Dorothea Shefer-Vanson

Wer alles Weiss hat keine ahnung (A Clever Person Doesn’t Know Anything)

Cover of book (photo by Dorothea Shefer-Vanson)

I summoned up all my courage and determination and decided to read this German book by Horst Evers, which had been recommended by my German teacher. The book consists of little anecdotes about the everyday life of the author, including mishaps, misunderstandings and misjudgements. To my un-Germanic eye, the pieces in the book read something like the blog posts that I myself write each week, but are written in a more humorous and personal tone. As far as I can tell, given my limited knowledge of German, the items are written in a way that aspires to being witty, or even ironic, poking fun at the author himself. Some of the pieces mention his immediate family (wife/partner, daughter) and the little incidents that arise from these relationships, while others describe his struggles with German officialdom and the effort to master the ‘benefits’ of contemporary technology.

Several pieces recount the author’s experiences in various occupations under the rubric, ‘My Life in Thirteen Occupations,’ at most of which he admits to failing. Thus, the first one was Assistant Agricultural Machinery Mechanic (naturally, I had to resort to Google Translate to help me decipher this and several other occupations). Since the author is a writer with a decidedly arts – as opposed to science – bent, it comes as no surprise to the reader to read of his dismal failure in this sphere, as was also the case, albeit for different reasons, in his brief career as a cook ,also known as ‘The Right Hand of God’. Almost all the pieces are written in a self-deprecating tone, so that the reader starts to feel almost guilty at finding them amusing.

One particularly entertaining piece describes a vacation rental where ‘Here Guests do the Cooking,’ and another, entitled ‘Cold Feet,’ gives a comical account of the roundabout way he discovered where he had left his winter shoes the previous year. One of the thirteen occupations in which he found himself was as a copywriter for an advertising agency, and as the book progresses he seems to find himself in increasingly appropriate occupations, ending up finally as a reader of manuscripts for a publisher, though not omitting to mention his stints as a Rock Star, Chicken Slaughterer and Express Delivery Person along the way. Learning about all these occupations certainly did a lot to expand my German vocabulary.

The last few pieces in the book describe how the author and his family endured the isolation of the COVID lockdown period, as well as the unexpected way in which he arrived at the title of the book – after a conversation with his daughter who remembered something he had told her that one of his teachers had once said, and which – of course – he couldn’t remember at all.

About the Author
I was born and brought up in England. I am a graduate of the LSE and the Hebrew University. I have lived in Israel since 1964. I am an experienced translator, editor and writer.
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