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Nimm dein Leben in die Hand. Erzähler unserer Zeit. Nr. 4

by Rosemarie Rigol

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Nimm dein Leben in die Hand. Erzähler unserer Zeit. Nr. 4 is a collection of ten short stories by nine German authors, all published between 1945 and 1964. The publication, collected and edited by Rosemarie Rigol was aimed at German high school students. The introduction suggests that the theme of all stories is that of heroes, not in the sense of great men famed for heroic deeds, but the simple heroism of small acts by mostly young people, or teenagers. It is this kind of heroism which is needed, according to the introduction, to shed and free oneself from opinions and habits of old, and go a new road.

By far the best, and most impressive story in the collection is perhaps "Die Waage der Baleks" ("The Scales of the Baleks") by Heinrich Böll. In this story, a young man has the courage to expose the social injustice which has existed in his village for more than three generations.

Of particular interest, as it clearly reflects the poverty and scars of the Second World War within Germany, seem the first story in the collection. The title of this story by Paul Alverdes is given as "Die dritte Kerze" (The Third Candle"), however, this title seems to be either wrong, as that story was not published until 1966, or the title of the story was changed to the much more appropriate "Die Schlittschuhe" ("The Skates"). It is the story of a young man, possibly an orphan, who in great poverty accepts a harsh job. Unasked he borrows a pair of skates from his equally harsh landlady, and enjoys a wonderful afternoon which makes him forget all his troubles. However, he looses one of the skates and retrieving it becomes immersed in the ice-cold water, ruining his uniform. Back home, the old woman understands, and accepts him, almost as warmly as her lost son. The story breathes the atmosphere of grim poverty of the post-war years in Germany, the loneliness of individuals who have lost relatives.

Another story of deep poverty is the second story in the collection by Willy Kramp entitled "Das Geburtstagsgedicht" ("The Birthday Poem"). In this story progressive poverty shows how a family has less and less money to buy birthday presents for their children, until to their deepest shame, none is left to buy a present for their youngest daughter. However, their fear of deep humiliation before their daughter is dispelled by her light-hearted acceptance of a poem as a gift, followed by a torrent of "free things in life" to create happiness.

According to the colophon, and bibliographical references, Nimm dein Leben in die Hand. Erzähler unserer Zeit. Nr. 4 was published in 1964. However, the biographical information about the authors on the final three pages include the fact that Kasimir Edschmid died on 31 August 1966 in Vulpera (Switzerland), which means it wasn't actually printed and distributed until late 1966 or early 1967. Perhaps this explains the confusion over the title of the first story by Paul Alverdes. ( )
1 vote edwinbcn | Oct 6, 2012 |
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