I'm not sure I read every story in here, but I really enjoyed what I did read. Wegwerfgeschichten (‘Disposable Tales’) was the first non-poetry book I've read in German and it suited my purposes perfectly: the stories within are witty, conversational and very short, like tall stories told to you in a bar over a stein of Feldschlösschen. Many of them have fun with genre conventions – one, for instance, runs in its entirety:


All the evidence suggested that Slim Anton was responsible for the homicide of Sergeant Searle. His fingerprints had been found at the crime scene, some hairs from his left wrist adhered to the victim's wound, his alibi was implausible, and the Malay cudgel that had cost Sergeant Searle his life was a showpiece of Slim Anton's collection. Slim Anton was therefore arrested, confessed to the murder, and was sentenced to life in prison.

There is also a lot of linguistic playfulness, which appealed to me greatly. One of my favourite pieces, ‘Ectish’, which is like a kind of after-dinner story as told by Jorge Luis Borges, begins as follows:

Ectish is classed among the dead languages, and it seems to me to be the most interesting of all of them because it had only two words. The first of these is ‘m’ and the second ‘saskrüptloxptqwrstfgaksolömpääghrcks’. ‘M’ is feminine and means, ‘So what's going on now, then?’, and ‘saskrüptloxptqwrstfgaksolömpääghrcks’ is masculine and means, ‘Nothing’.

(If you're curious about pronunciation, you can hear Hohler reading ‘Ectish’ here.) Hohler is a cabaret performer, and many of these stories clearly started life as spoken-word pieces; there is a pleasantly direct, oral quality to almost all of them. Light, smart, and displaying a very dry, very Swiss sense of humour, this collection leaves me enthusiastic about reading a lot more of Hohler's extensive output.