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Tobias Premper
Miniature Literature

Tobias Premper writes the shortest of prose; his miniatures occasionally consist of only one sentence. Just reading through the table of contents of his latest book in one go is a joyful experience. The author, born in 1974, calls himself “an unpretentious, sorrowful, yet real character,” and you could say the same thing about his pieces.

By Holger Moos

Ich war klein © Steidl In line with his previous anthologies, Premper’s latest volume Ich war klein, dann wuchs ich und war größer (I was small, then I grew and was bigger) contains absurd, melancholic, world-weary, wise, vicious and occasionally even drastic miniatures. His work continues to be published by the distinguished Steidl Verlag, just like his – so far – only novel Erst einmal für immer (Forever, for now).

Some of his miniatures are laconic in the extreme, such as Zu viele Dichter (Too many poets):

“‘There are simply too many poets,‘ one poet said to the other.
‘True,‘ the other poet said and went home to write a poem about it.“

Pieces like matryoshkas

Other pieces are like matryoshkas, one sentence following the other without their connection being obvious at first glance. Stories like Dienstag (Tuesday) highlight the chaos of our world that gives rise to causalities at the same time:

“It’s Tuesday today. But all days are the same. [...] A dog barks in the hallway, a child cries in the street. A labourer carts groceries from his truck to the supermarket. A drunkard rants for no reason whatsoever, waking a baby that starts crying. A mother gets nervous and a father, who is running late, angrily yells at her. Sawing, shouting, barking, crying, whining, ranting, weeping, howling, carting, whinging. All before eight o’clock in the morning. [...] There is nothing beautiful, nothing bright in my life right now. Nobody I could walk with side by side, hand in hand. Would things be different in Tobago? The film ends. The lights remain off.“

Premper flouts logic and comprehensibility

His piece Farn, Schusterpalme, Zahnputzbecher (Fern, Aspidistra, Toothbrush Holder) is like a mirror maze. A man enters a neighbour’s apartment while she is away and finds himself straight in the bathroom. He walks from room to room, encountering identical rooms. After opening the last door, he is back in the bathroom and decides to invite the neighbour for dinner.

Premper’s miniatures, composed in the tradition of writers like Daniil Charms, frequently flout logic und immediate comprehensibility. The author invites his readers on an intellectual stroll, offering them tiny escapes from reality. His very brevity naturally harbours the risk of cursoriness. It’s ultimately up to the individual reader whether to accept the invitation and ponder a miniature for longer or to just let them drift by.
Premper himself describes his pieces in Die Miniatur (The Miniature):

“My miniatures are lightning strikes that tear apart the mist of a cloudy world, unveiling a blue sky with a golden star that renders everything underneath it seemingly easy and beautiful.“
Cherry Picker

Premper, Tobias: Ich war klein, dann wuchs ich und war größer
Göttingen: Steidl, 2018. 112 Pages.
ISBN 978-3-95829-429-5