Stefanie Golisch







from: Il mestiere di vivere







A middle-aged man, kind and peaceful by

nature, is packing his bags. When everything

is stored properly, he pauses, takes a seat

on the edge of the bed, then starts slowly

to empty his poor luggage. The train is

supposed to leave at noon, but he can’t tear

the eyes away from the still life, arranged

around him by a refined Flemish painter on the

purple polyester bedspread. I’d prefer to stay a

while longer, he says lowly, but there is

no answer, no way






The most mannerly of them all is the only

black boy among the milk white kids in his

school. Actually, he has no choice, since this

is the only way to be pardoned for his

scandalous blackness: to always be kind

and to never raise his voice. And how could

his teachers not love this kid who make them

feel so good about their own goodness? In fact,

they truly believe that he loves them too for

being so generous to oversee his blemish.

However, he doesn’t. He smiles to them,

feeling confused because something in all

this is profoundly wrong. But how can he put

it into the language of reason? How can he tell

in white words the deep shame rumbling in his

dark bowels?




Being alive


Lanky young waiter on a rainy Sunday

afternoon, sad café in the country.

A coffee? Yes, please. A slice of apple

pie? Yes, please. With cream? Yes,

please. You’re reading? I’m always

reading. What are you reading? Lorca.

Who is he? He said, he was the shadow

of his tears. I’m raining with the rain,

he is raining with the rain. What else

did he say?  He besang life and they killed

him. That’s the whole story? Almost,

I say. (Don’t’ worry, I’ll leave the book

on the table for you)






Little Wilhelm is growing every day,

a fighter for justice and injustice as

occasion demands. A warrior by nature,

let’s say, the opposite of a dancer in

the same realm of ghosts and shadows.

Proud of his irrefutable realness we see

him lurking behind an old oak tree, facing

the world as if it was made of stone and

thunderstorm. There he is, stout little

Wilhelm, armed with a stick and a sling,

a big straw hat on his bare, milk white skull,

ready to win the day to come






Here I stand love, my thin-skinned hands

wide open, nothing inside but early spring.

I stand in a place where you are not. It’s

raining softly and I let it rain. Here I stand

and will not move any further. I might be

in a dream, but I’m definitely not the dreamer.

I‘m real. Please, come and see and kiss. It’s

only for the sake of those without hope that

hope is given to us (says Walter Benjamin.)






Their one and only movie kiss took place

on a late January evening in the unheated

changing room of the McDonald’s branch

on Sunshine Drive, while the other, named

Jennifer, was still serving at the table. For

a day or so her tip-tilted little nose would

conserve the incomparable smell of his

long greasy hair, a bouquet of happy meal

and strawberry milkshake, consumed on the

fly, empty-headed among men and mice






That morning he had left home as usual

around eight, knowing she would have

spend the day in the delightful company

of Billy the kid, the old, hackly canary.

Torn between the very strong wish to live

and to die, she opened the birdcage and

the window. Month were to pass before

one morning a man she had never seen

before brought her a faded postcard,

kind of a winter wonderland. Not a single

word, however, she knew it was him.

Actually, there was not much to say

and just to break the almost embarrassing

silence, the man asked her to go out for

a pizza and she said yes, then no

and then yes again.






We gather stones, we pick grass, we

cook soup on the open fire, it’s not bad,

but never good enough, we gather bones,

we pick flowers, we cook soup, but still,

it’s not tasty enough, we give it a fancy

name, we add white feathers, rare words,

dead birds, sad little pebble-stones, our

greed, our need, our thirst for sweet milk

and honey, uniqueness, happy childhood,

challenges and lies, always bigger and

bigger stones













Stefanie Golisch was born in 1961 in Detmold/ Germany. She studied German literature in Bonn and Hannover. 1987 she took her master degree and in 1991 her PhD in contemporary German literature.

Writer, translator and literary critic.

Books on German authors: Uwe Johnson (1994) and Ingeborg Bachmann (1997)

Vermeers Blau (novel), 1998.

Short stories, essays, reviews in literary magazines and anthologies. Translations into German and Italian in books and magazines.

From 1994 to 2002 she taught German literature at the University of Bergamo and since 1988 she teaches German in a public high school in Monza. 


Recent publications:

Antonia Pozzi : Worte Edition Tartin , Salzburg/ Paris, 2005. (translation)

Pyrmont Erzählung Edition Thalaia, St. Ingbert, 2006 (English translation: The living thing

(Culicide Press) 2010.

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