Home | Short Stories | Nº 98 –

The Clown.

A new take on the eponymous novel by Heinrich Böll, reworked by Theobald Tiger

Nº 98 –

The Clown.

A new take on the eponymous novel by Heinrich Böll, reworked by Theobald Tiger

Saturday the 31st July 2021

If this was a comedy at the theatre and if we could just have a good old laugh about it, heave a sigh, or just find some distraction, then this story could feature a proper happy ending. Maybe it might result in a success story, if we were able to use it to solve the major problems alongside all the little ones. Isn’t that right? But do we even want to read a story like this here?


Life needs a certain direction, the Clown calls out into the ring, referring to the four seasons he likes to hold on to. Can you imagine this clown climbing up the stairs to show his audience that he can fly? In the springtime he flies to the Algarve, in the summer to Mallorca, in the autumn he’s off to the Caribbean and in the wintertime to Cabo Verde. But look… he is falling! All of a sudden there he is left holding the entire handrail of the stairs, the ground collapsing under his feet. He is tumbling … into the sand. Everybody is laughing because it’s just so funny what’s happening. Are we able to do this? To laugh at ourselves? As well as about the others? A problem shared is a problem halved, they say. It’s raining, there’s thunder and lightning. The weather is changing from one minute to the next. It’s snowing, it’s hailing, it’s burning. The circus tent is tottering. In the aftermath of the forest fires none of us feel like laughing. All of a sudden everything is gone, the house, the yard, and the animals. Not even a circus tent is safe from a forest fire. And if we look closely there are more and more places like this on this beautiful blue planet, where the lightness of being yields to the heavy weight of poverty. All this has its reasons, hasn’t it? How are we supposed to look at life? As a comedy? As a tragedy? Is there a better way?

The story of the clown at the circus may be continued in various ways and given a positive ending. However, we can also change the script. Then the pretty story turns into an ugly one, a tragedy. Do we have to, some will ask? A forest fire destroys a beekeeper’s entire possessions. That happened two weeks ago. Within minutes, strong rains turn a brook into a deluge, uprooting a house and several others, simply devouring them. Those sitting on the roof over there are saved. This is no circus. This was last week. Other people are sitting in a rubber dinghy, trying to get from Africa to Europe. Some are saved, others drown. That was this week, just as it happens every week. Every week we watch how other people are providing us with some theatre, some drama. They have left their home or lost it because there is a war raging, a drought or a famine making it impossible to carry on living there. They are saved – or not. What are the stories we tell each other and how do we illustrate them? And what do we do with them?

We see the fallen Clown, who is now joined in the arena by another Fool in the arena. Gingerly the Clown lays down the staircase rail, dusts off his jacket and allows the Fool to check his injuries. He knows that if he wants to climb those stairs he’ll have to change his approach, his way of life. Where was it again he was going when he was climbing those stairs? He wanted to fly? He wanted to see other countries? To be light and mobile, like a bird? Well then …

Haven’t you got a home to go to?, the Fool asked the Clown? Why do you want to fly and where to? Don’t all those frequent flyers like you make our blue planet ever more inhabitable year on year? The incidence of severe thunderstorms, the chaotic weather patterns bringing heat, storms and rain, the variations in temperature and stress levels, they are ever increasing, are they not? Bit of a bad atmosphere up there! Going by the four seasons is no longer possible, my dear colleague, says one to the other, very calmly. Life is turning into a straight line, having been a circle for so long before. Where has that circle gone? Ever more people fall victim to chronic stress and panic attacks. They become ill because they’ve lost their sense of direction. Are Fools the likes of us able to change this? Or do we only play around with stories the way we do here at the circus? Anyone could take part. Even the narrator of this story. We all know that the climate makes the weather, whether good or bad. Let’s freshen up the air down here!

Our climate, says the Fool to the Clown, needs a lot of success stories, where things work out. This is what we call commitment. Replies the Clown: this perspective of the 1.5 degree target can only gain traction if our words are followed by concrete actions. It’s what’s known as credibility. Do you really carry on as before, the Fool asks the Clown? Flying is the essence of freedom, is the reply. If you slowed down you wouldn’t need to fly anymore and on top of that you’d be improving the climate: eat more slowly and healthily, have better sex and watch exactly where you place your next step? Relaxation. How about relaxing? Instead of making babies.

Says the Clown, resignedly, I had many years to adapt, to change, to develop. But all I did was talk, not taking the opportunity. I wanted to travel, I wanted to fly and see the world; that’s how I always envisaged my life. Says the other: Our art will disappear and take us all into the abyss with it if all the band does is play dance tunes for our paying guests…

The forests have been burning for weeks, and not only in western Canada. Any and every forest fire, wherever on Earth it takes hold, is a forest fire too many, says the news commentator. The goal has to be to do everything possible to ensure that in the future there will be no more forest fires at all. Everyone can help bring that about. Let’s plant lots of new trees rather than watching them burn.

If the situation wasn’t that dire, if it was just joking about at the circus, and we could just laugh out loud about it, or heave a sigh, or just be distracted for a little while, then this story could have a proper happy ending. Or had we better take a closer look at this issue? It would be a success story if we could also use it to resolve not only the many small problems but the big ones as well. Isn’t that right? It’s down to us. Life needs a certain direction, the Clown calls out. Exit Clown. Curtains.

Heinrich Böll (21 Dec 1917 – 16 July 1985) is considered one of the 20th century’s most eminent German authors of novels, radio plays and short stories, receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1972. Together with his wife Annemarie he also translated English-language works into German.


Theobald Tiger

journalist with investigative research methods, works with a pseudonym and has an unpronounceable name.
The real Theobald Tiger lived from 9 January 1890 (Berlin) to 21 December 1935 (Gothenburg) and worked as a journalist, writer and satirist. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theobald_Tiger


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