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About the Author

Image credit: Klaus Baum - 2008

Works by Peter Bichsel

There Is No such Place As America: Stories (1971) 153 copies, 4 reviews
Il lettore, il narrare (1984) 32 copies
Zur Stadt Paris (1993) 26 copies
Die Jahreszeiten (1967) 19 copies
Schulmeistereien (1985) 19 copies
Möchten Sie Mozart gewesen sein? (1990) — Author — 9 copies
Dezembergeschichten (2007) 8 copies
Über das Wetter reden (2015) 7 copies, 2 reviews
Stockwerke : Prosa (1974) — Author — 6 copies
Kolumnen, Kolumnen (2005) 5 copies
Eisenbahnfahren (Insel-Bücherei) (2002) — Author — 4 copies
Die Totaldemokraten (1998) 3 copies
Yodok (2010) 2 copies
Mes voyages chez Cordes (2007) 2 copies
Prosinačke priče (2008) 1 copy
Cosa de niños (1973) 1 copy
Cosa De Ninos (1985) 1 copy

Associated Works

The Tanners (1985) — Afterword, some editions — 476 copies, 13 reviews
Ruckzuck: Die schnellsten Geschichten der Welt II (2008) — Author, some editions — 6 copies
Fiction, Volume 6, Number 1 — Contributor — 1 copy


Common Knowledge



Sitzt du bequem? Then I'll begin…. The stories in this charming collection are written in the style of children's fables – which is fortunate for me, since my reading level in German is approximately that of a slow ten-year-old. (I was alarmed here to encounter the word Kranschiffwagenzieherkleiderwagenzieher, meaning ‘the person who pulls the wagon which is carrying the clothes of the person pulling the wagon that holds the boat that carries the crane’.) At any rate, the content is for all ages, and Swiss author Peter Bichsel uses the register very cleverly as a way of asking deceptively complex questions.

The characters in these tales are all fretting about knowledge – what they know, and how they know what they know. In one, a man sets off to walk around the world, just to prove that he will in fact end up back where he started; in another, a boy named Columbus invents a country called ‘America’, and is baffled when explorers promptly go out and find it – he can never be sure, afterwards, if the people who say they've been there are making it up or not.

Throughout, there is a Wittgensteinian sense of how shaky language is as a basis for knowing things. A character in one story gradually replaces every word in his vocabulary with his mysterious uncle's name, ‘Jodok’. Elsewhere, a man starts to swap words around: he calls a bed a picture, a man a foot, freezing he calls looking, standing he calls browsing, and so on, so that a description of his morning routine begins:

Am Mann blieb der alte Fuß lange im Bild läuten, um neun stellte das Fotoalbum, der Fuß fror auf und blätterte sich auf den Schrank, damit er nicht an die Morgen schaute.

[In the man, the old foot rang in picture for a long time; at nine o'clock the photograph album put, and the foot froze up and browsed on the fridge so his mornings wouldn't look.]

This is somewhat reminiscent of the obscure Tom Stoppard play Dogg's Hamlet, which was also based on a thought experiment in Wittgenstein. But you don't need any philosophical background to enjoy these bite-sized little brain-scramblers – they're good clean epistomological fun for kids of all ages.
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1 vote
Widsith | 3 other reviews | Feb 13, 2019 |
21 very short, rather boring stories about loneliness.
edwinbcn | 2 other reviews | Jan 1, 2013 |
The short stories in Kindergeschichten are like children's stories, and if they are read by children, they would be children's stories. Why shouldn't adults read children's stories? Or are they stories, cleverly disguised as children's stories.

Reading Kindergeschichten is refreshing. The short, simple sentences, onomatopoeia, repetition, etc are like poetry.

The main character in the stories is somewhat ridiculous in his disbelief of well-known facts. His impossible plans, and his stubborn resolve. Just like children.

Children are never described as stupid. Readers can be like children within these stories and recapture some of that freedom, reading along.

Kindergeschichten by the Swiss author Peter Bichsel is a very small booklet, of just about 84 pages of large print. It was published in an English translation as There is no such place as America.
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edwinbcn | 3 other reviews | Aug 19, 2012 |
Very funny, surprising, thoughtful short stories that I'm sure to read to my children some day. The stories embrace a childlike imagination, curiosity, a naïvely innocent world-view. The questions and ideas that they present are timeless and very witty indeed. This must be inspired by actual children.
jmattas | 3 other reviews | Oct 5, 2009 |


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