Thoughts for In-between
Essays don’t have to be long. Sometimes they’re just a way to start us thinking. Katharina Hacker’s minute-long essays fit between two bus stops, but also between two situations – the one before and the one after reading.
By Holger Moos
In Darf ich dir das Sie anbieten? some of these short essays feel like aphorisms. Then Katharina Hacker will consider individual words: Who’s ever thought about why you can’t learn anything from trivial things, but a lot from simple things?
Other words have gained negative meanings over time, such as the word “nice,” which today is only considered the little brother or sister of “crappy.” In Hebrew they aren’t as crude. People say, “Nice is what you call an ugly child.”
Dying, how’s that done?The book also contains animals: dogs, for example, as role models when it comes to the joy of reunions. One essay is dedicated to cuddly toys. We ought to pay attention to them precisely because they are dead things without any ability to react. “You therefore learn from them that the respect we show others is measured against ourselves.”
When thinking about freedom, we’d do well to not only have our own freedom in mind. “The vitality of others always also means they don’t do what I want them to.” Hacker even ponders death. After all, you can practice everything in life except death. Or, in the words of the ninety-year-old psychoanalyst Anna Maria Joki, “I’ve done so much in my life. But I’ve never died. I don’t know how!”
On formal speaking terms with your parents?Another brief essay reminds us that we don’t have to rescue anyone and are probably not able to anyway. Nevertheless, we can defy despair by supporting one another. Then “Sometimes a single word, a single sentence makes unhappiness holds its breath and it has to be quiet while we laugh.”
And then there’s the (practically untranslatable) eponymous question “Darf ich dir das Sie anbieten?” referring to the desire to no longer be on casual speaking terms with some people, but to revert from “du” back to “Sie” in order to switch from careless proximity to the greater respect of distance. The request is impossible to implement in some cases. “I would even say ‘Sie’ to my parents if it weren’t too late, they being nearly ninety and I over fifty.”
With this slim volume, Katharina Hacker has presented a work that she herself needs, as she admitted in an interview with the book magazine Die Literaturagenten. But she also gave us a little everyday companion – full of brief reflections to help us start to think.
Katharina Hacker: Darf ich dir das Sie anbieten? Minutenessays
Berlin: Berenberg, 2019. 112 S.