graphic with two blossoms ink painting on hemp paper

if sharks were people

I don’t know how well-known Berthold Brecht is in non-German-speaking countries. Since he has always been an important author for me, I would like to offer a modest homage to this great man of letters and thinkers.

hommage à berthold brecht

Among other things, Berthold Brecht wrote short stories. The “Stories from Mr. Keuner” are particularly well known. I would like to present a story here: If sharks were people. “If sharks were people,” Mr. K. was asked by his landlady’s little girl, “would they be nicer to the little fishes?” Before I give his answer to this question, I would like to present to you my contribution on this topic:
graphic with two blossoms ink painting on hemp paper
if sharks were blossoms – hommage à berthold brecht
“Certainly,” he said. “If sharks were people, they would build enormous boxes in the ocean for the little fish, with all kinds of food inside, both vegetable and animal. They would take care that the boxes always had fresh water, and in general, they would make all kinds of sanitary arrangements. If, for example, a little fish were to injure a fin, it would immediately be bandaged, so that it would not die and be lost to the sharks before its time. So that the little fish would not become melancholy, there would be big water festivals from time to time; because cheerful fish taste better than melancholy ones. “There would, of course, also be schools in the big boxes. In these schools, the little fish would learn how to swim into the sharks’ jaws. They would need to know geography, for example, so that they could find the big sharks, who lie idly around somewhere. The principal subject would, of course, be the moral education of the little fish. They would be taught that it would be the best and most beautiful thing in the world if a little fish sacrificed itself cheerfully and that they all had to believe the sharks, especially when the latter said they were providing for a beautiful future. The little fish would be taught that this future is assured only if they learned obedience. The little fish had to beware of all base, materialist, egotistical and Marxist tendencies, and if one of their numbers betrayed such tendencies they would have to report it to the sharks immediately. “If sharks were people, they would, of course, also wage wars against one another, to conquer other fish boxes and other little fish. The wars would be waged by their own little fish. They would teach their little fish that there was an enormous difference between themselves and the little fish belonging to the other sharks. Little fish, they would announce, are well known to be dumb, but they are silent in quite different languages and hence cannot possibly understand one another. Each little fish that killed a couple of other little fish in a war, enemy fishes, silent in their own language, would have a little medal made of seaweed pinned to it and be awarded the title of Hero. “If sharks were people, there would, of course, also be art. There would be beautiful pictures, in which the sharks’ teeth would be portrayed in magnificent colors and their jaws as pure pleasure gardens, in which one could romp about splendidly. The theatres at the bottom of the sea would show heroic little fish swimming enthusiastically into the jaws of sharks, and the music would be so beautiful that to the accompaniment of its sounds, the orchestra leading the way, the little fish would stream dreamily into the sharks’ jaws, lulled by the most agreeable thoughts. “There would also be a religion if sharks were people. It would teach that little fish only really begin to live properly in the sharks’ stomachs. “Furthermore, if sharks were people little fish would no longer be equal, as is the case now. Some would be given important offices and be placed above the others. Those who were a little bigger would even be allowed to eat up the smaller ones. That would be altogether agreeable for the sharks since they would more often get bigger bites to eat. And the bigger little fish, occupying their posts, would ensure order among the little fish, becoming teachers, officers, engineers in fish box construction, etc. “In short, the sea would only begin to be civilized if sharks were people.”
(Excerpts by Stories of Mr. Keuner). I used this translation and express my thanks for the article related: leaves and blossoms


2 responses to “if sharks were people”

  1. swabby429 avatar

    A very clever analogy.

    1. avatar

      Thank you! Yes, indeed. As all the other Mr. Keuner stories. When I first read them I was 17-18. Years later I learned that he had a close link to Chinese philosophers. Of course his view is a very western one but as a great mind he was able to grasp the essence.

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