Author: Lydia Mischkulnig
Translator: Frances Jackson


And another summer has come and gone – and where were you?  I spent the whole time sitting on a bench and keeping an eye on the kids and waiting. What for?

As likely as not, you’re afraid of normality. So read these lines: have you ever heard the story of the fisherman from Annabichel who took off his pyjamas one night and put on his smartest suit? He crept out of the house on tip-toe to avoid waking his wife and his rascally sons. Without a sound, he locked the door behind him. The silvery willows on the bank curved upwards like archways towards the star-topped dome of a great hall. The lake was unruffled, a shimmering dancefloor, crystalline. The fisherman untied the rope. He pushed off from the bank and the boat left a trail in the water and the tiller brought forth ripples and harmless eddies. The fisherman headed for the midst of the lake, where water nymphs lived in the sweet nothings of the deep. He focused his gaze on the little church on the opposite bank, took his bearings from a dove made of gold that shone more brightly than all other metals in the night. This little church had been built long ago by one of the water nymphs. She was to blame for the death of her lover; she had seduced him and when he left her for his human wife, she had her revenge. The fisherman was afraid of such a water nymph, since if he returned to his warm-blooded wife, like his predecessor before him, he would be threatened with a devastating flood which would overtake him and his wife and kill them both. 

Jealousy is a catastrophe for mystical and non-mystical females alike. It would seem to be perfectly natural. In truth the fisherman simply wanted to destroy his wife and chose this complicated, circuitous route across the lake and its legends to do so. After all, who wants to burden himself with guilt?

 The water nymph was condemned to keep the system intact. To atone for the bond of marriage that had been torn asunder, she had to construct a little church. She had to mix the mortar with her own tears, building up the little church stone by stone.           

The sensitive fisherman knew of this story and longed for such a water nymph with ample potential for passion, but didn’t want to put his personal circumstances on the line. As they say when the passion peters out, he was certainly fed up to his back teeth. He brought the tiller aboard and sat in the boat and lay in wait. He did not have to wait long before a tail, gleaming like silver, swam around his boat. Splish, splash. The man hung on to his planks for dear life: he was afraid that he might capsize because of the frisky fish tail that was stirring up the water, acting like a mixer that whisked the waves and propelled the slipstream towards the centre of the lake by pushing against the boat, before finally the torso of a shapely nymph materialised from the water droplets in a somersault above the water, and a blonde mane sent a shower cascading down. Then the being surfaced, and he saw the beautiful face of a water nymph – all woman, complete with skin and hair. And what about the scales?

It didn’t take long before she found him beautiful, too, since she had no objections to his circumstances. The fisherman, now hungry for an encounter, took a bold, headlong dive into the water. While with the water nymph in her element, he found that she had a commanding presence. But as daybreak drew closer, he grew afraid of leaving behind his grounded existence, afraid that he would never slip back into his old routine and that his wife, who was caught up in the circumstances, would be able to tell that he had made her cuckold of her own routine at first cock’s crow. So rather than having to abandon the water nymph, (as that would have been a loss as well), he asked her whether she fancied a trip to the seaside with him, and suggested that if it turned out they had a lot in common, they might like to embark on life’s journey together. The wife’ll cope, he said.

The water nymph was keen, and trustingly followed the exciting man ashore. Once they had reached the bank, he helped her out of the water. As she wasn’t able to walk with the fish tail, he had to carry her to the garage and plop her down in the grass. He opened the garage door. Instead of starting the engine, he pushed the car out of the garage and to the driveway of the property, to make sure he didn’t wake any sleeping custodians of the system. He picked up the water nymph, carried her to the car, and sat her in the passenger seat. For her own safety he also fastened her seatbelt. The fish tail dangled from the seat and dripped. The mat in the footwell was made of rubber. A puddle slowly formed.

The fisherman sat down at the wheel, started the car and drove off, and kept going faster and faster. The pair high-tailed it in the direction of Italy. But no sooner had the intrepid travellers reached the first major city – Udine, it was, in case you were wondering – than Undine began to moult.

Just so you’re aware…


From Die Paradiesmaschine. Erzählungen  Haymon Verlag: 2016.

The Bee God

Author: Joseph Felix Ernst
Translator: Helen MacCormac


The Holy and Mighty One will go forth from his dwelling, and the God of the world will tread upon Mount Sinai and thence come down from heaven in all his mighty power. And all shall be afraid, and the watchers will shake and great fear and trembling will seize them even to the ends of the earth. The lofty mountains will quake and the high hills be levelled, melting like a honeycomb before the flame.
Ethiopian Enoch 1, 3-6

We can vouch for the truth of everything told here. The following notes were recorded in the flying log book of Unterfeldwebel Thomas Seibold, who was posted to Feldluftgau Command Rostov in the Crimea (Крим), and assigned to Air Corps VIII, Sturzkampfgeschwader 97 (StG 97 – the 97th Dive Bomber Wing), Group 2 (II / StG 97) and No. 4 Squadron (4 / StG 97). Seeing as Air Corps VIII and the aforementioned Geschwader 97 conclusively did not exist before the year 1942, and no official documents referring to a time before Seibold’s deployment to the Crimea have been found, we can only speculate on his former period of service. Several personal letters, however, suggest that he was stationed in Vienna in 1940, and thereafter, from 1941 to 1942, in Breslau – where he very probably joined the 12th Night Fighter Wing.

According to his flying log book, which progressed from flight book to log and veritable journal during the period of his anomalous journey, it would appear that on the 14th of January 1943, he had all the bombs of his Junkers Ju 88 a-4 dive bomber removed, and instead loaded additional fuel tanks in the front and rear holds, which together with the four wing tanks held a total of 3620 litres of diesel. Seibold took plenty of provisions on board and faced no notable difficulty in gaining permission to make a long reconnaissance flight along the eastern flank of the Black Sea. He indicated a false take-off time to his copilot and the two gunners, and at 07:35 on January 15th, 1943, he took off in his bomber entirely alone and bore south.

His flight book lists only the basic facts of his departure and offers no information about his reasons or even a word about the ultimate goal of his daring expedition. All we know is that on the same day, after several hours and a flight of some 1000 km, he touched down for the first time at the Van airfield in eastern Anatolia, on neutral territory, where he refueled. The same evening Seibold received permission for take-off, and in the early hours reached a neutral military airfield on the coast of the Persian Gulf ‒ located between Damman and Kuwait on Saudi Arabian soil, to be more precise. There he stocked up on fuel again, had a rest, and then set off just after noon bearing east-north-east. In the evening hours, the Junkers reached Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan, with the fuel tanks almost empty. Seibold spent the night there, refilled the tanks and then took off again before sunrise. Later that same morning, he eventually reached Lhasa, landed ‒ on Tibetan soil this time ‒ and had the tanks filled up again, which took two days to organize due to the lack of supplies in the region. Seibold spent his time checking and cleaning the two V-12 engines and the landing gear. He took off as soon as the aircraft was filled up.

After a 53-hour stay, and after a flying time of another couple of hours, he landed on the runway of the former civil airport of Bangkok, which now served as a Japanese Air Force military base. Here the German bomber was immediately filled up with diesel, and after just a few hours the airplane flew off once more, on course for the Philippine Islands. The extremely short and narrow runway on Mindanao, north of Lungsod ng Dabaw, was the seventh leg of Seibold’s journey from the Crimea, and apart from a bit of flak from an Indian antiaircraft gun in the Kashmir region (in Srinagar, to be more precise), which was ineffectual presumably due to the altitude of almost 8000 m, no further incidents are recorded.

By this time, Seibold had covered a flight distance of about 12,000 km, used approximately 20,000 litres of diesel, and spent almost a week on the run. It is impossible to say for certain which random chance ultimately caused the following events. It would, however, seem as if the next step of the journey failed to go as Seibold had planned. Seibold took off from Mindanao in conditions of poor visibility, high winds, and dense rain. The course was set for South at 05:00. It may be that the compass or the controls failed; we only know that the plane was driven hard to the east, and after a few hours of blind flight and with no fuel left, at 11:32 on January 22nd, 1943 the propellers stopped. The pilot recorded the emergency in his flying log book and steered his plane towards the nearest Pacific island.

Flying log book of Thomas Seibold, 28th of January, 1943

It seems as if the natives of this island only know the numbers one, two and three. I have spent days watching them count provisions, tools, loot and even children. They use their hands, holding up their index finger for one, the middle finger for two and the ring finger for three and utter a discernable phonetic sequence. If, however, the goods to be counted exceed the amount of three, they end their counting with the ever same word and describe a double circle with the right lower arm. I can only assume that the sound sequence and gesture mean no more than ‘many’ or ‘more’ and are perhaps similar in nature to our own nonplussed expression ‘endless’. In general, the natives seem to communicate amongst themselves with their limbs as much as with spoken language, and one tribe member who is certainly deaf and dumb takes as lively a part in the conversations as any anyone here by gesticulating.


The nose of the aircraft almost touched the trees. The impact was hard: the landing gear and airbrakes could not be deployed, as the batteries which were usually charged by generators driven by the two diesel engines were completely empty by now. The landing speed was too high, the approach angle too steep. Normally, the fuselage would have burst into pieces when it hit the ground, but as the plane carried nothing but the empty fuel tanks and slapped down in shallow coastal waters, the relative lightness and the pliant surface helped soften the impact somewhat, though it was still immense. The colossus slid through the shallow surf, across the beach and finally came to a halt in the dense undergrowth. There was no imminent danger – no diesel left to explode, and the bomb bays had been unloaded prior to the flight. Only the machine gun in the cockpit and the twin guns at the rear fired several solitary shots during the seconds of main impact.

An overflowing mass of teeming growth spanned out in front of the bomber: beneath never-ending treetops which towered almost 60 m above the ground lay the shadowy organism of a monstrous living creature. Its innards were moist and as green as could be; the wings of countless birds of the forest, including crowned pigeons, parrots, and jungle fowl, hummed like the tense nerves of the mighty monster. Everywhere in the midst of all greenery the individual parts of the creature rivalled each other in color and splendor: No sooner did a tree start to bloom than it immediately shed every single leaf to create a greater spectacle. Flowers reminiscent of cartwheels were wet and red like opened corpses and gave off a smell of rotting flesh with which they attracted clusters of flies. Some orchids of magnificent colour smelled so intoxicating that dazed insects tumbled into their chalices and took a minute or two to come to, flocked in pollen all over. And all of a sudden, from within this extraordinary creature, faces emerged – faces belonging to robust men of the land with firm, tanned skin and an even, steady gaze.

Flying log book of Thomas Seibold, 16th of February, 1943

They took the badge from my lapel – though they did so with the utmost caution and humility. That prized possession is now on a table in the middle of the village decorated with the most magnificent flowers, alongside my goggles and service jacket, which is useless in this heat. For several days now, there has been dancing every night. The rain forest all around us is full of reptiles and amphibians – the most frequent sightings are monitors and other lizards, forest tortoises, snakes, and frogs, some of which sail from treetop to treetop; even a species of snake is able to conquer a considerable distance through the air (without a single limb!). Finally the Junkers started to rust after just a few days. Fine droplets of salt water surf dispersed by the incoming winds saturate the air close to the ground, which is corroding the wreck. The natives still won’t go near the stranded bird, not even after all this time. But two men keep watch day and night in sight of the wreck.


A Cessna seaplane landed close to the shore. It had left Saipan a few hours before, the largest spot of land on all the Mariana Islands strung together in the Pacific Ocean like pearls on a string. Apart from the Australian pilot and copilot, the ethnographer Matthias Eickhorn, his assistant Philipp Zieger, and cameraman Simon Dreil were on board. The expedition had been planned three years after the crew of a processing ship belonging to a Palauan sea fishing company had messaged the harbour master in Melekeok and reported sighting single canoes in a remote Pacific atoll which had hitherto been regarded as uninhabited, and the public had got to hear about it. In the end, the expedition headed for the one piece of land on the atoll which offered enough space for a settlement. And of course this remote island had been populated, populated by faces belonging to the robust men of the land, with firm, tanned skin and an even, steady gaze, and the inexhaustible organism that bathed its innards in the shade beneath the thick forest canopy was as green as can be. Tree frogs spawned in the cups of bromeliads, and millions of delirious bees immersed themselves in the heady magnificence of brightly coloured orchid flowers. The bees built their hives in the crowns of the tropical trees, where water vapour from the regions below wouldn’t harm their brood. Drop for drop, the busy insect folk carried the heavenly ambrosia from the intoxicating flower cups all the way up to the utmost limits of the rainforest: and so on this island it was rightly believed that the bees brought the sweet fare to waxen chambers on high, where they enabled it to ripen in winds which had never penetrated the thicket of the forest, and that the great and fastidious Bee God would every now and then come down from heaven to the treetops of the forest to demand his sacred food; and of course it was he who let the forest fruits flourish for the sake of his pleasure and who made the tree-tops grow up to the sky.

When the ethnographer Eickhorn finally climbed out of the cabin of the Cessna and waded through the shallow water towards the shore, he was met with a most disturbing sight: the model of a huge aircraft stood on the beach of the island, made of dry grass, fern leaves, lianas and the branches of strangler figs. The model’s wings, elevators and tail fins, and the giant fuselage were immediately recognizable; even the propellers, exhaust pipes, and cockpit had been carefully crafted. Huge swastikas in white circles on a red base were depicted on the wings and the rudders. Once the expedition managed to fight its way through a few dozen metres of undergrowth into the interior of the forest, they soon found the scant remains of a settlement. The team spent the next couple of days combing through the entire island, until they were certain that for whatever reason, no human inhabitants had survived to this day. Finally, they diligently sifted and sorted through the remnants of the insular culture, and discovered some human skeletons and the remains of an elaborately decorated altar space, which comprised a badge of the Nazi Luftwaffe, a pair of flying goggles, and a German Wehrmacht service jacket. A few wooden planks were still intact and were covered in swastikas of different sizes, as were jewelry, conches, and bowls that appeared to be made from turtle shells: swastikas in white circles on a red background.

Flying log book of Thomas Seibold, March 1st, 1943

There are canoes! They are tied up on the south side of the island. They must be for fishing, though I haven’t seen them being used since I’ve been here. Last night I stowed a week’s rations of fresh water and provisions in one of the canoes. I also managed to secretly retrieve what money was left in the kitty from the wreck. I will set off in the small hours and aim to head west.


From “Der Bienengott.” Krachkultur 2016.

Young Animals

Author: Saskia Trebing
Translator: Helen MacCormac

You tell Benny to go and find a stone. A big, sharp stone. One he can carry without needing both hands.

That will give him something to do. Benny needs things to do. Benny is the kind of child who likes to be praised. Benny wants to be a good boy. But not right now. Right now Benny is on his knees crying. He is bent over the mess beside the road, wailing as if he’d been knocked down instead of the heap of fur in front of him. “Mummy,” he wails in his raise-the-dead voice, snorting a pint of snot up his tiny nose. He knows you hate him doing that, but he has no idea how much you hate the ‘Mummy’ word. It’s always Mummy all the time. As if she can fix anything astride her new boyfriend down in Kreuzberg.

“Hey, Benny,” you say softly. “It’s for the best, don’t you see? Let’s look for a stone together.” But that just makes things worse. “No,” Benny screams and clutches your leg. “Don’t make it die. Don’t!” He digs his nails into your leg right through your jeans. You shake him off. “Ouch,” you say in the loud, assertive voice the horn-rimmed glasses lady has told you to use. “That hurts.”

Benny lets go and carries on sobbing. He plumps down in the dewy grass on the verge of the road. It’s no use. The fox is done for; there is nothing they can do. Its hind legs are glued to the tarmac as if they’ve been ironed on. Slimy purple guts spill out of the gash in its belly. The worst thing is that it is still breathing. Flat, panicky gasps of air while a thin trickle of blood runs down its pointy nose. Every few seconds a shudder jerks its crushed body. The fox doesn’t seem very big. Not a cub, but not yet fully grown. This could go on for hours if they don’t find a stone.
You are so far into the woods that there is no one there. Just the car pinging away to remind you that you’ve left the key in the ignition. The car that can do everything. Except swerve to miss a fox coming out of nowhere. It can’t do that. Or save a child from seeing it all.

Sounds of the Eighties drift over from the radio. “Listen, Benny, it’s your favourite song.” But Benny’s being a woebegone in the ditch by the road. You sit down beside him. “I know you’re sad,” you say. The horn-rimmed glasses lady told him to say this, too. He lets you touch his shoulder. “But he’s not going to make it.” You almost laugh as you say the words and your son wipes his snotty nose on your polo shirt.

That’s what they said about Benny, too. When he was just a bloody bundle with a needle stuck in his arm. His head the size of a tennis ball. Nicole was so weak they wouldn’t let her see him. A blotch of red in a white landscape. Everything was too quiet, just the miniature heartbeat on the screen. Everything was too big except the doll-sized nappy. The doctors called him a miracle.

Nicole says it’s a miracle Benny even wants to see you. But Benny doesn’t harbour grudges. She wouldn’t understand that. It’s just between the two of you.

He was all excited about going swimming today. In the lake in the woods. It’s just a pond really. But you found it together. That was last summer before you had to start asking to see him.

Nicole, standing in the doorway, handing over the child and his swimming bag, reluctantly.

A peck on the cheek wouldn’t be too much to ask, but she won’t take her eyes off Benny. “Don’t do anything stupid,” she says only half-jokingly. It’s not your fault the fucking fox decided to leap out in front of the car.

The crying is beginning to get on your nerves. You get up and start walking in circles. Benny is a child who likes to be told he’s being ‘sensible’ and ‘brave,’ but he does get carried away. No idea where all this whinging comes from. You’re not like that and Nicole isn’t either. They always said you would have to be patient. That these children may take longer to develop. “Grow up,” you say. This has nothing to do with being patient.

His body tenses. He’s sitting craning his neck over what is left of the fox. He wipes away the tears with his jumper sleeve. “Look,” he says in a different voice. “I can see its heart.” You don’t want to look at the panting body, then you do. At first it’s just muck and slime. But Benny is right. There is something pulsating in the middle. The hole in its belly reveals a nut-sized heart. A racing, bloody core that hasn’t given up yet. You feel sick. “That’s good, isn’t it?” he asks. You want to know how he knows this. “The heart beats to keep the blood moving.” Every time you see him, he’s learnt something new. He’s not disgusted . His eyes are full of compassion and a young scientific interest. Suddenly all you want is for this young animal to survive. You can see yourself scratching its legs off the road, carrying its organs wrapped up in your jumper. One by one if necessary. They can transplant heads and hearts nowadays. There are dogs on TV with wheels instead of legs: “Yes,” you say, “he’s a tough little guy.” Benny pats you on the leg. “Can we nurse him better?” The scar on his forearm is taking forever to heal. A bulging livid streak between two dotted lines exactly where they nailed the small bone back together.
They called him a brave little man. They plastered his arm and coddled him. They didn’t trust you. All you got was a coffee from the machine and please wait over there. Of course it was a mistake. Of course you’d never hurt him deliberately. You know that, so does he. You might grab him if he tries to run away. But you never want to hurt him. These children’s bones are too soft.

Since the hospital, Benny wants to be a doctor. “We could take it home,” he says. He touches the fox’s nose with a finger. Its breath gets more raspy; its eyes narrow to slits. You don’t want to know what he means when he says home.

“No, Benny,” you say, “we can’t do that.” You both look at your fox silently for a moment. Benny leans his head against your chest.

Birdsong, panting breath, the pinging car. “OK,” he says. At last. He lets go of your arms and leans over the fox’s snout. Breathes a tiny almost-kiss on its oddly intact head. You think rabies but don’t say anything. There’s a huge lump in your throat so big you can’t speak. Benny looks at you and all you can do is gape like a fool. He looks worried. Then he turns away and disappears from view. “Don’t go far,” you say quietly. You came home earlier yesterday for Benny’s sake. But maybe it wasn‘t early enough. All you want to do is lie down next to the fox.

You stay where you are and close your eyes. Sounds of a car engine in between the birds and the wind. Then a car shoots round the corner and races past far too fast. The rush of air almost sends you flying. Startled, you look round for Benny and can’t see him. You leap up and panic surges through you but then he nudges you from the side. He’s holding up a stone. Large, but not too large, sharp and smooth. “Here,” he says, “is this good?” You let out a long breath. You take the stone from him. “Yes,” you say. “It’s a good stone.” The fox’s breath is slowing down, more peaceful somehow though that can’t be right. “Get in the car,” you say. Benny shakes his head. “I want to stay with him.”

“Wait in the car,” you say. Getting louder, but Benny sits back down beside the fox. “Right now,” you say. Benny just sits there. “I want to stay.”


“I want to stay with you.”


The last ‘no’ is shouted. Benny flinches. You grab his arm. Drag him to his feet. You pull him towards the car. He yelps. Are you mad? That’s his broken arm. You put your big writhing baby on the back seat. Slam the door shut. Benny screams and pounds against the car window. “Mummy,” he howls inside. You’re in front of the car and your heart’s beating so hard it hurts. A wave of anger and shame is rolling towards you. You know it’s coming. All you can do is wait; you can’t move. You stare at each other. You on the outside and him inside. A moment of silence between one ‘Mummy’ and the next. Two seconds, maybe, or two hundred. Then you grab your mobile and call Nicole.

She never takes more than ten minutes. She picks up her tear-stained child and ignores you. You try to stop her so that she’ll look at you. “It leapt out in front of the car,” you say. “We are going home now,” Nicole talks into Benny’s hair. Benny waves.

Her car disappears around the corner. You’ve still got the stone in your hand. You kneel beside the fox which has all but stopped breathing. You lift the stone and press it against your temple. It is cool and damp and smells of earth.

“I’m sorry,” you whisper. And strike.


From “Jungtier (Mama).” Sachen mit Wörtern, January 2016.

Apfelstrudel in Shanghai

Author: Ursula Krechel
Translator: Mandy Wight

Translator’s Note: The novel Shanghai fern von wo is an account of the experiences of a group of German and Austrian Jewish refugees who have fled Nazi Germany for Shanghai, where they spend the war years. They are from a range of backgrounds, mostly professional middle class, sophisticated Europeans who find themselves in an utterly alien milieu: an unrelentingly hot and humid climate, a city whose inhabitants sell everything and anything to survive, and where their humanist values can find no purchase. The first shock and humiliation for many is that their professional qualifications are useless. This is the case for Herr Tausig, a lawyer. However Frau Tausig, a middle class Viennese housewife, finds that she does have some skills which are in demand ‒ as we see in this extract.

When Herr and Frau Tausig arrived in Shanghai, low in spirits, they had a stroke of luck in the midst of their misery. After the pilot and the immigration officials, a great throng of Europeans and Chinese came on board, well dressed people, some of whom had even brought their own interpreters with them. They pointed to some names and job titles on the list of immigrants, had these people called out and asked them again about their skills. They had jobs to give away. Their certainty that they had something to offer which was much sought after made them come across as saviours and patrons, serious and important, and the passengers, who had been led into a waiting room, immediately stood to attention. Barmaids were much in demand, but Frau Tausig was not a barmaid and had no wish to be one, either. Craftsmen were also needed, especially shoemakers or, better still, made to measure shoemakers. That was a noble profession and it would have remained a noble profession in Vienna as well, if it weren’t for the fact that the person practising it was a Jew. A lawyer: now he’d been dealt a poor hand, an especially poor hand if he was no longer young and was hard of hearing. Even Lazarus never tired of saying that the lawyers were basically as good as done for, because what good was the German or Austrian law in China? He knew of one or two who’d been admitted to the Chinese courts, and a lawyer who’d been a judge in Breslau was hired by the Jewish community in Shanghai to appear before the arbitration tribunal, but that wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

Herr Tausig had prepared for emigrating by taking a course on using a knitting machine. A knitting machine with lots of little teeth clattering away, not just two needles, but a whole set of teeth: it was all the rage. And he’d even brought something with him which was the product of his newly acquired skill ̶ a scarf that he’d knitted for his wife. He twisted it and turned it in his hand, but no one was interested in his product. If only he’d brought a knitting machine from Europe with him! Exporter of knitting machines to the Far East, maybe that would have been the thing, but then he’d have needed a business partner in Austria, and who’d have wanted to go into business with a Jew? Who’d have dared to? And in Vienna towards the end he hadn’t even been in a position to buy a knitting machine. The sea crossing had eaten up every last penny.

Cooking and baking – that covered a lot of ground. Franziska Tausig didn’t look like a cook or a baker, but Austrian cooking had a good reputation. A man called her name, she stepped forward, intending to put her hand out in greeting ‒ a habit she quickly had to forget in Shanghai ‒ but first he wanted just to look at her. He looked her up and down: her hair dishevelled from the sea, her well cut but crumpled navy blue suit with some mother of pearl buttons between the breast and the waist, and he looked at her hands, piano playing hands, and her wedding ring. His eyes swept down to her skirt and the stockings which were much too hot in the sweltering heat of Shanghai ‒ in Vienna a lady wore stockings ‒ then his gaze slid down to her shoes with their little buckles. Frau Tausig felt as if she were being looked over like a horse, she had never been looked at like that before, but she could do nothing about it so she put up with it. Suddenly the man had seen enough and asked her straight to her face: “Can you bake Apfelstrudel? I heard you come from Vienna.” Frau Tausig affirmed first the one question, then the other, and she affirmed energetically. “Come to my restaurant tomorrow,” said the man. “If you can bake Apfelstrudel, a decent Viennese Apfelstrudel, then I’ll give you a job as a cook.”

She had baked apple strudel before, some had turned out well, others not so good, that’s apple strudels for you, fickle young lads with a mind of their own ̶ in a head filled with raisins. Buried deep in the warm belly of the oven they have a fine old time, while the baker, sweating away, goes down on his or her knees before them. Anyone who bakes apple strudel knows this. Can you bake Apfelstrudel? There was nothing for it, Frau Tausig wanted to and had to answer yes one more time. And later, thinking it over, writing about it, she believed she’d confirmed with pleasure, pushing her doubts to the back of her mind. ………….

The restaurant owner kept his word and came to collect Frau Tausig in the early afternoon. The fog had scarcely lifted and she now had to unearth her hazy memories of baking apple strudel. The restaurant where she was taken was a solid, two storey building. He showed her the dining room and then slipped with her into the scorching hot kitchen.

When the future didn’t arrive, the present grew longer. The present meant: tying a large apron round her waist, picking up a blunt knife ‒ there was obviously no sharp one to hand or it was being used for other purposes ‒ bending over a basket of apples, and peeling them in a hasty spiral. The blade carved up the quartered apples and sawed them into thin slices, cut them up so quickly that the apples had no time to turn brown. Frau Tausig had baked cakes for family gatherings, but she hadn’t brought the cookery book with her to Shanghai. Why would she need a cookery book when her entire middle class existence had been shipwrecked? Family recipes were no help there. How many eggs for what quantity of flour, and how much lukewarm water was to be kneaded together with salt and fat‒ all that had slipped into the furthest recesses of her memory. “Have you got cinnamon and raisins and unbleached flour?” Frau Tausig asked the restaurant owner. “We have everything you need,” he answered. Knowing words, and yet unsatisfactory. And her question a delaying tactic, in the hope that she could put the test off to some future point, when it would not all come down to her skills, a future where the inadequacy of the ingredients would conceal her inadequate qualifications. She sieved the flour into a large bowl, made a hollow in the flour, broke the egg into it, sprinkled salt over the top and poured water into the hollow. She did it slowly, carefully, she was aware they were watching her hands. She felt self-conscious, but at the same time rather proud of having an audience. She had to make herself put her hands into the whitish grey mush and rub the flour with her fingers into a crumbly mixture. The mixture stuck between her fingers like flippers, and she had to dust her fingers with flour. She kneaded and kneaded, she kneaded for her life. Frau Tausig shaped the mixture into a ball of dough and suddenly remembered that it had to be left to rest, and so she raised her hands in a calming gesture for all the onlookers, at the same time pointing to the ball of dough. She got the impression that they understood and so the dough rested while she sweated. She sweated even more when she preheated the oven. She sorted through the raisins, picked off the stalks, found little stones between the fruits, remembered how as a child she’d watched her mother baking and begged to be given some raisins (something her son had never done), saw suddenly the greedy child’s hand which had been her own hand, thought of her mother, pleaded with her as if her mother could protect her now, left behind, a helpless old woman, in Vienna, and knew she had to punch the dough, punch it till it made air bubbles, over and over again she picked it up and slammed it down against the edge of the bowl. Flour stuck to her hands and hair. It was a hard job, working the lump of dough, the balls of her thumbs thumping and pounding it over and over again till it became supple, serviceable, a mass which was putty in her hands. She took the dough out of the bowl and laid it on the baking tray. The next step was to roll the lump of dough, now the size of a child’s head, into a paper thin layer without breaking it. First she used the rolling pin, rolling back and forth, till it became a flat sheet as big as a dinner plate, then she lifted it up, feeling her way underneath till her finger tips reached the middle. She stretched the dough, pulled it and evened out the edges, coaxing it to grow and at the same time to thin out ‒ and it all had to be done quickly so the heat didn’t make the dough too sticky. Like a conjuror she stood in the restaurant kitchen, her hands hidden beneath the dough sheet, tugging, pulling, stippling ‒ the imprints of her finger tips visible on the dough’s surface ‒ the dough getting thinner and thinner and the sheet getting bigger and bigger. Paper thin it had to be, so you could read a newspaper through the dough, that’s what she’d learned from her mother. You couldn’t really see what she was doing there in the cavern beneath the dough, she tweaked it, tousled and tugged it from the centre to the edges so that it stretched, she seduced it into growing. It could have broken in any place she touched it, but it didn’t tear, much to her astonishment. It grew and grew: not beneath her hands but in the tent that the dough was forming over her agile hands. She was indeed performing magic. The restaurant owner was watching, and some of the Chinese cooks, who just a minute earlier had been busy with the meat and root ginger, were watching. The rice cook Rudi, an emigrant from Breslau who had been a factory owner before (she found that out later), gave her a wink. A huge cooking pot was steaming and bubbling away while Franziska Tausig worked. The pot washing women had stopped washing up, the foreign baker woman was carefully pulling the dough apart, stretching it, testing it gingerly to see if any holes were appearing but miraculously it stayed in one piece. That was a stroke of luck (or perhaps just chance?). One last check, she could have done with a ruler now, but still she feared it would probably have units of measurement she was totally unfamiliar with: feet or hands or inches or a Chinese measurement which would have baffled her, so she stretched out her sweaty naked arm (she had an idea of the length of her hand and arm up to the elbow and how this would look in the round): yes, that could be the right sort of size for a strudel, she was happy. She asked for butter and was brought a small pot that looked more like a pot for dripping, which made her guess that butter in Shanghai was costly and scarce, which indeed it was. She warmed up the butter to spread a thin layer over the dough; she’d asked for a brush for this. She didn’t know how to say ‘brush’ in English, but she tried by making a brushing movement with her right hand in the palm of her left, calligraphy strokes on a dry surface. The soup cook, twirling his thin, dangling beard, had understood what she wanted straightaway and brought her a small brush, which she sniffed, just to be on the safe side. It smelt a little spicy, but not unpleasant (she didn’t yet know what soya sauce smelt and tasted like, or how it could ruin an innocent dish), so she brushed the surface of the dough, which now looked to her like a pale full moon, with the melted butter. She asked for a cloth and they brought her something which looked like a nappy; she sniffed at that as well and couldn’t smell anything in particular, so she was happy.

She laid the dough out over the cloth, spread the sugared apple slices, the raisins and a pinch of cinnamon over the top ‒ that was the easiest and most satisfying part of the job ‒ and then using the cloth she folded one side of the dough over the other (there you are, no different from putting a nappy on a baby), flipped the ends of the dough parcel over so they were nice and even and the apple juice couldn’t seep out. (The memory of a baby’s body came back to her vividly at that moment: the memory of wrapping a nappy round her son, whom she missed so much, but couldn’t show it without thinking of her husband, and without imagining him being even sadder, stuck in the home on the Ward Road, in one of the men’s dormitories, stuffed full of things ‒ carpets, lamps, photo albums and cutlery canteens ‒ which were now totally useless). And the energetic wrapping and folding of the apple parcel had another purpose, too, which wasn’t exactly hidden, yet no one except maybe Rudi the rice cook was aware of it: I’m getting my husband out. I’m baking so that he doesn’t finish up a wreck like those other wrecks in the men’s dorm. The fact that she, too, was washed up did not occur to her at that moment.

Hands covered in flour are a good preventative measure against the feeling of being washed up, she noticed to her relief, yet on the other hand this kind of relief didn’t relieve her husband, but rather weighed him down and worried him.

She placed her creation on the greased baking tray and pushed it into the oven. Now all she could do was wait and pray that the heat in the oven corresponded to the temperature shown on the switch; the strudel needed just 200 degrees centigrade and 30 to 40 minutes. She looked at her watch and waited with trembling knees. Someone offered her a cup of tea, she sipped at the tea, which tasted bitter. She watched the cooks washing vegetables and boiling rice in a large pan; the knife she’d used to peel the apples was still lying on the table. She offered to help wash the vegetables, crunch, crunch, crunch went the knife into the cabbage stalks and chopped them up small. The restaurant owner looked on, pleased to see the woman could work and saw what had to be done, a plus point for her. Frau Tausig’s nerves calmed down a little as she worked, and the Chinese cook smiled at her, revealing his crooked teeth and his pink tongue squeezing out between them. Rudi, the rice cook said: “On the home stretch now.” And Frau Tausig answered sceptically, “It could still go wrong.” But Rudi came back with “ Even an outsider can go for gold.”

Then an enticing aroma began wafting through the kitchen: a good sign. Frau Tausig took the strudel out of the oven, the cooks gathered round her and the strudel while the owner, who had been drinking in the restaurant with guests in the meantime, was called into the kitchen. Frau Tausig cut the first slice, then portioned the strudel out onto plates, and everyone in the kitchen ate some, while looking at the pastry cook with respect. It was quite a ceremony. She didn’t know what was happening to her, her first Chinese apple strudel was a success and was praised to the skies. Frau Tausig later insisted it was the best apple strudel she’d ever baked in her life. The apple strudel was a lifesaver, a miracle, it seemed to her. She was taken on as a cook straightaway, as the new ‘Missi’ as they said in pidgin English. Franziska Tausig had hit the jackpot, and in no time at all she’d got a job.

From Shanghai fern von wo. Jung und Jung Verlag 2008.


Author: Marc Degens
Translator: Valentine A. Pakis


When I leave the house, my stepfather waves goodbye. When I return, he’s already standing in the doorway.

“What are you doing back already?” he asks, shaking his head. “Did you forget something?”

“No,” I answer with a laugh. “I’ve already seen everything.”

Relieved, he shuts the door behind me. He doesn’t like it when I walk through Dorsten by myself. Especially after dusk.

My old room in the attic is nicer than it was before. The television is as big as my mattress – only thinner. When trucks drive by on the street, the glass cabinet rattles. . The announcements at the train station don’t bother me, and they end early in the evening, while I’m still writing.

Every day I walk through the underpass at the train station and stroll through the town center, which is paved with glazed bricks. A poster reads “A city WITHOUT a public pool” in the black-and-yellow style of a road sign. An advertisement is still hanging, weeks after the fact, for a shopping event in Rhede. I take a picture of a façade adorned by Arno Breker’s relief sculpture of Diana. Next to the relief there is a picture of a Germania sculpture with the following text: “Germania was erected in 1896 to commemorate the citizens of Dorsten who fell in the war of 1870/71, which brought victory to Prussia and unity to Germany. During WW II, Germania was slightly damaged. Afterwards, the statue was removed from its pedestal and further damaged. The plaque with the names of those who died was taken away. Please restore the honor of their memory. Make history visible. Reinstall the Germania!” Beneath this plaque is a sign that reads “HAIR-PIRATE Young Style.”

At the Marktplatz, two women are having a conversation, one of them wearing a black stocking cap with large white letters across her forehead reading FUCK IT. I look in amazement at the excavator that is patiently gnawing at the old shopping center, looking like a giant metal dragon. I walk through the Stadtsfeld, our old practice space, past the medical centers, through developments of row housing with FC Schalke flags waving in their yards and cats on their doormats. A few years ago, a police car came to a screeching halt next to me.

“ You’ve got a lot of nerve,” yelled a policeman, leaping out of the car.

I looked around. I was the only person in sight.

“You really don’t know what this is about?” he asked, appalled.

I shook my head. The policeman pointed to the traffic light.
Having failed to notice both the crosswalk and the traffic light, I had simply walked across the street. The policeman asked to see my I.D. and examined both sides of it.

“Place of residence, Berlin?” he asked and looked me over from head to toe.

I nodded. The officer sat down next to his colleague in the car, opened up a thick book, and began to flip through it. After a while, he got back out.

“You’re in luck,” the policeman said, giving me back my ID. “The fine hasn’t increased.”
I put my ID back in my wallet.

“That’ll be five Euros,” he said. “Are you paying in cash?”

Whenever I’m in Dorsten, I’m seized by a sort of compulsion to write. Besides working on my novel, I begin to transcribe the graffiti in the underpass. Dorsten has generated a few writers, the most famous being Cornelia Funke. No one will ever name a street after me in Dorsten.

I chat with Tao Lin on Facebook and recommend a translator for his Schopenhauer book project. Dorsten is more or less the opposite of New York. I refer to my days in Dorsten as a writing prison. The term appeals to me, it sounds like work, like being on an assembly line. Yet the conditions are extremely pleasant. If I like, I can have a hot meal three times a day. I don’t have to cook or shop, clean up, or answer the phone. I don’t get any mail, either . And so I write page after page. My friends start to worry about me. The Marquis de Sade wrote almost his entire oeuvre behind bars. They don’t want me to end up like the author in The Shining.

On the day of my departure, I make one last visit to the bakery. Even though I always buy the same number of rolls, I pay a different price every day. When I return, my stepfather is standing in the door.

“Joyce N. had ordered shoes for her son (6),” he reads to me from an article in the newspaper. “She wanted to pick up the package at the Hermes shop in the center of Dorsten. Joyce N.: I was friendly, had my I.D. ready, and said that I would like to pick up my package, but the woman behind the counter answered: ‘That’s not possible. We’re not allowed to release packages to black people.’”

“Unbelievable!” my mother shouts. “ They’re even talking about it on television.”

The Hermes shop is on the same street as the bakery. As a schoolboy I was banned from the store because I’d been caught stealing a superhero comic.

After breakfast I say goodbye to my parents and roll my suitcase to the train station. The train is already there, ready to be boarded. I step in, take a seat, and open up my MacBook. My computer connects automatically to my parents’ wi-fi. I check my email and read the latest tweets. The train departs; the internet connection gets weaker and, after a few meters, breaks off.


From “Dorsten” in Eigentlich Heimat: Nordrhein-Westfalen literarisch, ed. Bettina Fischer and Dagmar Fretter.  Lilienfeld Verlag, Düsseldorf, 2014.

Small Theology
You Here

Author: Hendrik Rost
Translator: Heike Henderson


Small Theology III

Everybody wants three things: Love,
love, love. The fourth is
rather more difficult, an hour
rest in the afternoon.
fly lands again and again
on the back of the hands’
sensitive skin, on cheek
and neck, a power surge,
very light, bsss, it wants something
from you, you shall feel, it
is and you are, it caresses
you at the verge of a
You could die
for a minute sleep, but
you are not even injured.
No scratch, no tear and
no doubt – you have rested.
If you get up now and
slay it, the hour is
over. One, two, three…


From Der Pilot in der Libelle.  Gedichte.  © Wallstein Verlag, Göttingen 2010.



You here

After felt eternities we meet again,
between us assorted children, three of which live,

a cat from the shelter, on withdrawal of love,
four economic crises like a long, quiet afternoon

in bed, a whispered “that hurts me,”
the desire for scratching, joke and edge.

Countless angels it took, to acknowledge: Even I,
I would not be familiar with me in nobody’s stead.


From Das Liebesleben der Stimmen.  Gedichte.   © Wallstein Verlag, Göttingen 2016.


Author: Christine Marendon
Translator: Ken Cockburn



At night I lie down and process light. The secret
which extends our life is memory. Plants
can’t do it, they are vessels and free will is
a ground-note of their being. The idea
all growing things share is to construct,
with the help of light, heavy industry and violently
to close all gaps. Clearing is a good word: to clear space
and there to hold with hot hands saturated, decaying cells
in air and light. Thus great reservoirs of peat build up
over millennia, having surmounted long stages of dehydration.
Then the framework is established. It forms a peculiar film
and in its effect is closely related to poems. As with the
interaction of good and evil its effect is inverted
if there is no internal tension. Everything lies on a plane
without ever branching, which would help form an anchor.
Above, the canopy of leaves works in the realm of light. It’s a
strange thought, to be quite silent and locked into the world.
Each blade of grass behind barbed wire is only make-believe.
Whatever else might be called alive has winter for a friend.





Waste-tips and scrapheaps have always been
rich enough to see the winter out. Imagine
a skin over them and it’s like a force flowing
down into the earth. We bind the sense of our
plant origins to our first setting sail. The idea of one’s
self is like that of the animals. Land is the concept
we pay for, which has become so alien to us
we soon reach a border. The same expanse, yet
so many differences. Grass is obedient and belongs
with the weak, yet enfolds the naked-born
human. Even dead things which were never windborne
turn into earth. We don’t live with our own light.
Those swings from inside to out result rarely
in fulfillment. Whoever seeks other people
sinks into endlessly gentle grass.




When you’re scared have a good look at yourself:
this horrible little eternity
is the blink of an eye.

I was uttered into the wind, the house
thrust me out of itself, spelled me with
open doors and windows, threw me so high
I broke through the clouds, cried AFRICA and
bumped against the dome of the highest ceiling,
the barrier of air and breathlessness. What followed
was a descent, I fell back and thundered into
the earth, I had become lightning. My way
led deep inside, I changed my form
and forgot who I was. I just kept thinking
that in everything I was still I. In everything.

On Yesterday
Status Report
An Experience

Author: Günter Kunert
Translator: Gerald Chapple


Translator’s Note: The poems below are all from 2013 and taken from typescript. They reflect both Kunert’s debt and his reaction to Brecht, an early mentor. The translations respect the voice, language, and form of the originals, which make a Kunert poem unmistakable in German.


1. On Yesterday

The fingers that
held these old toys
have long been turned to earth. Leaving
the doll in tattered dress behind
and the tin locomotive’s
broken spring. So too
the crumbly lead soldiers
crudely painted faces
lifeless in so many battles
where they fell in ranks
over and over again until
the cardboard box burial.
All bear the stigmata
of childhood love
wounds scratches evidence
the customary vestiges
that usually come from love.


2. Status Report

We can say anything because
nobody listens. Among the blind,
we can point at
everything. We can experience
anything we haven’t actually
gone through. We can
wander all the pathways
in the almighty labyrinth
and we can touch a corner
of the minotaur’s cloak
before it
swallows us up.


3. An Experience

Perfect silence envelopes you
the moment you’re far from here
and far from yourself.
In a stony wasteland
on a different continent
beyond the real one
you’ve come from.
Perfect silence sounds
like perfect deafness.
As if hearing had vanished
in the surrounding space
in the solitude
in the emptiness of your self.

breakfast in the hotel

Author: Yaak Karsunke
Translator: Gregory Divers



                       after Juan Sánchez Cotán, 1561-1627

the light in this still life comes
from the right & the shadows
fall to the left
amused you notice how completely consistent
with its era is the illumination of things
in this spanish painting
from 16o2

on a table scrubbed clean:
two mushrooms a grape (blue)
two blocks of cheese still half
wrapped in paper
a basket of sweet chestnuts beside
a pewter plate brimful with almonds
:casually & artistically distributed

perhaps one just has to
fly from berlin to chicago
in order to discover
how little it takes


breakfast in the hotel

on the table next to mine
stood a metal shield
with the number seventy-four

i thought to myself
if that’s correct
then i’ve still got ten years

the jacaranda tree blossomed
& i got a tremendous urge
to steal something


From hand & fuß. Lyrikedition 2000, 2004.

map to paris
poem that starts as follows

Author: Herbert Hindringer
Translator: Maria Hofmann


map to paris
i passed the park today
and if you believe it or not
our underwear is still hanging from the tree
and i am so hung up on you
that i can smell paris already
your bra in memoriam:
not fucking has never been that beautiful


the problem is:
i have everything ready that you’ve ever said

it works like this:
when i see a red vw-beetle
then i immediately think of
everything you’ve ever said about any red vw-beetle

or about a green one
blue yellow
about stag beetles dung beetles lady bugs
about driving about
not driving about the pope
about joschka fischer or about the lueneburg heath
about heathens christians and fascists
about the missionary position and how
apt i am at it

about turtlenecks rockhopper penguins rock music
about the rocky mountains
about butter mountains milk maids and holy cows

sinatra cohen zimmerman
mama papa sm
mao chili mozambique

about flasks about biermann
about drinking even more drinking
and of drowning in the mississippi

about the importance of taking a breather
and the triviality of philistines

wigs gators eunuchs
muscles answering machines cans
egg cookers purses clocks

cocaine bikinis and balconies
rock formations packet soups and tapestries
elevators candles and kitty-corners

i see the world and i think of you

and only because of this i cannot
become a newscaster
but only recite poems
about you
with blushing head
and without glasses



poem that starts as follows
are you trembling
or was it an earthquake?
and your laugh? flashback
or a real expression of joy?

these three seconds just now
in which i decided
that i can’t just kiss you after all
were like a bottle of wine:
grapes trampled by naked feet
the liquid filled in a green bottle
being labeled
and exported
and in the same breathless moment imported
sold by aldi together with trail mix
bought by a working-class child
for a nice evening
but then knocked back alone anyway
shattered at her wall
at 4 o’clock in the morning

closer i cannot get to you today
or have i shaken you
in your solid
vertical scales?

it was an earthquake they say
on the news


From biete bluterguss & suche das weite.  yedermann, 2003.