It has to be said that the Germans get pretty bad press in the UK. A standing joke is that the Germans lack a sense of humour. But one of my favourite comedians, Horst Evers, is German. He has that self deprecating humour that the English are supposed to be famous for, but without the self conceit that accompanies some of the TV comics I have seen on British television. His humour is deadpan and he captures the narratives and absurdities of everyday life. Conversations overheard on a bus, the twilight zone of his flat, forays with the German unemployment office; and believe you me, if you can't laugh at this last point then you are done for.
Writing short stories and sketches about Berlin, he lived in the borough of Wedding for a while where we later moved to. This district in Berlin lay in the then untrendy traditionally working class district of Berlin, with a large population of migrants. After living in hyper trendy Prenzlauer Berg in the former East, I found it a relief to live in an area with a wider demographic and with a high street a bit like Lewisham High street in London. There were old people, poor people and a large Turkish immigrant population.
Wedding was one of those places that was for years threatening to come up, to arrive. From what I have heard, with the property boom in Berlin, it now very nearly has.
One of Horst Ever's first collection of short stories, with the ever so slightly ironic title :Wedding - 37 Stories about the Pearl of Berlin's Boroughs was given to me in 2001 when I first moved there, and again as a leaving present when I moved away in 2009. Horst Ever lived in Wedding when he first moved to Berlin, from 1987 - 1997.
I will try and translate a few of my favourite sketches:.
In chapter 4
Contact to the outside world
At the (Unemployment) office
The woman behind the counter has been staring at my identification for a good three minutes. At last she looks up.
"Strobinsky, Horst Strobinsky."
"Strobinsky. Horst Strobinsky."
"But it says here Evers, Horst Evers."
"What?! show me,..., ah, no that's right, it's written Evers, Horst Evers, but it is spoken Strobinsky, Horst Strobinsky"
"Oh. Can you spell that?"
Of course. E-V-E-R-S, Strobinsky, Horst Strobinsky."
In Chapter 2.
Germany. A country in crisis. Everywhere you look. demoralised faces. Alienated from life, prone to depression. No one strives to succeed, rolls their sleeves up, produces economic growth!
Have the Germans become lazy?
We wanted to investigate further and came across a shocking find. In the flat belonging to Horst Evers there has been hot wash in the machine for a week. Horst Evers had this to say: " I must have washed and spun it at least 30 times, otherwise it started to stink, but I just can't bring myself to hang it up. Oh well, at least in the end my underwear will be so clean, that everyone will be envious of me."
In Chaper 1
In the Night bus
Thursday morning, 3.14am, on the 26 night bus, on some dark street in Moabit.
On the seats in front of me sit two young men. Through their conduct and their gestures they make no secret of the fact that they are quite drunk. Actually, one of them is even more drunk that the other.
The other one starts a conversation:
"Hey mate, what d'ya think, we'll 'av another beer, before we knock off, Ok, hee hee hee hee?"
His neighbour stares at him.
Articulating more hastily this time, the first one makes another attempt,not at all bothered by the fact that his voice has become more of a hoarse shriek.
" of course, mate., you're right, but we can knock one more back , no problem, Zwitscherklause, it's on the way, your gonna come with me, eh? come with me, eh, heeheeheeheeheehee?"
A third run at it.
"We'll do it quick, no big deal, down a beer then hit the sack, eh? We'll do it, eh? We'll do it, eh, heeheeheeheehee?"
Suddenly the head of his friend, who has struggled to get a word out, sinks forward and vomits arduously into his rucksack.
Blankly, the the other one looks on.
"Hey, mate. Is that a yes or a no?"
Horst Evers started reading out his short stories 1990 in cabaret theatre in Berlin and now reads his short stories regularly on Berlin radio, has written many more books, and audiobooks.