grew silent one after the other. I felt the warmth of the brick wall behind me through the wood of the bench. The stones stored so much warmth in the summer that in the autumn, hedgehogs built their nests in the piles of leaves by the wall. I heard their quiet snuffling into November, then they sank into a deep dreamless sleep, which left them curled up motionless among the leaves. Like them, I would have loved to fall into a sleep, deep and dark, but more importantly, lasting until spring.
It was midsummer night and my father was visiting the frogs. Since day and night were equally long, his shadow got lost in the meadow, the stems noiselessly righting themselves behind him and erasing his tracks before my eyes. It stayed light for a long time. We waited while the calls of the frogs impatiently forced their way through to us in the twilight.
My mother was digging in the borders for a long while. Her thumb left a line of earth on her forehead as she pushed her hair out of her face. I sat alone on the bench and felt something looking at me. Slowly I walked over to the trees and saw the small owl from my dreams sitting in the shadows of the branches. Its amber eyes examined me in a way that seemed strange, almost as if it recognised me.
“I know you,” I whispered, and my words sounded cold on my lips. “I know you, you’ve been here every night.” The call of the owl was so sudden and plaintive that I started. I turned round and looked down to the pond. A heavy silence hung over the meadow. The calls of the frogs had grown quiet. I ran as fast as I could, grass wet with dew sticking to my feet. My breaths sounded like gasps as I jumped through the bushes down to the water’s edge. The pond lay clear and dark before me. Everything was still, except in the middle, where the last fine circles were rippling.
Original © Johanna Hemkentokrax
Translation © Alison E. Martin, Michèle Fischer, Susan Kolata, Manja Kratzin

End Your Youth

Author: Johanna Hemkentokrax
Translator: Alison E. Martin, Johanna Huber, Manja Kratzin, Michèle Fischer, Susan Kolata

The floorboards in the factory are creaking under our feet as we walk. The rooftimbers over our heads still look reasonably sound. Through the holes in the roof spots of light enter the hall. There’s a smell of mould and damp wood. Dust particles float lazily over broken tiles, the yellow plastic chair with three legs, two empty vodka bottles, the pile of beer cans long since finished and loads of rubble.
The light is shining almost golden on the wooden floor. Like in one of those paintings. The heat has got trapped under the roof. It’s muggy and the dusty air makes breathing difficult.
“We lived here for three months,” says Konni, “three months, and then everything here was cleared. Basically they were afraid it’d all get out of hand. That they’d lose control. ‘Cause none of them really felt responsible for these old buildings.” He pushes me away as I try to lean on him. “Only three months,” he said, “but three great ones. Perhaps the greatest ever.” He looks around him. “Two years ago they knocked holes in the roof there so that the damp could eat away at the structure of the building. All the factories round here are listed buildings. Then at some point they’re too damaged to be renovated and they can tear everything down.”
“Then they’ve got what they want,” he said. “So much empty space free for new things which devour the old.” I walk over to the pile of rubble and try to sit on the three-legged chair. It doesn’t work, nor is it funny. I take four bricks and sit on them instead. The floor creaks under me. I might fall through it and end up somewhere down below.
“Are you going to tell me why we’re here?” Beads of sweat have formed on my forehead and nose. I wipe them away with my forearm.
“We had a kind of café down here. Really colourful and with old chairs out in the open air. And the security guard responsible for the building always dropped in for a coffee. He thought it was good, what we’d done.” He laughs and pushes his hood out of his face. “Now all you can do is yell at the silence. Let’s face it, there’s nothing left here any more, those days are over.”
That’s old folk’s talk. Something my grandmother would say when she talks about the war, hunger and rubble.
“Those days are over” closes the stories of the bombings, of the sweethearts who never returned from the front, ends the laments about the bad dreams, the nights she still spends in the bomb shelter when the green glow of phosphor repeatedly devours its way across the deserted city above her. Those days are over, and the year 1922 is chiselled into the stone lintel above the entrance. The factory is as old as my grandmother and, like her, spared by the bombs. Almost a miracle.
Konni says something I don’t understand. “What?”
“I didn’t say anything.” He walks to the far end of the hall. Thirty metres further away, he seems smaller and younger. I worry. I ought to give her a call soon – my grandmother, that is.

At home I take off my shoes and open the window. The layer of dirt on the panes is too thick for this time of year. It ought to rain soon. I take a beer from the fridge and light a cigarette. Then I fetch the phone from the shelf, sit down on the mattress and dial her number. When I give my name, she says, “Hang up, I’ll call you back.”
“It’s Sunday, doesn’t cost anything.” I invent a rate I don’t have with which you can phone free on Sundays. She doesn’t believe me. But doesn’t hang up either. I ask her how she is. She talks about the heat and how hard it is to breathe at these temperatures. And that this week she still hasn’t come up on the lottery. I talk about work. A trip to the lake in the afternoon I didn’t make and friends coming round for dinner this evening. “That’s nice,” she says, “that’s nice.” And, “The lake, we didn’t have it back then. So much has changed there.” We’re silent for a bit, but not too long. “I wanted to thank you for your letter,” she says. Her language is fuzzy, as if her tongue is stuck to the roof of her mouth.
“You already have. Don’t you remember? We spoke last week on the phone.” The line is silent.
Then she says, “Ah yes, last week. I’m so forgetful.”
When we’ve put the phone down, I smoke a cigarette and start reading a book. The beer’s no longer really cool and it’s gone flat. I drink it nevertheless. A good book and too little time lately in which to read it.
The next day I meet Konni after work in the old factory. He’s already there, sitting right at the top of the metal stairs which lead to the production hall on the first floor. I climb the steps, and the stairs move a bit. At the top, Konni kisses me on the lips. He takes my hand and pulls me through the opening where the door used to be into the hall. It isn’t as hot as yesterday. This morning the roads were all wet with rain. So wet I slipped on my bike into the tramlines. When we’re lying down, Konni sees the bruise on my thigh. “The things you get up to.”
“There aren’t any trams at home,” I say and he laughs.
“A real country bumpkin you are.”
The floor isn’t hard but it’s dusty. Konni has brought a blanket which we’re lying on. His skin tastes salty and of damp wood. His lips feel cool on my stomach. Outside and in the factory it slowly gets darker. We drink lukewarm beer from cans. No light falls through the roof any more. Cars are crossing the bridge over there by the canal. You can see the streetlights through the open door. In a house behind the factory a child who had been crying is now quiet.
“It’s something no-one can understand who didn’t experience it themselves,” says Konni, before we go. “We really thought this was now the start of something new. The city used to be so big, back then. Today there’s nothing left of it.” I try to imagine Konni living here. Talking to the security guard, painting walls, trying to begin something new. One thing leading to another.
We fold up the blanket and he stuffs it into a rucksack. We put the empty cans by the others on the heap of rubble. I take the last one with me. In the hall it’s so dark I reach for his hand. The skin is warm and dry on his palms and a little rough. I let go as I walk down the metal stairs. They sway. I have to hold onto the handrail because I can see the ground through the grid in the steps, and I spill beer in the process.
We walk across the grass in front of the factory and then through the opening in the fence. When I turn round, the building is silhouetted like a big black box against the city sky. The nights are never totally dark out here. The windows with the remains of the shattered panes stare at the housing estate on the other side of the canal. The streets are often deserted in this part of the city. Few cars and even fewer people. We cross the bridge and turn into the street where I live. In front of the house Konni stops and says he’s going now. To do some work, for an hour or so.
“Are we seeing each other tomorrow?” I ask.
He shrugs his shoulders. “Probably not, I’m going to Berlin tomorrow. To visit friends. Don’t yet know for how long.” He gives me a kiss, says, “See you then.” Someone once told me that the last mouthful in a can of beer is eighty per cent spittle. It’s still a bit early for that.
“If you leave now, perhaps you might just as well go hang.” He laughs, puts his hand on my cheek, quietly says something I don’t catch because his fingers are stroking my ear. Then he gives me another kiss and takes the can out of my hand.
“There isn’t any proper beer left in here.” I watch him going up the street. From a distance a little younger, with his hood pulled up over his head. Before he disappears around the corner, I’ve unlocked the front door.
It’s late – in the middle of the night, in fact – and stuffy in the flat. I open the windows, which are less dirty today.
Her voice sounds sleepy as she answers the phone. “Sorry I’m calling so late. There’s so much to tell you about,” I say.
“Doesn’t matter. I’ve had trouble sleeping well recently.” I hear her drinking something. Her false teeth quietly touching the rim of the glass and her swallowing. I talk about work, which was good today. About a colleague who’s just had a baby and about yesterday evening. How good the food had tasted that I’d cooked. “You were always good at cooking,” she said, “and baking. Better than me. I’ve forgotten it all.”
“You need to cross your fingers,” she says, “that we’ll finally come up on the lottery. I don’t want it for me. I don’t need anything. But you, you ought to buy yourself a proper sofa, so you and your friends don’t have to sit on the mattress all the time. On the floor like that, that’s not much good.” We’re silent for a while. I light a cigarette, which glows in the dark. I breathe in and out. A few times.
“There’s an old factory in the Aurelienstrasse. Right by the canal. I’ve been there quite a lot recently. I’d like to know what used to be there. Perhaps you remember.”
I tell her about the floorboards, which creak as you walk on them. About the smell of mould and damp wood. About the light falling through the roof when the sun shines. “I don’t know,” she says, “I don’t know anything. It’s been such a long time since we left. More than forty years, child. Such a long time.” There’s a lump in my throat, which sticks under my larynx. I try to swallow it, but I can’t. I ought to shout at her that she should remember and has got to understand. That this here might be more important than the war and the nights of bombing. She’s quiet on the other end of the line. There’s a soft noise and I ask her if she’s crying. “No,” she says. I hear how her voice suppresses the tears, how she swallows. “The days are so long,” she says.


Original © Johanna Hemkentokrax
Translation © Alison E. Martin, Michèle Fischer, Johanna Huber, Susan Kolata and Manja Kratzin

This translation was undertaken as part of an extra-curricular seminar in Literary Translation (German to English), offered by Dr. Alison E. Martin in the English Department of the Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg. This course had a dual aim: to hone the skills of students of English in Halle in the area of literary translation and to enable the work of young writers from the Deutsches Literaturinstut Leipzig to reach an international audience. Having considered issues of register, style and audience, seminar members prepared a section of the translation week by week, compared in class the divergences between these individual translations and discussed the most appropriate solutions. Once a first draft of the English text had been completed, we contacted the author with any queries and invited them to offer feedback on the translation, thus enabling the student translators and author to interact with each other and gain further insight into the creative processes that underpin both writing and translation.

What Comes from Outside

Author: Kai Gero Lenke
Translator: Alison E. Martin, Johanna Huber, Manja Kratzin, Michèle Fischer, Susan Kolata

What Comes from OutsideA voice woke the boy. He’d fallen asleep in front of the TV, which was still diffusing its flickering light around the room. It must have been shortly before midnight. Outside the weather raged and hurled rain against the windows.
“Wake up!”
He rubbed his eyes, for a moment still entangled in his confused dream, then sat up and saw his brother in front of him: agitated and exhausted, breathing in short gasps and with a restless gaze, which meant all was not well. His hair stuck to his head wet with rain, and drops of dirty water fell from his clothes.
“What’s wrong?”, asked the boy, to whom the situation seemed as strange as if he hadn’t fully awoken, as if his big brother were also just one of the figures in his dream.
“Are Mum and Dad back yet?”
“Dunno,” said the boy.
“Are they still out?”
“I don’t know.”
His brother disappeared immediately, looked all round the house and returned. His shoes left marks on the carpet.
“Listen,” he said then. “I’ve screwed up.”
“How?” asked the boy.
The elder one looked as if he were suppressing something. Tears perhaps, or anger, and the boy felt himself become uneasy.
“I’ve had an accident.”
“A car accident?”
“I’ll show you.”
His brother grabbed him by the hand and told him to put on his shoes and a coat, and hurry. Then they left the house and walked the few steps to the driveway where his mother’s Passat was parked, the engine still ticking as it cooled.
The boy couldn’t make out any dents or scratches. He looked at his brother, who didn’t return his gaze. Instead he walked on round to the back of the car, opened the boot and gestured towards something, pointing with his index finger and saying, “Here”.
Slowly the boy moved along the side of the car. He was afraid, but said nothing. The wind drove the rain into his face; there was a smell of woody earth and moss. Beneath him, on the cobblestones, puddles had formed, so deep that half his shoe sank into them. Each time he stepped in them water splashed up to his calves, where his trousers now stuck fast to his legs.
Reaching the boot, he felt a hand on his shoulder and water ran inside his collar down his back.
“Here,” said his brother again, still looking at the floor of the boot. There, finally, the boy saw the hare lying, saw the quivering chest, the outstretched twitching limbs and the open mouth.
“I ran it over,” said his elder brother. “On the road. Didn’t see it in all this rain.”
Above the left hind leg was a visible wound, like a reddish stain in the fur. The boy felt both pity and disgust.
“I stopped and got out. Saw it was still alive.”
Blood from the wound had dripped into the boot and onto the old newspapers. The boy thought how much darker and thicker it was than his own.
“Why did you bring it home?”, he asked quietly.
“Well, because it’s still alive.”
“Why didn’t you just run it over again?”
“I couldn’t.”
Although the animal’s belly was trembling fiercely, its eyes were still and peaceful. They seemed to be fixed directly on the boy, who hadn’t seen a hare for a long time. A few years ago there’d still been many of them in the fields around the village, but since then they’d become rare, almost like the animals in the zoo.
“It ’s bound to be in pain,” he said.
“I know.”
“We’ve got to call the vet. Let him put it to sleep.”
His brother shook his head.
“We won’t find a vet this late,” he said. “We’ll have to kill it ourselves.”

The elder one had fetched a blue rubbish bag which he placed over the animal, pushing it inside. He managed with great effort not to touch the animal with his fingers as he did so. Then he picked it up and carefully took it behind the house. The boy walked beside him, watching the process intently and twitching every time something jerked against the plastic from inside.
On the stone slabs under the pergola his elder brother put it down. The rain falling on the bag created a terrible noise, even drowning out the wind, which kept on howling through the birch leaves.
“How’re you going to do it?”, asked the boy.
“I don’t know,” said his brother. “With a stone.”
He then walked a short way into the garden and opened the door of the garden shed. The boy’s heart was beating as if he had been running, and he kept watching the blue bag, trying to make out the shape of the hare in the bulges of the plastic. When his brother returned with a brick in his hands, the boy finally said that he was cold and would rather go inside, what with all the rain, his wet back and everything. His brother only shot him a fleeting glance, weighed the brick in his hand and nodded. The boy ran across the sodden lawn back to the house and switched on all the lights. Without taking off his wet clothes, he sat down again on the sofa in the living room. The TV was still on. Hopefully it’ll be over quickly, he thought. He switched channels and turned up the volume, still seeing the bloody, gaping wound, the twitching, the trembling.

His brother entered the house ten minutes later. The boy followed the noises in the hallway. He could hear his elder brother open the door to the toilet, turn on the tap and let the water run for quite a while. Later he also returned to the living room, holding a towel in his hands, rubbing his hair. He looked past the boy to the screen, still wearing his dirty shoes, which left more dirty marks.
The boy looked at him closely, first at his face, then at his hands. He thought that he ought to sense some change now, but didn’t know what it might be.
“I wonder where they’ve got to,” said his brother. His voice still sounded strange, though in a different way from a few minutes ago.
The boy didn’t reply.
“I’m going to bed,” his brother continued. He still hadn’t looked him in the eye. Then he turned and headed back towards the hallway.
The boy turned the television off, sat buried in the sofa and did not move. Only when he heard his elder brother going upstairs did he call out, “Is it dead?”
The steps paused. Again the boy felt his heart beating.
“Yes,” he eventually heard, “Yes, it’s dead.”
Then the stairs creaked and shortly afterwards a door closed.

He’d been thinking about his brother, wondering whether he would be able to sleep. What he would see in his dreams and what he’d thought as he finished the hare off with a brick. In his mind he’d seen the animal and its suffering look over and over again. And then he’d decided he needed to see it once more, so that the memory of the dead animal would suppress the memory of the dying one.
Now he stood with the flashlight in the garden and, barely dry, was getting wet again. He shone it all over the area under the pergola but couldn’t make out anything. He looked in the rubbish bin, searched behind the shed and in front of the garage, went round the house several times with freezing feet. Again and again he wiped the wet from his face, but each time it returned and with greater intensity.
The darkness constantly managed to deprive him of his sense of direction, even though he knew the garden like the back of his hand, even though he’d spent most of his life there. Only in a few places did something of the hazy light from the house find its way out, where it was immediately choked by the darkness.
After a long time, just as he was about to give up his search, something was reflected in the beam of his flashlight. It came from the blackberry bushes which bordered on the neighbouring garden. The boy trudged across the muddy ground, trying as much as possible to keep his frozen hand from shaking, and headed over to the object. It was indeed the rubbish bag, which now looked as if it had always been lying there, as if someone had forgotten it there long ago.
Stopping in front of the bushes, he looked at it. It made him think about his hamster buried not too far away. The family had held a small funeral service after its death. He hadn’t cared much then, because he wasn’t yet able to understand. Suddenly the hamster was simply gone. Something like death had not yet existed and had certainly not impressed him. It was not until he’d played with the dead pet for half a day that his parents had noticed and hurriedly removed it.
Just as he was beginning to make out the form of the hare through the bulges in the bag again, it moved: an abrupt movement, followed by a slighter one. The boy almost dropped the flashlight in fright. He looked around, but couldn’t see anything in the dark, and directed the light back towards the bag, which was now still. He said to himself that he couldn’t have been imagining things. What if it were still alive? And then something moved again and he was certain.
Cautiously the boy got hold of one end of the rubbish bag and pulled at it. Only now did he feel its weight, which he’d underestimated all along. Whenever something moved, he sprang back and let go, which was why he needed several attempts to pull the thing out of the bushes. He realised too late that the stony ground was tearing the bag in various places, that it now had several holes through which fur and form had become clearly visible. The eyes could also be seen again, capturing the glow of the flashlight and reflecting it back into the night.
“Keep calm,” said the boy. He hadn’t meant to say anything, it had slipped out of its own accord. “Keep calm.”
He tried to calculate how long the animal had lain dying, and the evening seemed to him like an eternity. The ribcage wasn’t moving as rapidly as before. Now it gave more of a shudder, exhausted and feeble. Meanwhile the fur had become soaked by the rain and the boy imagined it like an acid etching deeper and deeper into the wound. But the worst thing, he thought, had to be the plastic bag which had been rustling in the animal’s ears the whole time, like a delayed warning that refused to cease.
He left the hare lying in the middle of the lawn. He went back to the bushes and shone his flashlight on them. The ground was like a swamp with pond-sized puddles and streams. With his free hand, he began to dig around in the drenched soil. He had to be careful that the branches didn’t scratch his face. Then at last he grasped what he’d been looking for. The brick he fished out of the rivulet was by now all black and slippery.
When he returned to the hare, he felt as if it were staring at him in panic, already sensing what was to come. Again something wanted to burst from him, but this time he managed to suppress it. He took one last look at the animal, memorised its position, switched off the flashlight and put it in his pocket.
Surrounded by nothing but blackness, he thought about his brother again. How far had he gone before he decided to leave the animal alone? Had he also let a few words slip? Maybe he was still awake at this moment. Maybe he was asleep and would never think about it again. For one last time, the boy heard the hare kick, then struck a downward blow with all his might.
He was certain he’d hit the head, but the animal wouldn’t give up and kicked around at his feet. The plastic made more noise than ever, sounding like wood cracking on a camp-fire. The boy felt dizzy. Now he couldn’t see anything, he lost his sense of balance. He struck again, but the blow missed and the brick hit the lawn. Something damp splashed up into his face.
The animal would be in even worse pain than before, he thought, he should hurry, be quick about it. With his left hand, he groped around on the ground, found the bag and felt something warm, something that moved. He clutched hold of the animal as tightly as he could. With its last ounce of strength, it seemed to want to escape from him. He struck a third blow and a fourth and a fifth and each one was harder than the last. It took a while, then there was silence.
At that point, nothing quivered in his hand any longer. No twitching and no trembling. He took a few steps back, his right arm completely numb. He hurled the brick in no particular direction, without hearing it hit the ground, and simply stood there for a while motionless.
Shaking, he took out the flashlight again and switched it on. The animal at his feet no longer moved, but its eyes still reflected the light back at him. It looked strangely twisted in the position in which it lay, since some bones were broken, but he had imagined it would be worse and less reassuring. Many yards off to one side, a piece of torn-off plastic fluttered through the air and caught in the bushes.
He pulled at what remained of the plastic bag and threw the dead animal back into the bushes. With his hands he pushed some of the wet soil over the areas which were no longer covered by the plastic. He also piled some onto the head, until it was no longer recognisable as a head.
Afterwards he went back towards the house, unhurriedly this time, and with care. It didn’t bother him any more that the rain still hadn’t stopped, that maybe it was falling even harder than before. His flashlight shone the way across the cobblestones, where the water was forming small eddies. On the driveway the streams merged, heading towards the street, where they parted again immediately.
In the bathroom he washed away all trace of the rust-brown layer of dirt covering his hands, caught even under his fingernails. His cold fingers began to twinge in the warm water, but he left it running until he could no longer stand the heat.
Lying in bed, he hesitated for a long time before turning off the light on his bedside table. Even now he could still hear the rain and how it dashed against his window pane, as if trying to shatter it with all its might. Since he’d pulled the blanket up to his chin and buried his arms under it, he soon became warm again. He could also move his toes once more. He rubbed them together and it felt good.
He wondered what he might see in his dreams. And then his last thought was what his elder brother was seeing now. What were his thoughts as he fell asleep? He was certain they must have been more disturbing than his. Yes, they had to be many times more dreadful than his.
And finally he couldn’t think of anything else, because exhaustion overwhelmed him. He was only aware of his parents pulling into the driveway. The engine stopping, the front door opening. Far off the rumble of thunder. Then he fell asleep.


Original © Kai Gero Lenke
Translation © Alison E. Martin, Michèle Fischer, Johanna Huber, Susan Kolata and Manja Kratzin

This translation was undertaken as part of an extra-curricular seminar in Literary Translation (German to English), offered by Dr. Alison E. Martin in the English Department of the Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg. This course had a dual aim: to hone the skills of students of English in Halle in the area of literary translation and to enable the work of young writers from the Deutsches Literaturinstut Leipzig to reach an international audience. Having considered issues of register, style and audience, seminar members prepared a section of the translation week by week, compared in class the divergences between these individual translations and discussed the most appropriate solutions. Once a first draft of the English text had been completed, we contacted the author with any queries and invited them to offer feedback on the translation, thus enabling the student translators and author to interact with each other and gain further insight into the creative processes that underpin both writing and translation.