The Max Goldt Treasury, Reloaded

As time permits, I've translated the odd column by Max Goldt. In honor of his recent receipt of the Kleist Prize, I decided to increase the pace of translations as part of "Max Goldt Weeks". As part of MGW, I'm pleased to announce the latest translation, The Masses and the Maidens.

I've also decided to set up an independent section of this website just for Max Goldt translations, so they don't get lost amid all the nonsense and bloviation. If you look to the right, the sidebar now features an widget entitled The Max Goldt Treasury, with an introduction and table of contents, as well as links to all of my translations of Goldt's essays. From now on, the latest translations will always appear there.

Enjoy!

Max Goldt: On the Magic of Walking Past Sideways

It's time for part two of Max Goldt Weeks here at German Joys. Just in time for the annual opening of Christmas markets all across Germany! Which, for at least one German, is an occasion for gnashing of teeth…

On the Magic of Walking Past Sideways

by Max Goldt

translated by Andrew Hammel

How delightful it would be to receive a letter which said: “Please never write a satirical Christmas story. Writers who do that are really, truly crap.” Instead, every year there’s the following message: “We’d love to have a wonderful satirical Christmas story from you!”

To hell with that. The worst thing about Christmas is the yearly deluge of satirical Christmas commentaries in written, musical, and dramatic form. With the onset of winter, hordes of writers who preside over meager talents – and understand and profit from capitalism the whole year through – suddenly detect an onset of “consumer terror” which may trigger an intoxicating rush of spending in its supposed victims. But doesn’t terror generally provoke fear and mourning? If it were known to get you high, it would probably have some quite respectable admirers. Anyone who gets a rush from carrying home plastic bags full of toys would be well-advised to ask certain people who seem to hang around for an awfully long time in front of disco bathrooms if they perchance have something that might clear up any mistake about what it means to get high.  

For decades now, every December brings shows with titles that rarely deviate from “The Cash Registers Never Ring More Sweetly.” In the cinema and on TV, one sees nothing but cheerful, chortling little comedies, in which Santa Claus is kidnapped, or appears by the dozen in the same living-room because of wacky misunderstandings, or – in earthier variations of the genre – begins fumbling around with the woman of the house’s naughty bits. The soundtracks, usually created by Haindling or Konstantin Wecker, feature traditional melodies which, according to the equally-traditional imperatives of social critique, have been made “edgy” with slight dissonances. These films are invariably described as “playfully malicious” – but never are. Instead, they shimmer red-gold-green with knowing winks which say: Oh sure, it’s completely crazy, this Christmas business, but – hand on your heart – don’t we all really love it, deep down inside? Because of the children’s shining eyes, if nothing else!

Those who observe children’s eyes year-round will note that they shine year-round. An ophthalmologist could explain this natural phenomenon to laymen without too much difficulty. Perhaps he would add that when children’s eyes no longer shine, we must fear the worst, and no gift – no, not even the gift of love – will be of any use.  

What’s happy is moist and shiny! I’m happy too, and shine moistly – but Christmas markets don’t exactly make my heartlight shine.

Doubtless because of popular sentiment, nobody seems to have checked whether cultural-heritage laws allow you to fill carefully-restored historical market squares with cheap pressboard crate-huts for five, count ‘em five, weeks. These huts, mind you, are identical everywhere you go in Germany, from north to south – a fact which doesn’t seem to hinder certain busloads of women from voyaging across the country and, after much comparative study, deliberating on the question of which Christmas market is the “absolutely totally most beautiful.”  Those who are accustomed to regard their taste not as a God-given property, but rather as a faculty that must constantly be developed, will perhaps have some difficulty finding anything beautiful about a Christmas market. However, the hoi polloi will dismiss this objection and say:  “Oh please – what is beauty, anyway?” I admit not having known myself until recently, when a Czech saying crossed my path. The saying is: “What’s beautiful is Czech.” Finally, a clear answer to this age-old question. And an end to the old nonsense that beauty is in the eye of the beholder – which didn’t even originate with Shakespeare, by the way. No, beauty is what’s Czech! Of course, one should add that the Czechs frequently use this pithy saying sarcastically, for instance, when walking past Communist-era high rises.

Looked at this way, Christmas markets are the perfect messengers of this inverted Czech sense of beauty: Shacks covered with stapled-on fir boughs, in front of which groups of people gobble inferior food in the dumbest way imaginable. Only Nostradamus could have predicted a stupider way to savor Golden Delicious apples fished from 3-kilo plastic sacks than by transforming them into so-called “paradise apples.” That is, by impaling them on (usually rotting) sticks of wood and covering them with a coat of red-tinted sugar-shellac. The idiocy is compounded when you accidentally brush the little stick of paradise against your scarf – which turns out to be covered with scarf-lint, the goddamn little red piece of crap. One could proceed further, and thoroughly critique the custom of dumping last year’s almond harvest by means of caramelization – but you could probably fob off candied cigarette-butts on the almond crowd, whatever that might achieve. I’d rather say the following: If I had only bad red wine, but was convinced that the administration of alcohol was urgently necessary under the given circumstances, I would cool the wine down as much as possible. We know from the example of Coca-Cola and certain frozen dairy products that disgusting things can taste somewhat tolerable when cooled.

Christmas is one of the great faults of our people. The others are cars and football. Those who prefer to devote themselves to personal failings – and thereby have no time to participate in the mistakes of the masses – should nevertheless tolerate them. Those political systems which achieve enough power to eliminate popular weaknesses have the distinct drawback of ending in smoking ruins and mountains of corpses. Thus, let us not even begin to think of depositing quietly-ticking bags in Christmas markets. Instead, we will walk by them sideways – smiling coolly, with calm, peaceful disinterest. It is indeed possible, thanks to Germany’s excellent building codes, to simply walk past almost everything that’s ugly!

Source: Vom Zauber des seitlich daran Vorbeigehens, Prosa und Szenen, 29-34 (Rowohlt Verlag, Reinbek bei Hamburg, 2005).  

Max Goldt: May the Diva Ascend from the Rubbish

039_69908~Diana-Ross-Posters

Ahh, Diana Ross. How the occult eroticism of her exotropic strabismus haunted my teenage pysche! 

Which brings us to the first installment of several Max Goldt translations, in honor of his upcoming receipt of the Kleist Prize (g). The column originally appeared in Titanic (g) in May 2007 and, I have it on good authority, won't be included (at least in its present form) in any upcoming Max Goldt books.

Therefore, this is a web-only, English-language German Joys exclusive. More translations coming in Week Two of Max Goldt Weeks. Enjoy!

May the Diva Ascend from the Rubbish (Report on a Current National Flaw)

By Max Goldt

(translated from the German by Andrew Hammel)

The Scandinavia correspondent of the FAZ recently reported that a German church-organ repairman had emigrated to Sweden. Not for the better working conditions, but because his own people's indiscretion and chattiness had gotten on his nerves. As I read that, I thought, 'well, if you have to talk about national stereotypes, they might as well be accurate, for a change.' Indiscretion and chattiness – indeed, those are the most objectionable traits nowadays. To be sure, Germans are normally accused of humorlessness. And since the German middle classes, the “mainstream,” have lately become accustomed to pre-empt and amplify every criticism from outsiders, they have, for quite a while now, been the loudest in denouncing their own humorlessness. However, nobody really puts enough thought into the matter. Humor – that is, the talent for regarding your own destiny from  outside, for extorting some consolation from the daily grind of misery – why should this gift, which is something utterly individual, differ from region to region? Perhaps this cultural error is explained by the fact that humor is often confused with wit – even with the telling of jokes and the reaction of the listeners to them. After all such charm, esprit, and friskiness is regarded as unchaste and suspect in social systems known for piety or other forms of rigidity. One has a sense of humor, however, not primarily among companions, but alone. Why should the representatives of one people have more of this quality than others? There is no reason to believe this is.

 

Europe’s national clichés are probably about 200 to 300 years old.  What‘s amazing is that the nations of Europe seem to have so little desire to update them. We can only speculate where they came from – but only a fool, while speculating, would leave wars out of the picture. The Seven Years’ War, for instance. In that conflict, many a young European got mixed up with soldiers, or was forced to make a living as mercenary in foreign armies, or was taken prisoner by the Prussians, let’s say. Now, it’s true that the Prussians tended to be rather grim customers. You wouldn't want to tangle with them. After the war, survivors dispersed all over Europe with tales of the not-to-be-tangled-with Prussians.  Since even back then people tended to confuse a lot of things with a lot of other things – such as a disciplined regiment with humorlessness on a state and individual level – soon everyone was talking about the humorless Prussians.

Today’s German is stubbornly obsessed by the antiquated notion that the rest of the world – and even more, members of his own nation – think he has no sense of humor. Since he's just as skilled in confusing things as all other peoples at all other times have been, he believes that he can show his superiority by laughing frequently and loudly. Now, I obviously don’t travel the world with a microphone, recording the laughter of other peoples and then generating sound-oscillograms to produce laughter-loudness statistics. I can think of better things to do with my free time. Therefore I’m in no better position than anyone else to say which country laughs the loudest. But I’ve had some experience in the matter. For example, I once observed that Spaniards laughed quietly and Germans laughed loudly under the exact same conditions.

 

I sat in a fine art-house theatre in Madrid, watching a Woody Allen film.  It was considered one of his quieter ones. The Spanish audience watched with careful attention. Nobody munched snacks, nobody whispered. People sat in their chairs and displayed their pleasure in the events on the silver screen by grinning and giggling, at the most. A week later I watched the same movie again in Berlin. Not because I found the movie so outstanding, but because I had promised to accompany someone. Another fine old art-house theatre. But the behavior of the horde of visitors was completely different: They showed an iron-willed determination to recoup their investment in the film on offer, and howled their delight from the very beginning. Keep in mind – these were settled people, ripe old members of the left-liberal milieu still very much present in the central districts of West Berlin, mostly between 50 and 60.  One would assume these people had more than a little culture. However, they behaved like drunkards guffawing at a low-rent comedian in a beer-tent. A woman who sat behind me greeted even the quietest aperçu with: „Fantastic! Sin-gu-lar!" Even 20 minutes of this was intolerable. Perhaps some other time I shall address the question why the left-liberals, of all people, are so egocentrically loud these days.

 

The extroverted, sometimes even aggressive laughing emanating from these enlightened people cannot be regarded separately from the reason for migration cited by the organ-restorer above.  It is part of the chattiness, an expression of indiscretion.

 

People can suffer from this national chattiness by becoming victims of gossip and harassment, even for the sole reason that they refuse to take part in the chattiness. Indiscretion, however, can also be agonizing, since it often drives one to sink to the level of entertaining ugly thoughts about others. I This tendency will now be addressed.

 

One day, rather a long while ago, before anybody drank Bionade, back when our country was governed by a ravenous man with Godzilla-paws, I checked into a hotel in Cologne. The receptionist, after looking around carefully to make sure nobody could hear him except for me, murmured to me smugly, ‘just between us guys,’ that he had an especially nice room for me: The day before yesterday, you see, Diana Ross had slept there. And further: “Nobody was in there between you and her.” Once I reached the room, I noted with relief that someone else had indeed come between me and Diana Ross (with whom I now formed a buddy-like plural, from the porter’s point of view): a conscientious maid. In any case I found no hairs, although I could hardly avoid being on the lookout for them, considering the information that had been forced on me. In any case, I did not even entertain the disgusting idea of pulling down the sheets to check for fresh bloodstains on the mattress. However, the desk clerks' loose lips still forced me to try to pin down the singer’s age at the time of our successive visits to Cologne, to determine whether she even still capable of befouling the sheets in a feminine manner. Repulsive! I still remember that a heavy scent remained in the room and the mouthwash cup seemed to have been very thoroughly cleaned.  At which point, however, I thought: Did my predecessor really have to rinse her famous throat with this shabby, greenish-brown marble-pattern plastic cup? Wasn’t her last hit, come to think of it, quite a while ago? Can it be that this legend is now reduced to so-called ‘bread-and-butter gigs’? Must she now borrow the eel-monger’s amplifier to sing her guts out in the marketplace? Will we see her now – heaven forfend – amusing insurance-louts with 'humorous' ties, who prattle at her in their slimy barfly-voices that she oughta sing something ‘normal’ like ‘A Horse Was Standing in the Meadow’? What? You don't know that one? You call yourself a singer, and you don’t have a famous song like that in your repertoire?

 

Ah, the travails of an international bombshell! The room rented by her and then me was, by the way, roomy and light-filled. By my standards, it was downright princely. However, it was hardly a suite with a Bechstein piano, champagne bell on a velvet rope, and terrace full of ornate trees. From the hit parade to the gutter – or at least to the chipped mouthwash cup. The history of show business is full of these ‘rise-and-fall’ stories. What even more repulsive fates could have been dreamed up for our highly respected artist by someone with a less merciful imagination than my own? For example, that after her humiliating performance, she went to the world-famous potato-fritter stand which stood near the entrance to the main train station back then? Which, as spawns of the imagination go, actually wouldn't be all that horrible – after all, half of Hollywood went there. Much more disturbing is the notion that our dear Diana Ross, so sorely missed by the guardians of the hit parade, slunk to the almost more sorely-missed potato-fritter stand, and secretly licked the applesauce from the paper plates in the waste basket. Anybody who even so much as imagined the like would have to be driven out of the country, wouldn't they? But no, we need drive only the receptionist from the country – the one who, through his chattiness, practically forces hapless travelers to entertain suspicions which would otherwise never have entered their heads. To the rubbish-heap of exile with all porters who tell guests who it was that slept in the hotel room before them! On the other hand, may the Diva ascend from the rubbish-heap of these induced foul thoughts and sing something really nice!

Goldt Weeks at German Joys

Timo

Max Goldt, the Wotan of German-language satirical prose, will be presented with the Kleist Prize on November 23rd of this year. Congratulations, Herr Goldt.

In honor of this festive occasion, I will be posting several translations of Max Goldt columns in the coming days — including, by special arrangement, a web-only exclusive English translation of a Max Goldt column that won't be printed in any future book!

The first translation will be posted tomorrow, the next later this week, and one more the week after that.

[photo: Timo Timpe, Max Goldt fan.]

Max Goldt: Test-Driving Misery

It's been a long time since I last translated some Max Goldt. That long time is now officially over.  Presenting my translation of Dem Elend Probesitzen.

Test-Driving Misery

[by Max Goldt; translated by Andrew Hammel]

I always wanted to visit Malta, even though everyone assured me that this island was more built-up than the Ruhr Valley – primarily with majestic, towering churches which resemble each other to a painful degree.  They also said that there was almost nothing to eat except chips and, at the beginning of the day, burned English toast with butter that runs down your shirt-sleeve.  And that there was nothing to do outside of swimming season except ride Malta’s legendary yellow buses from one storm-drenched village to the next, very similar, storm-drenched village. 

Unwilling to let my New Years’ plans be spoiled by the carping of these haughty globetrotters, I decided to just fly there. I must say, the warnings weren’t exactly wrong, aside from the point about the butter. What flew into my shirt-sleeve during breakfast was, namely, not butter, but rather a substance located in the domain of the substitute fats, and which was called “I can't believe it's not BUTTER." Should that have put me in hypercritical-consumer mood? Or should it have bothered me that on the very first morning, a slice of mortadella lay under our table? “Look! There’s cheap, ugly sausage under our table,” I said. To my satisfaction, my companion responded: “So? There’s also cheap, ugly sausage on the table, and that's what we're about to eat, my good man!”

Everything was much worse than it is at home. The miserable showerhead, for example, out of which one single tendril of water – noodle-thin, curled like a maiden's tresses, tasting of desalinization plant – more crawled than flowed. Hardly the thing for a cold-showering man accustomed to being drenched with strong, many-streamed flow.  Especially when he must twist to one side to foil the sucking, sticking, mildewed shower curtain’s attempts the claim his upper arm. The most important thing in a bathroom was entirely missing, namely space to set up the bottles and tubes in their accustomed order. Instead, they had to be arranged on the top of the toilet-tank.  No matter how skillfully that was done, as soon as the flush knob was touched, everything clattered to the floor, which was sprinkled with hairs from strangers' underbellies. No matter – the labels were read out and bottles put back in their place without grumbling. Nor was there any reason to complain about the small, old-fashioned bed, which was made with the kind of British corners that are rather unpopular in our culture. In the morning, you find the cover crumpled into a sausage-shape between your legs and register with horror that, in the last hours, you have been cuddling with this ancient, flowery bedcover, on which the odd impoverished English country squire may have bled to death. No, none of this could dampen our mood. Why? Was it perhaps the fantastic landscape or the cheerful local children that made up for these small inconveniences? Absolutely not! There was no landscape to speak of, since everything was packed full of little houses and factories ("Playmobil”, for example), and there people were as friendly as they are anywhere else. We felt a sense of purpose nevertheless: we were taking a vacation from the world of premium products. 

It is, of course, good to train one’s senses; to teach one’s tongue to distinguish that which is good from that which is less good. One could praise, as unqualified progress, the fact that a rather large selection of good chocolate has suddenly emerged in the past few years. But what of the man who can live only in castle hotels, and who throws a tantrum when his bread is not made from artisanal sourdough? What happens to him when he has to go to prison? There, you certainly aren’t going to find chocolate from “Hachez" or "Fedora."  "Milka" or "Stollwerck," if you’re lucky – and if not, an old, melted Santa figurine speckled with little pieces of red tinfoil, since the workers at the Santa-melting factory said: “The criminals can hardly expect us to pick out all the little pieces of foil for them.” So I advise you, once in a while, to eat some junk from the discount store, so you won't have such a hard time of it behind bars.

But even if you avoid prison, make no mistake: you’re certainly not going to be served Slow Food until the end of your days. One day, the transmission of life will start gasping even on slow inclines, and before you know it, “Bang!", „Radang!” and “Gong!” – 80 years have gone by. Next stop: retirement home! There, you will surely cuddle with many an unappetizing bedspread, and the cheese will certainly not come from “Manufactum.” In the morning, there will be two square, structureless slices, and the same thing every day at five for supper.  And thus it will continue, year-in, year-out. The brand of cheese will never change. Some people hang on 15 years in a retirement home. The slices start adding up. At the graveside, they'll say: “For most of his life, he was at home in the highest spheres of civilization. But for the past 15 years, he spent his time eating 21,900 slices of the cheapest cheese there is.” Can someone who has spent his time in the free world leading a sheltered life, refining his senses, face an end like this? To see, let us test-drive misery in a cheap hotel on a teeming Mediterranean island. Let us test how we tolerate small shocks to our social status.

We withstood it all without problems. If you can get nothing but a four-day-old chicken wrap, go visit some old ruin while you eat it – disgust mingled with boredom is, after all, still more appetizing than hunger. And don’t forget Malta’s wonderful buses. Maltese souvenir shops see these old British Leyland and Bedford buses as their main source of capital. This explains the bus-shaped bath-sponges, doormats, toasters, and hand-punishing bus-shaped corkscrews. All of the drivers sit on towels, like incontinent old women in a rest home. But man alive, can they drive! This deserves to be said this out loud, since, worldwide, far too few friendly observations are made about bus drivers. A friend once visited me and told me that one of our common acquaintances had a new boyfriend. She didn’t begrudge her friend the new happiness, she said, but you wouldn’t exactly call the new boyfriend good-looking. He looked like the drummer for the “Flippers,” or even like – and here she adopted a dramatic posture, to let me know that she would shortly be required to mention something even more unsightly than the drummer for the “Flippers” – “or even like a – bus driver!”  Far be it from me to chastise my friend for this nasty pigeonholing comparison – after all, I once said to a fellow TV-watcher, after seeing the much-sought-after trend researcher Matthias Horx: “He looks like a member of the Puhdys! Some trend researcher!" Strictly speaking, this was a superfluous jab, since every man of a certain age comes to look like a member of the “Puhdys.”  The Great Mother will have it so. Thus it comes to pass that the Botox capsule slips from the toilet lid and smashes to pieces on the tile floor, so that its contents shall become one with the mass of shed body-hair. Honor the Great Mother! But wash every day.

Maltese bus drivers don’t need to be botoxed. Some of them seemed to be to be just 16 years old, and they certainly weren’t afraid to pump some fresh Mediterranean testosterone into the gas pedal. A minimum age for bus drivers apparently does not exist on Malta, but then again neither do certain other things, such as forests or divorces. And we’re letting this sort of country into the EU lately! The chauffeurs often receive laddish reinforcement in the form of ticket inspectors of the same age who jump into the moving bus (since the doors never close) and, without so much as a “Hello" or “How are you?”, bark "Tickets!" at the passengers, in exactly the same tone in which, somewhere else, you might hear "Jewelry, cash, watches – pronto!" The mugging-like ticket checks inflicted by these human whelps are among the most exquisite experiences Malta has to offer. The problem, though is that neither the bus-stops nor the buses themselves tell you where the buses go. We wanted to go from Naxxar to Marsaxlokk, but watched, to our dismay, as the bus rolled to a stop before the gate of Mdina, Malta’s historic capital.

"But we just did a complete tour of Mdina yesterday!” said my companion. “No matter," I replied. “Don’t you remember the old After-Eight ad on television? A married couple from the English upper classes sees some act of insubordination. The man says to his wife: ‘Let us pretend we didn’t notice.’ We shall do the same. We’ll just amble through the city a second time and say: ‘Let us pretend we didn’t notice it yesterday!’”

This we did. Experiences must be repeated in order to be properly evaluated. When you taste cheese or a fruit for the first time, it’s unwise to rely on your first impression. To recognize distinctive qualities of art or of food, you must carefully arrange a series of tests. Wait a few weeks, and then bite in again with renewed energy! It took me about five test-runs before I could determine whether I liked a Tamarillo (yes) or a Cherimoya (no). It’s the same with places. The student with the Santa hat, grim reaper’s scythe, and judge’s robe, who was handing out flyers for a multivision torture show, was the same one we saw the day before.  However, the first time around Mdina Cathedral, we hadn’t noticed that the Christ child rests on a bed of germinating sprouts.  

Bus after bus, day after day, the week crept by in its middling way. “The sausage will be definitely there again,” you told yourself in the shower, and were never disappointed. Faithful and sweating, it sat there, alone, in five-kilo piles at the buffet.  We placed it upon our cottony rolls and chewed it, silent and without expectation, like peasants in a 19th-century painting.  If we had stayed seven weeks instead of seven days, not only would we surely have forgotten that the salmon in the luxury hotel didn’t taste any better, but the very flame of cultural critique would have died out within us. Then, we could have allowed ourselves and the years to flow gently away, perhaps not without some intermittent pleasures, when they come once in a while to open the window or wash us.

In Which I Rocket to Superstardom

Those of my readers who are subscribers to Titanic, the essential accessory for positive-plus top-lifestyle hyperachievers like us (you are Titanic subscribers, aren’t you?) may already have seen that Max Goldt has seen fit to mention GJ in his piece of the real estate.  Indeed, he’s paid this blog the ultimate compliment of taking a few weak, half-baked meanderings spewed out here and turning them into something actually worth reading.  Many thanks.

To welcome the shiny new reader(s) that will stop by in the next few days, I’ve planned a very special series of ultra-accessible posts.  Stay tuned for selections from dictionaries of German prison slang and obscene words, and uncensored pictures of an actual unopened book about a French Catholic reactionary!  Can you feel the Germanjoysmentum?

P.S.  For the worthless parasites out there who have not yet subscribed to Titanic, you may — nay, must — repent, posthaste.

Max Goldt Treasury: Stubble Envy

And now, another in an occasional series of translations of essays by Max Goldt! A short introduction to the man’s work can be found here.

Stubble Envy

by Max Goldt (translation by Andrew Hammel)

Two phenomena are commonly described as five-o’clock shadow. A man runs warm water to thumb-depth in the sink, plugs it, wets the shaving-brush, and washes the stubble off in the water. After the shave, he unplugs the sink, and a film of soap and stubble remains in the sink. This is the sink’s five-o’clock shadow. It’s unpopular. What more can be said?

Perhaps that some men “shed needles.” Women who have hairy men sometimes sigh as they glance at the shower or the sheets: “He’s a nice guy, but he really sheds. A Christmas tree has nothing on him.”

Shaving-brushes also lose hairs. Those are badger hairs which lay this way and that in the five-o’clock shadow. You’ll only believe this if you know that, for a modest wage, people in workshops for the blind bundle the badger hairs together to make shaving brushes. There are also some brushes with synthetic hair, but you don’t help blind people if you buy those; and there are also some made from chamois hair, but they are so expensive it seems a shame to get them wet.  For eight hours, man lies around in blankets made of goose-plumage – then, two minutes later, grooms himself with badger-coat. Horst Tappert actually sleeps nine hours, as one can read in the papers.

Here’s my advice to a Vegan who can no longer rock the house by declaring that he doesn’t wear leather shoes and or even eat honey (since these examples are too well-known). Next time, announce: “I don’t even use a shaving brush made from badger hair.” Nobody’s ever said that in a talk show before. Whoever says it for the first time will rock the house just like way back when, when everyone said: “Wha-a-t? Not even eggs?”

As yet, nobody’s made a religion out of the question whether it’s better to shave before or after a shower. I’d say: After the shower is better, then you can dry off without skin-irritating rubbing. If somebody answers that it’s better to do it before the shower – since nice hard jets of water slapping against freshly-shorn skin are good for the pores – I would try to look interested. In any case, I’d stay calm and, at the very most, let my foot fidget nervously – and thus not break out screaming.

It’s easier to shape your identity around the question whether you prefer to shave wet or dry. Men over 60, especially those from the not exactly high-income social strata, are most likely to reach for the electric shaver. When they were young, these men saved up for an auto, or at least a moped – they saved and saved – but it was never enough, so they just bought an electric shaver. It was thought modern back then, and had the status of an “acquisition.”  To “acquire” things of lasting worth was the highest priority in the post-war years. Later, people just began to put disposable stuff into their pre-furnished houses. The new album from Slade – in the ‘70s, you didn’t acquire it, you scored it.

When these men, who are now over 60, finally did buy an auto, they were already used to the electric shaver. Thus, none of them said: “Well, now I’ve got a car, I can actually shave with water again.” They hadn’t paid enough attention to the arc of their lives, and didn’t grasp the context.

Men who are in touch with the modern world generally prefer wet shaving today. It no longer counts as masculine, in the classical sense, to cart some quietly humming device around one’s face. Further, the wet shaver enjoys the advantage of washing his face at least once during the day, without having to specially think about it. Of course, for more complex beard-shearing, you’ve also got the electric sideburn-trimmer and all manner of millimeter-calibrated special devices. Politicians, executives, and other men who have to appear in public in the evening have long made do with the compromise solution favored by the much-photographed: In the morning, a complete wet shave; and in the evening, in the limousine, a quick electric touch-up.

This process is, however, only necessary for dark-haired men with a dark five-o’clock shadow. I suppose you could say that sink-film is, perhaps, only a secondary thing you think of when you think about five-o’clock shadow. You’re more likely to think of the dark little dots that mark a man’s visage after the up-and-coming beard has been removed – that is, the sort of poppy-seed effect that comic strip authors used to portray criminal types such as safecrackers, from which you could see that a thick beard connoted a certain dubiousness of character. Here, one sees the Anglo-Saxon’s fear of all things Mediterranean, indeed perhaps even of Arabs.

Now, however, you see dark-haired men everywhere. You’ve also probably taken a vacation or two. From all this vacation-taking and gazing upon the evenly-laid out black dots as you buy your vegetables arises the (not previously) so-called stubble envy.

Men envy each others’ cars, women, positions, and money. They show this by becoming either aggressive or ironic. The envy of Mediterranean stubble, however, is a secret envy, of which no-one dare speak. Light-haired men, who may have only islands of beard growth, often gaze with much “I want that too” on the “perfectly-mown masculine flower-meadow” on the face of a Southerner. It’s totally okay, in fact it’s pleasant, that nobody talks about this. However, when you’re sitting in the train and the door opens, whereupon a man whose name is “Herr Yildiz” enters to ask for your tickets, it’s not wrong to think that all those dots Herr Yildiz wears on his face are actually pretty damned stylish.

[Source: Max Goldt, Für Nächte am offenen Fenster, pp. 19-22] 

Max Goldt Treasury: Weapons for El Salvador

Well, Max Goldt is visiting Duesseldorf on his barnstorming tour of Germany and has sold out zakk. What better time for the next installment of our occasional series ‘The Max Goldt Treasury’? First installment (and short intro) here, second installment here.

Weapons for El Salvador

Sometime’s life’s a bitch. You come back home late at night and put your bag down where you always put it, but then realize that this isn’t possible, because the bag is gone. That’s like getting hit by a bear’s paw. You open the door and, to exaggerate a bit, a brown bear in your apartment roars: “Where the hell is your bag?” You get a sudden hot flash, like a woman in menopause, and you begin feeling your own body to see whether your bag might be hanging from one or another of its parts. But it’s gone, it’s somewhere else – where? In the bar? In the taxi? And what was in the bag? This is bad. Loss researchers from 16 countries compare the loss of a bag with the loss of hair, honor, watch, and homeland – in fact, all of them at the same time. Other researchers compare the loss of a bag to the extinction of the eagle owl, but these scientists are considered lightweights in the loss-research scene. Hair grows back, you can admire eagle owls in the zoo, and you can restore your honor by scraping pigeon droppings from the balconies of manic-depressive women. And plenty of people found a new homeland right there in the country they’d been abducted into. A bag, however, stays gone, and never comes back.

I lived through something just as awful: the loss of an almost completely full notebook. When you’ve got two seats free in a train, you naturally tend to spread all your junk around in the free seat. Recently, as I reached my destination, I had forgot that at the start of my journey, I’d written something in my small notebook and then laid it on the neighboring seat. I then proceeded to pile the seat high with newspapers, orange peels, and chocolate-drink packages. Later, they all ended up in the janitor’s garbage bag along with my notebook. A shame, because this book contained the sketch of a wonderful story that I’ll never be able to recapture. Roughly, it goes a bit like this: John Lennon, four weeks before his death, happened to be filmed by a Japanese television crew at the post office, withdrawing $15 million from his savings account.  He wanted to buy weapons for El Salvador, which was very much the done thing in 1980. I still remember discussions with a left-wing friend, who wasn’t rich at all, but who had given 1000 Deutschmarks to the “Weapons for El Salvador” campaign. This completely puzzled me. Remember that in 1980, I paid only 179 Deutschmarks in rent. People assured me El Salvador could be helped only with weapons, and they accused me of political ignorance.

John Lennon wanted to buy $15 million worth of weapons and, as I’ve said, it was pure chance that he was filmed withdrawing the money. The Japanese only wanted to make a film about how average Americans withdraw money from their bank accounts, and didn’t even recognize John Lennon. And really, when you looked at John Lennon, he was a pretty unspectacular lanky, stoop-shouldered guy. The film was never shown on Japanese television, because Tenno, the elderly Japanese emperor, didn’t like the subject. So the movie disappeared into Japanese television’s legendary soundproof basement labyrinth. After old Tenno Hirohito died in 1989, the new Tenno Akihito, as a kind of act of rebellion, watched all the movies that his father didn’t like. There was a lot of sheer crap in there, such as a two-hour special about a married couple from Ludwigshafen on the Rhine who, for 25 years, vacationed at Ludwigshafen on Lake Constance. Just by chance, the wife explained, "not because the name was the same." Their cousin had inherited a vacation house there, and all they really needed to do was co-ordinate vacation dates with her. “But it’s still strange,” the husband added, “before, when we still used to take the train there, the conducted sometimes grinned and said: ’Well, these two seem to be traveling from Luwigshafen to Ludwigshafen!’” Sometimes, everyone in the train smiled. But that’s all in the past; we’ve started driving there five years ago.”

Unfortunately, the interviewer didn’t ask the couple whether now, the entire Autobahn smiled. Talk about no sense of humor. No wonder Emperor Hirohito didn’t like the piece. Nor did he like the film named Two Pairs of Shoes are Two-and-a-Half Pairs of Shoes. First, the film proved that a pair of shoes worn every day lasts six months. However, if you alternate between two pairs of shoes, the entire lifespan of both pairs is not twelve months, but rather fifteen. If you have three pairs of shoes, you’ll have something to wear not just for eighteen months but actually twenty-four – that is, three pairs of shoes are four pairs of shoes. Maybe Imelda Marcos saw this show, which would explain her shoe addiction. She thought: Three thousand pairs of shoes are eleven thousand four hundred pairs of shoes! I described fourteen of these films in my notebook, but unfortunately I can’t remember the other twelve in sufficient detail. I suppose it might keep the narrative trim if I skip these twelve movies – most of which were horrible anyway – and just announce right now that the Emperor finally got to the savings-account movie, recognized John Lennon, and said:  “Wow! That’s really a nice little historical document, that’s ‚popular culture.’ I’m going to give it to UNESCO.”

Tenno turned to his chambermaid and said: “Birgit, gift-wrap this.” The chambermaid came from Denmark or Sweden. The actual country she came from was in my lost notebook, and I can’t reconstruct it exactly anymore, no matter how much I detest having to deliver this slap in the face to my public, which is licking its lips in hunger for detail. The name “Birgit” was also kind of improvised in all the note-remembering excitement. But what I definitely do know is that the Danish or Swedish chambermaid studied at the court of Regensburg and was therefore quite familiar with the manners of western civilization. Thus she said to the Emperor: “When one seeks to transfer an invaluable cultural treasure to an international organization, that’s not a present, it’s a donation. That’s kind of like the difference between a move and a resettlement. When you move from Bochum to Dortmund, that’s a move, but when you move to another continent, one uses the word ‘resettlement.’ And just as you don’t organize a resettlement with a bunch of college students, you don’t gift-wrap a ‚donation.’ For a donation, you’ve got to have official certificates in a folder wrapped with cord, and for the donation itself, you’ve got to have a custom-made case lined with red velvet. Plus, there’s got to be a nice coat of arms on the cover.”

“OK, but which coat of arms?” Akihito called.

“Damned if I know, whatever coat of arms you want,” answered the chambermaid, whose cheekiness hadn’t been entirely suppressed by years of Regensburg discipline. The Emperor went into the library and started rummaging through heraldic encyclopedias in the flickering torchlight. What he finally chose was the coat of arms of the city of Berlin. Not because he had any ties to Berlin, but because the unnatural way the Berlin bear walked reminded him comfortingly of the unnatural way some Japanese women walk. A bit strange, but who can probe the erotic depths of the psyche of Asian royalty? Perhaps the weak, flickering torchlight also had something to do with it. Well, whatever the explanation: The Berlin Bear decorated the donation case in which the John Lennon movie was sent to UNESCO. At UNESCO, though, nobody recognized John Lennon. They thought the film was some kind of boring, violence-free bank robbery. They decided to return the donation. However, the Emperor made the stupid mistake, also pretty common in Germany, of putting the sender’s address on the outside of the package, but nowhere inside. Of course, the shipping box had long since been thrown away by the time the UNESCO experts viewed the film. What’s more, the Swedish or Danish chambermaid had accidentally packed the donation certificate under the red velvet, where the protectors of cultural heritage didn’t think to look. After all, you can’t lift up everything in the world and look under it to see what’s there. The UNESCO people did notice the Berlin Bears, though, and send the historical film material to the Berlin City Council. That was at the beginning of 1990.

The mayor back then, Momper, was super-busy with the recent fall of the Wall, and didn’t know what to do with the package. Therefore, he instructed his lackeys to send it to the Beatles Museum in Liverpool. In Liverpool, however, they were disgusted with the Japanese stamps on the box: “Ugh, that must have something to do with Yoko Ono, and we don’t fancy her here at all.” — Of course, that’s a logical mistake, since, as I remarked a few lines ago, the UNESCO had already thrown away the original Japanese package. In my little notebook, there was a truly majestic and critic-suffocating explanation of how the Japanese stamps suddenly reappeared, but what can I say? The notebook’s lost forever. So the Beatles Museum sent the film to Yoko Ono in New York. When the mailman came, however, Yoko Ono happened to be out at a guitar auction. Later, she had to go to the post office with the delivery notice in her hand. Now here comes the truly magical occurrence – the key that finally brings everything full-circle: The post office in which Yoko Ono was now standing was exactly the same post office in which John Lennon, just ten years earlier, had withdrawn money from his savings account.  Of course, the clerks had diametrically different haircuts, the blinds had a more tasteful pattern, but it was still pretty much the same post office. Yoko Ono, however, didn’t know this!

What kind of emotional thunderstorm would have rumbled in this woman’s breast if she had been able to murmur to herself: “I am standing here in the post-office and will shortly take delivery of a film in which my deceased husband can be seen standing in the same post-office”? Presumably, Yoko Ono has never seen the film, because this woman, who’s always being denounced for her greed, has yet to demand the $15 million back from El Salvador. Maybe she left the package in some bar, and never thought about it again.

Losing a package with unknown contents is less painful than losing a bag, not to mention a notebook whose incomplete skeletal remains I’ve just been scratching out of my memory. The whole story was glamorous and filled with twists and turns, but it is lost for ever. There was a lindworm in there somewhere, but in what context? Catherine Deneuve also played a role. She was standing in a smoke-filled bar in Tel Aviv and singing a breathy blues number called ‘Monika Hohlmeier, Barefoot Tyrant of the North.’ She earned plenty of applause from the Israelis, along with cries of “Bravo, Bravo!” and even “Logical, Logical!” But why? Monika Hohlmeier is the daughter of Franz Josef Strauß, she wears shoes just like the rest of us, and I have no idea whether she’s ever tyrannized anyone, much less the North. How did Catherine Deneuve come to portray Ms. Hohlmeier as a monster – especially in a blues song, a musical genre which had never yet been used to monsterize Bavarian politicians? And what actually happened to El Salvador? Were the weapons any use?

[Source: Fuer Naechte am offenen Fenster: Die Prachtvollsten Texten von 1987-2002, pp. 307-313, Rowohlt Verlag, 3rd. ed. 2005]

Max Goldt Treasury: Intact Abdomen Thanks to Cool Behavior

A few months ago, I translated an essay by Max Goldt, a German writer of prose pieces and comic strips. (The link above also contains a bit more of an introduction.) The response was encouraging, so here’s another short essay.

I hope I don’t need to remind readers that the original is funnier, nuances have been lost in translation, etc. (If you lot would just hurry up and learn German, I could go back to cultivating my beloved shelf fungi).

Without further ado, I give you:

Intact Abdomen thanks to Cool Behavior

by Max Goldt (translation by Andrew Hammel)

As a supporter of the environment, I am also a great friend of animals. If I see a fellow citizen approaching a kitten with a hedge-trimmer or saxophone, I call out: “No, my good man!” We all understand this. However, on the whole, animals are not as popular as animal shows on television. When you crack open a hazelnut and sees a maggot’s sickly grimace instead of the hoped-for nature-snack, joie de vivre takes a short break. Don’t start yelling at the maggot right then — as we all know, it will one day develop into one of those precious and irreplaceable fellow-creatures which circle around idiotically in front of your mouth. It is unnecessary to treat lowly worms and the like with kid-gloves. The ecological balance is not a house of cards that will collapse if you squash a fly sitting on top of it. The beasts just love to sit on houses of cards anyway. So, I routinely squash unwanted flies, and hear nary a peep from my conscience. (Invited flies, of course, receive different treatment.)

We humans are just that way. If a million mites are going lip-smackingly about their daily business in our carpets, we would hardly be demoralized to find out that their population had been halved by a mite-world natural disaster. It doesn’t matter how “whole-earth” a nature-lover thinks – the tears that run down his cheeks after he squashes a silverfish in the bathroom will dry faster than those he cries after accidentally shooting a Siberian tiger in the bathtub.

How would the animal shelter employee look if you brought her a huge family of maggots milling about in a piece of liverwurst? I think she’d throw a fine fit! Thus, it would be an appropriate sign of sincerity if the local SPCA changed its name to “Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Generally Regarded as Nice.” Furry, cute, feathered, or at least rare – that’s how animals have to be if they wish to enjoy the undivided favor of us humans. There’s also a minimum-size requirement – you can’t really sympathize through a magnifying-glass.

But what happens when mice drop by? They’re, like, totally cute and can be seen with the naked eye. Theoretically, they should be popular. In practice, however, nobody likes them, because they shit in the Mozzarella, and that gives you cholera. Just because of their cute little eyes, though, the purchase of mousetraps is accompanied by nagging scruples. I’ve just read in the magazine nature about a woman who found a way out of this dilemma purely by chance. Not only did she have mice – as if that weren’t enough by itself – but also a son, and it was his birthday. He wanted a drum-set, got one, and began practicing diligently. The mice didn’t like it and left the house. Whereupon the mother set pen to paper and wrote a letter to nature on the theme of ecologically responsible mouse-persecution.

And what about spiders? Here, I advise you to remain calm. They’ll never be able to open the mozzarella package – they’re too delicately-built. They’re also too elegant to be really gruesome. Their legs are really nothing more than glorified pubic hairs. “Glorified pubic hairs?” I hear the critics calling. “More glorious than your pubic hair, maybe, but not ours!” Oh, alright, then – they’re not as glorious as pubic hairs. If you can get a spider to sit up and beg, though, it looks like a can-can dancer from a Toulouse-Lautrec painting. That’s certainly a more pleasant sight than critics’ pubic hairs. Unfortunately, spiders don’t consist solely of these dainty pubic hairs. Right there, where other people have their rear ends, there’s a rather unpleasant black ball called an abdomen, where spiders keep their guts. Because nothing ruins a cozy atmosphere faster than watching these guts soak into your natural-fiber carpet, one normally doesn’t squash spiders. I personally remain utterly cool when a spider pays me a visit. When a Czech farce has just begun on TV and I see a spider on the wall, I first watch the rest of the show, turn off the TV, and calmly drink a glass of lemonade. Only then do I scream in simulated horror: “Eek! A spider!“ I take a post-card and a sheet of paper. With the postcard, I scratch the eight-legged guest from the carpet, so that he tumbles onto the sheet of paper, and then – wuppdiwupp!* – straight out the window. Clean wall thanks to intact abdomen, intact abdomen thanks to cool behavior.

Because the media seems to be running out of actual news to report, one sees recently more and more stories about a trend toward ‘insect cuisine’. Insects, they say, are cheap protein-bombs that go easy on the cholesterol. In big cities, there are supposedly specialty restaurants already. Certainly, there must be spider dishes available there. (Yes, I know, spiders aren’t insects, but does the average chef know that?) You can just imagine it: fresh-squeezed spider-abdomen juice. Or spider-abdomen salad. At this point, I’d like to ask readers who feel obliged to use the phrase „spider-abdomen salad” in my presence to do so neither frequently nor loudly. Normally, I favor subjecting people who want to forbid the use of words like “fatherland” or “genuine concern” to unforgiving mental-competence tests. But I find “spider-abdomen salad” even worse than “risk-group” or “Power-Woman.”

Another word that tends to evoke a frown is barnacle semen. Recently, a nature film shamelessly glorified barnacles as the animals with the biggest penis-to-rest-of-body ratio in the entire animal kingdom. The penises looked like Chinese noodles. You saw close-ups of these wart-like creates waving their noodles about, and then, of course, the semen came shooting out, right into the nice clean water – and all this at 8:30 in the evening, when many children were still awake. Perhaps it’s not the melting poles that are causing the rise in sea-level, but rather the libidos of barnacles. Come to think of it, the water seemed a little slippery last time I was at the beach. ‘Good God’, I wondered, ‘is Sylt Island is going to be swallowed-up by barnacle semen?’ Can there be a nastier prospect? But of course! Anal sex with borrowed mummies. Sex with mummies is a pretty cringe-worthy subject in itself, but anal sex with mummies that don’t even belong to you is, without a doubt, the ne plus ultra.

I hereby advise all readers never to loan out their mummies. Even the best of friends are never totally sincere about their tendencies.

[Source: Goldt, M., ‘Intaktes Abdomen dank coolem Verhalten’ in Für Nächte am offenem Fenster: Die Prachtvollsten Texten von 1987-2002, pp. 333-37]

* Left in original. Now you know the German word for "to throw a spider out the window."

German Joys Uncut: On Film Music

And now for something very special. A project I’ve been working on for the past month or so. An entire, uncut essay by Max Goldt.

English-speakers are asking: ‘Who is Max Goldt?’

He is a respectable-looking young man in his early 40s. Judging from the readings I’ve been to, he’s partial to cordury jackets. You could call him the poet laureate of young, hip, well-educated, marginally-employed Germans, but he’d probably find that descrition pompous and trite. He writes essays and, in cooperation with comic-strip designer Katz, forms the ‘comic-duo’ Katz und Goldt (G). Here are a few of their T-shirts (G), which bear slogans like "Wasps – Your Reliable Partner When It Comes to Wasp-Stings"; "Hay Fever is like Rock ‘n Roll for the Nose",  and "At a certain age, the only option left for meeting new people is to give birth to some."

There’s no real way to convey Goldt’s peculiar genius; but you might say he lives in a German-speaking neighborhood a few exits down from S.J. Perelman and Glenn O’Brien, where there are strange murals on the walls and bohemian-looking beggars. Better to just read a bit of Goldt and craft your own analogies. That’s hard for non-German speakers to do, because I don’t believe anything of his has been translated into English, more’s the pity. So I translated* this essay, from the July Titanic (G) magazine:

On Film Music: Or more Precisely, on Television Music

It is the year of our Lord 900, or, as it was called in East Germany, “according to our calendar.” On an island off the Welsh coast live two wise, holy women who are bound to each other by two things, namely: a) a life-long enmity; and b) blazing physical desire. On an autumn night which is stormy even by Irish Sea standards, the two women completely independently search out an ancient Celtic grave-site, to solve a folk-mystery whose origins – even back then – were lost in the mists of time. A fearful battle ensues under an oak whose trunk splits at 30 feet. During the battle, deep, probing kisses alternate with millimeter-precise fist-blows. After both achieve a simultaneous sexual climax, one tries to wall the other into a dungeon, so that she will wither away gruesomely. The other, however, happens to have exactly the same idea. Something happens which never happened before in the entire early middle ages: Two women wall each other into the exact same tower. They die slowly of thirst, hideously cursing their fate from within their respective chambers. Moss and owls, but also spiders, as well as greedy Time, Space’s sometimes-unfriendly colleague, do their worst.

1104 years later, the Hamburg journalist, moderator, cat-raiser, bar-owner, foot-jewelry designer and, of course, author Heidi Würsel spreads the just-described dramatic material over 800 pages, to “float a few toads.” “Floating toads” – in her private jargon, this is how she refers to the profits from the activity that, in interviews, she calls “writing really exciting and, most importantly, historically credible entertainment”, but which, among friends, she calls her “bread job.” That is, that’s what she calls it when she’s in command of her senses, which, thank God, she usually is. However, when she’s among her very innermost circle of friends and the partying’s been serious, and lasts not just “a little longer” but into the wee hours, it can happen that she calls the bread job “throwing together a bunch of literary garbage for fat women,” but that doesn’t happen so often, so the other members of her posse say nothing more than that she can be “deliciously incorrect,” which of course is really the most ‘super-refreshing’ thing about Heidi. She sticks the dough from the “nicely lesbianized Middle-Ages plot” into the restyling of the Bali-Lounge of her restaurant “Schinkenkeller” on the island of Sylt, whose regulars include her half sister, the not-yet-very renowned sports car restorer, but already internationally renowned rock-garden expert – and, of course author – Eileen Würsel-Ahmadenijad, and the film and television composer – but recently almost completely television composer – Henner Larsfeld.

Everyone knows each other in this small circle, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone, at least insiders, that Larsfeld got the commission to deliver the music for the multi-million dollar TV film of the Würsel material.

Henner Larsfeld sits with his laptop in the kitchen. “I usually compose in the kitchen,” he would say in interviews, if he ever gave any, but he doesn’t, because he just absolutely hates to “make himself naked” in front of a bunch of gawkers.  Once in a while, though, he imagines that he’s sitting in a talk show, and says, very calmly, in a casual masculine tone, that he usually composes his music only in his kitchen. He says this first because it’s true, and second because he can imagine that the talk-show host would reply, excitedly: “What?! This fantastic, dramatic music? Composed in the kitchen, next to the onions and the greasy Teflon pans?” That’s totally incredible!” And then all the housewives in the live audience: “This man’s fantastic! He composes this music with church choirs and giant symphonies just like it was nothing, right there in his own kitchen!”

So, Henner Larsfeld sits in his kitchen, which theoretically could be described as fascinating. He’d really like to go to the sea with Eileen, Heidi’s sister, and get hammered. But first, she’s got to "de-rust" as she calls it, an "incredibly exciting 1965 Lamborghini", and second, Larsfeld has only 24 hours’ time to supply a 90-minute television mystery-thriller with an appropriate soundtrack. How he hates the word “de-rust”! But he’s not afraid of the soundtrack-writing. He’s always been able to fulfill any job within 24 hours with ¾ of a tablet of Lexotanil and regulated wine-intake. Nothing serious – no cocaine or anything – just Lexotanil, which any doctor will prescribe. But he’s not looking forward to it. He looks over at the good old sound-sample CDs that his old friend Björn burned for him nine years ago, when they both staged an event which was – not at all ironically – called an “evening for friends of elegant electronic entertainment” in the Podewil Club in Berlin. The audience was students with time-consumingly selected glasses and city-hoppers with retro wool caps.

That was 1997, and Larsfeld still uses the Björn-created sound files. On one CD “Monk Choirs” is written, on the other “Humming Sounds – Extreme Reverb.”

“I’ve done 134 TV jobs with this sound software already,” Larsfeld ruminates, “three ‘Crime Scene’ detective shows, 21 nature or geography films, and 60 history documentaries. Of these, three were about Egypt, seven about the Vikings, three about the 17th of June, four about the 20th of July, ten about the 13th of August, 11 about the 9th of November, and two, as long as we’re counting, about the 11th of September. I always used the same sounds, with one single exception: For a 30-second spot about Adam Riese, I though ‘hey, why not give yourself a challenge. Try some new software, mix in some crumhorn and dice-noises.’ But then the woman from TV mailed me and said that wasn’t what they had in mind. So back to the old monk-choirs and humming sounds. The reaction: ‚Totally exciting! Unbelievably atmospheric! Why didn’t you send us this the first time?’ It’s all so sad and ridiculous – the 17th of June and monks’ choirs! Naturally, for contemporary history I add a pair of alienating sound-filters, so the choirs sound a little rougher, less choir-y, a little bit like scratchy strings. You know, so they sound more ‘political.’ But it’s actually the exact same original material. The fact nobody notices, the fact that no viewer has ever complained – man, that’s really depressing.” 

The telephone rings. It’s Eileen. “Hey, let’s drive to the ocean tomorrow and get smashed! Should we take the Ferrari or the yellow Lotus? Too bad the Lamborghini hasn’t been de-rusted yet!” Larsmann replies: “Eh, I dunno. I’m feeling kind of droopy right now, burn-out wise, you know. I’ve got the feeling I should do something that has more to do with what I started with ten or fifteen years ago.”

“Oh, come on!” Eileen replies. “Get the job done, then come have a blast with us! Do you really want to end up like Björn, teaching music theory and ear training twenty hours a week at the music school in Kreuzberg?”

“Well, not that, I guess, but there’s got to be some middle path between making serious money and doing what you really wanted to do.”

“Middle paths are for fairy tales! What, you think I could find some kind of middle path between rock-garden expert and sports-car restorer? Don’t you think it doesn’t annoy me to have to prattle on about these stupid rock-gardens during the ‘noon buffet’ TV show? Rock gardens have bored me to tears for about a hundred fucking thousand years now! These stupid old hags would puke the studio full, and I mean literally puke the studio full, if I told them anything about professional de-rusting. So what? That’s life! Shit happens!** So I’ll just take my rock-garden money and restore my Lamborghinis in my secret hideaway.”

Larsmann is convinced. He works the whole night through, delivers the product on time, as always, and drives with Eileen to drink himself silly by the side of the ocean. A smashing time was had by all. There are plenty of fantastic people there. Some are talented hacks, some are just ordinary people who don’t take everything so bloody seriously, and think plenty of things have changed for the better in Germany over the past few years. The Germans have become so relaxed! There’s no country in the world where people put as many chairs on the sidewalk as in Germany!

The film adaptation of the Welsh drama is a huge hit with the audience. The TV station commissions a sequel that plays in the year 1520. The two walled-in holy women have returned to life and begin a years-long trek through central Europe. Throughout the whole journey, they must suppress their alternating hatred and sexual appetite for one another. Often, they’ve got to combat both at the exact same time, while simultaneously jumping over slippery rocks in the middle of a treacherous stream. In a mystery-cave decked out with lots of convincing special-effect moss, they meet a disowned sister of the Swiss reformer Huldrych Zwingli and do something or other with her. In the capsule description, there will be two thumbs up under the words “Exciting” and “Sexy.” So, without giving away any spoilers, I’ll just say there’s something for every taste.

But you can pretty much imagine how the music will sound.

* This translation is furnished free of charge to all, for educational purposes only, in the name of fostering Max-Goldt-related understanding among the peoples of the world.

** These three phrases are in English in the original.