What is Hallowe’en like in Germany?

Posted on 26. Oct, 2014 by in Culture, Folklore, History, Holidays, Language, Traditions

Untitled

Photo by brookpeterson on flickr.com

In some ways, Hallowe’en is the same in Germany as it is in the UK or the USA. You can expect nightclubs offering Halloween themed nights for adults, horror movies shown on TV, children dressing up and going trick or treating (although this aspect of Hallowe’en is not as common in Germany as it is in the US).

Although Hallowe’en has no roots in German culture, there are a surprising amount of German traditions that are either similar to Hallowe’en, or that occur on or around 31st October. Some have a religious meaning and others are more commercial. Read on to find out more about Hallowe’en celebrations in Germany.

RELIGION AND HALLOWE’EN IN GERMANY AND AUSTRIA

Catholicism

Seelenwoche: October 30th-November 8th
Being predominantly Catholic, Bavaria (Southern Germany) and Austria celebrate what is known as Seelenwoche (All Souls’ Week) – during 30 October and 8 November. This is a week of remembrance in which people attend church services to honour the dead, and visit their family’s graves with fresh flowers and lanterns. November 1st is known as All Saint’s Day (Allerheiligen), on which banks, post offices and schools are closed – this is another reason why Hallowe’en celebrations on 31st October are so popular! – and November 2nd is All Soul’s Day (Allerseelen), when a special mass is said at church, and candles are lit in honour of the dead. This week also remembers the saints who have died for the Catholic faith.

Protestantism

Reformationstag – 31st October
Reformationstag is a protestant celebration remembering Martin Luther. It was on October 31st, 1517, that Martin Luther nailed The 95 Theses to the castle church in Wittenberg, Germany. In doing so, he started the Reformation – a time of religious and social change across Europe. ‘Luther Bonbons’ were created for people to remember Martin Luther in Germany on 31st October, so that Reformationstag was not overshadowed by Hallowe’en.

Totensonntag – November
Totensonntag, meaning “The Sunday of the dead”, is the protestant version of Allerseelen (All Soul’s Day), and is celebrated on the Sunday prior to the first advent Sunday. It is also known as Ewigkeitssonntag (Eternity Sunday).

OTHER HALLOWE’EN-LIKE CELEBRATIONS, HOLIDAYS AND EVENTS

Burg Frankenstein, Darmstadt
This is a 13th century castle located in Darmstadt, Hesse, alleged to be the inspiration for Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”. It holds a special Hallowe’en festival running from late October to early November, in which the entire castle is filled with gruesome shows and monsters, and you can explore it in its entirety. The castle is apparently haunted, too. It looks great. Click here to go to the website!

Walpurgisnacht (43)

A Walpurgisnacht celebration. Photo by michael-panse-mdl on flickr.com

Walpurgisnacht – April 30
This is a Halloween-like celebration celebrated in April, rather than October. It has its roots in German folklore; it is believed to be the night of a historic witches’ meeting on the Brocken, the highest peak of the Harz mountains. There, it is said, the witches communed on April 30 to welcome the arrival of Spring. The celebrations of Walpurgisnacht involve bonfires, dancing, and dressing up in witches’ and devil’s outfits.

St. Martinstag- November 11
Trick or Treating is called Süßes oder Saures (or Süßes, sonst gibt’s Saures), but it is not as popular in Germany as it is in the USA or the UK. This may be because, 11 days after Hallowe’en, children take part in the celebration St. Martinstag, where they go door to door singing songs with lanterns they have made themselves at school. They are then given sweets as a reward. St. Martinstag originated as a Catholic celebration in honour of Saint Martin, but is now celebrated across Germany even in protestant/secular regions, obviously without the religious emphasis.

Kürbisfest in Retz, Austria – Late October
The Kürbisfest (Pumpkin Festival) is a commercial Hallowe’en celebration held in the town of Retz near Vienna each year. It includes a Halloween parade, pumpkins, costumes and parties. This is a family event. Click here for the official website if you’d like to know more.

GERMAN HALLOWE’EN VOCABULARY

Hallowe’en – Hallowe’en (taken from the English), or der Tag vor Allerheiligen (‘All Hallow’s Eve’)

Pumpkin – der Kürbis

Trick or Treat – Süßes, sonst gibt’s Saures (“Sweets, otherwise there’ll be sours”)

Costume – das Kostüm

Sweet (one piece) – der Bonbon
Sweets (general) – die Süßigkeiten

To scare/frighten – erschrecken

Lantern – die Laterne

Vampire – der Vampir

Witch – die Hexe

Ghost – das Gespenst

Zombie – der Zombie

***

I hope this post has given you an idea of what Hallowe’en is like in Germany. With that, all there’s left to say is Happy Hallowe’en, everybody! What are you dressing up as this year?! Top marks if you can answer me in German!!

Bis bald,

Constanze

x

Du kannst mich!! 11 ways to express anger in German

Posted on 22. Oct, 2014 by in Language

ANGER!

Photo by amymctigue on Flickr.com

You ever have one of those days where you just want to tell everyone to go to hell? Let’s do that now – in German. How is this useful, I hear you ask? Well, maybe the next time a co-worker irritates you, you can scream your desired comeback at them in German (since German is such an “”angry”” language, it’s clearly also the perfect language to shout at people in). Then you’ll have practised your German AND told your co-worker where to go – and they won’t even know what you’ve said, so there’s no way you can get into trouble! You win! (Unless they’re German, in which case… maybe don’t do this.)

Seriously, though, everybody loves learning ‘naughty’ things in another language, and swearing just isn’t that big a deal in Germany. So instead, here are some German phrases you can use if you want to let someone know that you’re angry with them. They’re all commonly used phrases.

DU KANNST MICH GERN HABEN!
Is your lazy co-worker asking you to do their work for them? Had enough? Then scream “DU KANNST MICH GERN HABEN!” at them and walk away. This little phrase literally translates to, “You can like me!”, which is a bit of an odd thing to say in anger. But it basically means, “No! Forget it! I am not doing that!” You can also say “Gern kannst mich haben”, which has the same meaning.

DU KANNST MICH!
Literally “You can me!”. A shortened version of “Du kannst mich gern haben“. Its unfinished nature (“You can __ me!”) leaves it open to the imagination!

LECK MICH AM ARSCH!
The German version of “Kiss my ass!”, this insult literally translates to “Lick me on my ass”, and as well as being directed at someone, it can also be used as an expression of shock or disbelief, for example: “Jana ist schonwieder schwanger?! Ja, leck mich am Arsch!” – “Jana is pregnant again?! Well, leck mich am Arsch!”

LECK MICH!
A shortened version of the above, “Leck mich!” literally translates to “lick me!” and basically means “bugger off”.

HAST (DU) EIN WAHN ODER WAS??
If someone is talking rubbish at you, or suggesting an idea that has absolutely no logical grounding whatsoever, then you can ask them, “Hast (du) ein Wahn oder was?” – “Are you deluded or what?” The word Wahn means ‘delusion’.

Screaming pepper

Screaming pepper. By paulmccoubrie on flickr.com

HAU AB!
Quite simply, “Get lost!”. Interestingly, the word ‘Hau’ comes from the verb hauen: to hit. Nice and aggressive.

SCHLEICH DICH!
Another way of saying “Get lost!”. The word ‘Schleich’ comes from the verb schleichen: to creep.

LASS MICH IN RUH!
The old classic, “Leave me alone!”

ACH DU LIEBER HIMMEL!
Been trying to explain something simple to your thick co-worker for the past 20 minutes and they’re STILL not getting it? This phrase is what you might say to yourself in frustration and despair. It literally means „Oh you beloved heaven!“ .

MIST! / SO EIN MISTHAUFEN!
“Mist” is the German word for manure, and a “Haufen” is a heap or pile of something. Therefore, exclaiming the word “Mist!” is like saying “Crap!” and the phrase “So ein Misthaufen!” means “What a pile of crap!”

QUATSCH!
If someone is talking absolute nonsense, you can tell them so by saying one little word: Quatsch – which is pronounced ‘Kvatch’.

Please do let me know if you have any to add – or if there’s an English phrase you’d like me to translate for you, so that you can release your German anger to your heart’s content! Language learning doesn’t have to be about the serious stuff all the time: Emotions like anger come from the very core of a person’s heart, so learning how different emotions are expressed in different languages can be a fascinating business!

On that note, I really hope you enjoyed my post. Now hau ab; it’s time for me to make my dinner.

x

Bernhard Schlink: Der Vorleser (The Reader)

Posted on 18. Oct, 2014 by in History, Literature

Germany’s role in the Holocaust in World War II is still firmly fixed in the minds of many people around the world. For a long time, the occurrences had been placed under a taboo. Silence was considered to be an appropriate modality of Entnazifizierung (denazification) in both parts of divided Germany. Only gradually Opfer (victims), Zeugen (witnesses) and Täter (offenders) took courage to talk publicly about the cruel past. One of them is Bernhard Schlink, a German author and judge. In the novel “Der Vorleser” (The Reader) he deals with the question how the post-war generations should approach the war generation. “Der Vorleser” tells the story of Michael Berg, who was born during World War II, and his relationship with Hanna Schmitz, a former Wärterin (guard) at Auschwitz.

 

Part 1

At the age of 15 Michael falls ill with hepatitis. On his way home from school Michael throws up on the streets and 36-year-old Hanna comes to his rescue. At his mother’s request Michael visits her after he has recovered and they strike up a sexuelle Beziehung (sexual relationship). Their meetings always follow a ritual. First, they take a bath together, then they have sexual intercourse, and afterwards Michael reads to Hanna. One day, when Michael goes to see Hanna he is told that she moved to Hamburg. The liaison is suddenly terminated.

 

Part 2

Only seven years later, Michael meets Hanna again in a Gerichtssaal (courtroom). By this time Michael studies law. Together with some fellow students he attends a Kriegsverbrecherprozess (war crimes trial) against female guards of a Außenlager (satellite camp) of Auschwitz. Hanna and further guards are accused of having locked up prisoners of war in a church that ran down after a bomb attack. Only two people survived the fire.
Hanna is the only person who doesn’t deny any of the crimes. The co-defendants even accuse Hanna to have drawn up a forged report of the fire in the church. It comes out that Hanna favored prisoners who read to her and Michael realizes that Hanna is illiterate. Hanna confesses all the crimes she is accused of and, as the chief culprit, is sentenced to life imprisonment.

 

Part 3

During the trial Michael is afraid of meeting Hanna. He only has the courage to see her after she has been imprisoned for seven years. He starts the ritual of reading to her again, by sending her cassettes. The cassettes help Hanna to learn reading and writing on her own and she also starts writing letters to Michael, which he doesn’t answer. After 18 years of imprisonment Hanna will be released. The prison warden asks Michael to support Hanna with the social inclusion. On the release day, the warden informs Michael that Hanna hung herself in the prison cell.

 

Listen to the first two chapters of Bernhard Schlink’s novel “Der Vorleser” in German. Below you can also find the English translation.

 

Deutsch: Der Vorleser

Teil 1 – Kapitel 1
Als ich fünfzehn war, hatte ich Gelbsucht. Die Krankheit begann im Herbst und endete im Frühjahr. Je kälter und dunkler das alte Jahr wurde, desto schwächer wurde ich. Erst mit dem neuen Jahr ging es aufwärts. Der Januar war warm, und meine Mutter richtete mir das Bett auf dem Balkon. Ich sah den Himmel, die Sonne, die Wolken und hörte die Kinder im Hof spielen. Eines frühen Abends im Februar hörte ich eine Amsel singen.
Mein erster Weg führte mich von der Blumenstraße, in der wir im zweiten Stock eines um die Jahrhundertwende gebauten, wuchtigen Hauses wohnten, in die Bahnhofstraße. Dort hatte ich mich an einem Montag im Oktober auf dem Weg von der Schule nach Hause übergeben. Schon seit Tagen war ich schwach gewesen, so schwach wie noch nie in meinem Leben. Jeder Schritt kostete mich Kraft. Wenn ich zu Hause oder in der Schule Treppen stieg, trugen mich meine Beine kaum. Ich mochte auch nicht essen. Selbst wenn ich mich hungrig an den Tisch setzte, stellte sich bald Widerwillen ein. Morgens wachte ich mit trockenem Mund und dem Gefühl auf, meine Organe lägen schwer und falsch in meinem Leib. Ich schämte mich, so schwach zu sein. Ich schämte mich besonders als ich mich übergab. Auch das war mir noch nie in meinem Leben passiert. Mein Mund füllte sich, ich versuchte, es hinunterzuschlucken, presste die Lippen aufeinander, die Hand vor den Mund, aber es brach aus dem Mund und durch die Finger. Dann stütze ich mich an die Hauswand, sah auf das Erbrochene zu meinen Füßen und würgte hellen Schleim.
Die Frau, die sich meiner annahm, tat es fast grob. Sie nahm meinen Arm und führte mich durch den dunklen Hausgang in den Hof. Oben waren von Fenster zu Fenster Leinen gespannt und hing Wäsche. Im Hof lagerte Holz; in einer offen stehenden Werkstatt kreischte eine Säge und flogen die Späne. Neben der Tür zum Hof war ein Wasserhahn. Die Frau drehte den Hahn auf, wusch zuerst meine Hand und klatschte mir dann das Wasser, das sie in ihren holen Händen auffing, ins Gesicht. Ich trocknete mein Gesicht mit dem Taschentuch.
»Nimm den anderen!“« Neben dem Wasserhahn standen zwei Eimer, sie griff einen und füllte ihn. Ich nahm und füllte den anderen und folgte ihr durch den Gang. Sie holte weit aus, das Wasser platschte auf den Gehweg und schwemmte das Erbrochene in den Rinnstein. Sie nahm mir den Eimer aus der Hand und schickte einen weiteren Wasserschwall über den Gehweg. Sie richtete sich auf und sah, dass ich weinte. »Jungchen«, sagte sie verwundert, »Jungchen.« Sie nahm mich in die Arme. Ich war kaum größer als sie, spürte ihre Brüste an meiner Brust, roch in der Enge der Umarmung meinen schlechten Atem und ihren frischen Schweiß und wusste nicht, was ich mit meinen Armen machen sollte. Ich hörte auf zu weinen.
Sie fragte mich, wo ich wohnte, stellte die Eimer in den Gang und brachte mich nach Hause. Sie lief neben mir, in der einen Hand meine Schultasche und die andere an meinem Arm. Es ist nicht weit von der Bahnhofstraße in die Blumenstraße. Sie ging schnell und mit einer Entschlossenheit, die es mir leicht machte, Schritt zu halten. Vor unserem Haus verabschiedete sie sich.
Am selben Tag holte meine Mutter den Arzt, der Gelbsucht diagnostizierte. Irgendwann erzählte ich meiner Mutter von der Frau. Ich glaube nicht, dass ich sie sonst besucht hätte. Aber für meine Mutter war selbstverständlich, dass ich, sobald ich könnte, von meinem Taschengeld einen Blumenstrauß kaufen, mich vorstellen und bedanken würde. So ging ich Ende Februar in die Bahnhofstraße.

Teil 1 – Kapitel 2
Das Haus in der Bahnhofstraße steht heute nicht mehr. Ich weiß nicht, wann und warum es abgerissen wurde. Über viele Jahre war ich nicht in meiner Heimatstadt. Das neue Haus, in den siebziger oder achtziger Jahren gebaut, hat fünf Stockwerke und einem ausgebauten Dachstock, verzichtet auf Erker oder Balkone und ist glatt und hell verputzt. Viele Klingeln zeigten viele kleine Apartments an. Apartments, in die man einzieht und aus denen man auszieht, wie man Mietwagen nimmt und abstellt. Im Erdgeschoss ist derzeit ein Computerladen; davor waren dort ein Drogeriemarkt, ein Lebensmittelmarkt und ein Videoverleih. Das alte Haus hatte bei gleicher Höhe vier Stockwerke, ein Erdgeschoss aus Diamant geschliffenen Sandsteinquadern und drei Geschosse darüber aus Backsteinmauerwerk mit sandsteinernen Erkern, Balkonen und Fensterfassungen.
Zum Erdgeschoss und ins Treppenhaus führten ein paar Stufen, unten breiter und oben schmaler, auf beiden Seiten von Mauern gefasst, die eiserne Gelände trugen und unten schneckenförmig ausliefen. Die Tür war von Säulen flankiert, und von den Ecken des Architravs blickte ein Löwe die Bahnhofstraße hinauf, einer sie hinunter. Der Hauseingang, durch den die Frau mich in den Hof zum Wasserhahn geführt hatte, war der Nebeneingang.
Schon als kleiner Junge hatte ich das Haus wahrgenommen. Es dominierte die Häuserzeile. Ich dachte, wenn es sich noch schwerer und breiter machen würde, müssten die angrenzenden Häuser zur Seite rücken und Platz machen. Ich erwartete, dass in dem herrschaftlichen Haus auch herrschaftliche Menschen wohnten. Aber da das Haus von den Jahren und vom Rauch der Züge dunkel geworden war, stellte ich mir auch die herrschaftlichen Bewohner düster vor, wunderlich geworden, vielleicht taub oder stumm, bucklig oder hinkend.
Immer wieder habe ich in späteren Jahren von dem Haus geträumt. Die Träume waren ähnlich, Variationen eines Traums und Themas. Ich gehe durch eine fremde Stadt und sehe das Haus. In einem Stadtviertel, das ich nicht kenne, steht es in einer Häuserzeile. Ich gehe weiter, verwirrt, weil ich das Haus, aber nicht das Stadtviertel kenne. Dann fällt mir ein, dass ich das Haus schon gesehen habe. Dabei denke ich nicht an die Bahnhofstraße in meiner Heimatstadt, sondern an eine andere Stadt oder ein anderes Land. Ich bin im Traum zum Beispiel in Rom, sehe da das Haus und erinnere mich, es schon in Bern gesehen zu haben. Mit dieser geträumten Erinnerung bin ich beruhigt; das Haus in der anderen Umgebung wiederzusehen, kommt mir nicht sonderbarer vor als das zufällige Wiedersehen mit einem alten Freund in fremder Umgebung. Ich kehre um, gehe zum Haus zurück und die Stufen hinauf. Ich will eintreten. Ich drücke die Klinke.
Wenn ich das Haus auf dem Land sehe, dauert der Traum länger, oder ich erinnere mich danach besser an seine Details. Ich fahre im Auto. Ich sehe rechter Hand das Haus und fahre weiter, zuerst nur darüber verwirrt, dass ein Haus, das offensichtlich in einen städtischen Straßenzug gehört, auf freiem Feld steht. Dann fällt mir ein, dass ich es schon gesehen habe, und ich bin doppelt verwirrt. Wenn ich mich erinnere, wo ich ihm schon begegnet bin, wende ich und fahre zurück. Die Straße ist im Traum stets leer, ich kann mit quietschenden Reifen wenden und mit hoher Geschwindigkeit zurückfahren. Ich habe Angst, zu spät zu kommen, und fahre schneller. Dann sehe ich es. Es ist von Feldern umgeben, Raps, Korn oder Wein in der Pfalz, Lavendel in der Provence. Die Gegend ist flach, allenfalls leicht hügelig. Es gibt keine Bäume. Der Tag ist ganz hell, die Sonne scheint, die Luft flimmert, und die Straße glänzt vor Hitze. Die Brandmauern lassen das Haus abgeschnitten, unzulänglich aussehen. Es könnten die Brandmauern irgendeines Hauses sein. Das Haus ist nicht düsterer als in der Bahnhofstraße. Aber die Fenster sind ganz staubig und lassen in den Räumen nichts erkennen, nicht einmal Vorhänge. Das Haus ist blind.
Ich halte am Straßenrand und gehe über die Straße zum Eingang. Niemand ist zu sehen, nichts zu hören, nicht einmal ein ferner Motor, ein Wind, ein Vogel. Die Welt ist tot. Ich gehe die Stufen hinauf und drücke die Klinke.
Aber ich öffne die Tür nicht. Ich wache auf und weiß nur, dass ich die Klinke ergriffen und gedrückt habe. Dann kommt mir der ganze Traum in Erinnerung und auch, dass ich ihn schon geträumt habe.

Source: Schlink, Bernhard. Der Vorleser. Zürich: Diogenes, 1997. 5-11. Print.
 

English: The Reader

Part 1 – Chapter 1
When I was fifteen, I got hepatitis. It started in the autumn and lasted until spring. As the old year darkened and turned colder, I got weaker and weaker. Things didn’t start to improve until the new year. January was warm, and my mother moved my bed out onto the balcony. I saw sky, sun, clouds, and heard the voices of children playing in the courtyard. As dusk came one evening in February, there was the sound of a blackbird singing.
The first time I ventured outside, it was to go from Blumenstrasse, where we lived on the second floor of a massive turn-of-the-century building, to Bahnhofstrasse. That’s where I’d thrown up on the way home from school one day the previous October. I’d been feeling weak for days, in a way that was completely new to me. Every step was an effort. When I was faced with stairs either at home or at school, my legs would hardly carry me. I had no appetite. Even if I sat down at the table hungry, I soon felt queasy. I woke up every morning with a dry mouth and the sensation that my insides were in the wrong place and pressing too hard against my bones. I was ashamed of being weak. I was even more ashamed when I threw up. That was another thing that had never happened to me before. My mouth was suddenly full, I tried to swallow everything down again, and clenched my teeth with my hand in front of my mouth, but it all burst out of my mouth anyway straight through my fingers. I leaned against the wall of the building, looked down at the vomit around my feet, and retched something clear and sticky.
When rescue came, it was almost an assault. The woman seized my arm and pulled me through the dark entrance into the courtyard. Up above there were lines strung from window to window, loaded with laundry. Wood was stacked in the courtyard; in an open workshop a saw screamed and shavings flew. The woman turned on the tap, washed my hand first, and then cupped both of hers and threw water in my face. I dried myself with a handkerchief.
‘Get that one!’ There were two pails standing by the tap: she grabbed one and filled it. I took the other one, filled it, and followed her through the entrance. She swung her arm, the water sluiced down across the walk and washed the vomit into the gutter. Then she took my pail and sent a second wave of water across the walk. When she straightened up, she saw I was crying. ‘Hey, kid,’ she said, startled, ‘hey, kid’ – and took me in her arms. I wasn’t much taller than she was, I could feel her breast against my chest. I smelled the sourness of my own breath and felt a sudden sweat as she held me, and didn’t know where to look. I stopped crying.
She asked me where I lived, put the pails down in the entrance, and took me home, walking beside me holding my satchel in one hand and my arm in the other. It’s no great distance from Bahnhofstrasse to the Blumenstrasse. She walked quickly, and her decisiveness helped me to keep pace with her. She said goodbye in front of our building.
That same day my mother called in the doctor, who diagnosed hepatitis. At some point I told my mother about the woman. If it hadn’t been for that, I don’t think I would have gone to see her. But my mother simply assumed that as soon as I was better, I would use my pocket money to buy some flowers, go introduce myself, and say thank you, which was why at the end of February I found myself heading for Bahnhofstrasse.

Part 1 – Chapter 2
The building on Bahnhofstrasse in no longer there. I don’t know when or why it was torn down. I was away from my home town for many years. The new building, which must have been put up in the seventies or eighties, has five floors plus finished space under the roof, is devoid of balconies or arched windows, and its smooth façade is an expanse of pale plaster. A plethora of doorbells indicates a plethora of tiny apartments, with tenants moving in and out as casually as you would pick up and return a rented car. There’s a computer shop on the ground floor where once there were a pharmacy, a supermarket, and a video shop.
The building was as tall, but with only four floors, a first floor of faceted sandstone blocks, and above it three floors of brickwork with sandstone arches, balconies, and window surrounds. Several steps led up to the first floor and the stairwell; they were wide at the bottom, narrower above, set between walls topped with iron banisters and curving outwards at street level. The front door was flanked by pillars, and from the corners of the architrave one lion looked up Bahnhofstrasse while another looked down. The entrance through which the woman had led me to the tap in the courtyard was at the side.
I had been aware of this building since I was a little boy. It dominated the whole row. I used to think that if it made itself any heavier and wider, the neighbouring buildings would have to move aside and make room for it. Inside, I imagined a stairwell with plaster mouldings, mirrors, and an oriental runner held down with highly polished brass rods. I assumed that grand people would live in such a grand building. But because the building had darkened with the passing of the years and the smoke of the trains, I imagined that the grand inhabitants would be just as sombre and somehow peculiar – deaf or dumb or hunchbacked or lame.
In later years I dreamed about the building again and again. The dreams were similar, variations on one dream and one theme. I’m walking through a strange town and I see the house. It’s one in a row of buildings in a district I don’t know. I go on, confused, because the house is familiar but its surroundings are not. Then I realized that I’ve seen the house before. I’m not picturing Bahnhofstrasse in my home town, but another city, or another country. For example, in my dream I’m in Rome, see the house, and realize I’ve seen it already in Berlin. This dream recognition comforts me; seeing the house again in different surroundings is no more surprising than encountering an old friend by chance in a strange place. I turn around, walk back to the house, and climb the steps. I want to go in. I turn the door handle.
If I see the house somewhere in the country, the dream is more long-drawn-out, or I remember its details better. I’m driving a car. I see the house on the right and keep going, confused at first only by the fact that such an obviously urban building is standing there in the middle of the countryside. Then I realized that this is not the first time I’ve seen it, and I’m doubly confused. When I remember where I’ve seen it before, I turn around and drive back. In the dream, the road is always empty, as I can turn around with my tyres squealing and race back. I’m afraid I’ll be too late, and drive faster. Then I see it. It is surrounded by fields, rape or wheat or vines in the Palatinate, lavender in Provence. The landscape is flat, or at most gently rolling. There are no trees. The day is cloudless, the sun is shining, the air shimmers and the road glitters in the heat. The firewalls make the building look unprepossessing and cut off. They could be the firewalls of any building. The house is no darker than it was on Bahnhofstrasse, but the windows are so dusty that you can’t see anything inside the rooms, not even the curtains; it looks blind.
I stop on the side of the road and walk over to the entrance. There’s nobody about, not a sound to be heard, not even a distant engine, a gust of wind, a bird. The world is dead. I go up the steps and turn the knob.
But I do not open the door. I wake up knowing simply that I took hold of the knob and turned it. Then the whole dream comes back to me, and I know that I’ve dreamed it before.

Source: Schlink, Bernhard. The Reader. Trans. Carol Brown Janeway. London: Phoenix, 1997. 1-7. Print.