Anekdote zur Senkung der Arbeitsmoral
Translating H. Böll
by Hansjorg Bittner (University of East Anglia)
1 In a port on the western coast of Europe, a man, wearing shabby clothes, lies in his fishing boat and dozes. A smartly dressed tourist is just putting a new colour film into his camera to take a picture of the idyllic scene: blue sky, green sea with peaceful, snow-white crests of waves, black boat, the fisherman's red cap. Click. And again: click, and as all good things come in threes, and as it's better to be on the safe side, click, for the third time. The dry and almost hostile sound wakes the dozing fisher man, who sleepily sits up, sleepily reaches for his cigarette-packet; but before he finds what he is looking for, the eager tourist already holds out a packet right under his nose, putting the cigarette not exactly into his mouth but placing it into his hand, and a fourth click, that of the lighter, finishes off the zealous civility. This hardly measurable, and never verifiable, excess of rash civility produces an irritably embarrassing situation which the tourist, who speaks the language of the country, tries to bridge by starting a conversation.
2 'You will make a good catch, today.'
3 The fisherman shakes his head.
4 'But I was told the weather is favourable.'
5 The fisherman nods.
6 'So you won't put to sea?'
7 The fisherman shakes his head, the tourist gets increasingly nervous. To be sure, he is deeply concerned about the welfare of the man in shabby clothes, and sadly frets over the missed opportunity.
8 'Oh, you don't feel well?'
9 Eventually, the fisherman switches from sign language to the actually spoken word. 'I feel splendid,' he says. 'I never felt better.' He stands up, has a good stretch, as if he wanted to show off the athletic shape of his body. 'I feel great.'
10 The facial expression of the tourist grows more and more unhappy; no longer can he suppress the question which, as it were, threatens to burst his heart: 'But why, then, do you not put to sea?'
11 The answer comes promptly and briefly: 'Because I already put to sea this morning.'
12 'Did you make a good catch?'
13 'My catch was so good that I need not put to sea for a second time. I had four lobsters in my baskets, caught nearly two dozen mackerel ...'
14 The fisherman, finally awake, is now thawing, and slaps the tourist soothingly on the shoulder. The worried countenance of the latter seems to him an expression of inappropriate, yet touching, anxiety.
15 'I have enough even for tomorrow and the day after tomorrow,' he says to relieve the stranger's soul. 'Do you want a cigarette?
16 'Yes, please.'
17 Cigarettes are being put into mouths, a fifth click; the stranger, shaking his head, sits down on the rim of the boat, and puts down the camera, for now be needs both hands to give his speech emphasis.
18 'I do not want to meddle in your personal affairs,' he says, 'but just imagine, you put to sea today for a second, a third, or perhaps even a fourth time, and you catch three, four, five, maybe even ten dozen mackerel. Just imagine that!'19 The fisherman nods.
20 'You put to sea,' continues the tourist, 'not only today but tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, indeed, on every favourable day two, three, or perhaps four times - do you know what would happen?'
21 The fisherman shakes his head.
22 'In one year at the latest you would be able to buy a motor, in two years a second boat, in three or four years you may, perhaps, have a small trawler; with two boats or the trawler you would, of course, catch a lot more - one day, you would have two trawlers, you would...,' for a few moments his enthusiasm leaves him speechless, 'you would build a small cold store, perhaps a smoke-house, soon afterwards a marinating factory, fly around with your own helicopter, making out the shoals of fish and giving orders to your trawlers by radio. You could buy the fishing rights for salmon, open a fish restaurant, export lobster directly to Paris without a middleman - and then...,' once again his enthusiasm leaves the stranger speechless. Shaking his head, saddened in the depth of his heart, and almost bereft of his holiday delights, he looks on the waters rolling peacefully into the harbour, where the uncaught fish jump merrily.
23 'And then,' says he, but again his excitement leaves him speechless. The fisherman slaps him on the back, as one would slap a child choking over his food. 'What then?' he asks in a low voice.
24 'Then,' says the stranger with quiet enthusiasm, 'then you may relax here in the harbour with your mind set at ease, doze the sunshine - and look out on the magnificent sea.'
25 'But that is what I doing just now,' says the fisherman, 'I relax here in the harbour with my mind set at ease, and doze; only the clicking noise of your camera disturbed me.'
26 In fact, the tourist, thus put right, became thoughtful and went away, for he used to think he worked in order that, one day, he need not work any more; and there remained in him not a trace of pity for the fisherman in shabby clothes, only a little envy.
Here’s another version from Paulo Coelho’s Blog: