Extract from Michael Mitchell's translation

Josef Winkler's The Serf

Oh, my heart's in the mountains, the pure mountain air,

where the edelweiss blooms and the gentian so fair.

Now the spring is returning, the snows melting fast;

how I long to be back in my mountains at last.

The splash of the oars of the East German rowing team, who are training for the world championships in the green waters of the reservoir, is inaudible to the tourists standing by the six-hundred-and-fifty-foot-high Kölbrein Dam in the Malta Valley, during the construction of which twenty-four workers died, some finding their final resting place in the quick-hardening concrete sections. In the souvenir shop by the dam the tourists buy bottles of schnapps done up to look like the bearded head of an Alpine cowherd, plastic edelweiss and plastic gentians, little plastic television sets which, at the press of a button, show the skeletons of the workers buried in the concrete, and holy pictures with an edelweiss lying at the Virgin's feet.

The painter, Georg Rudesch, and I peered into the car parked outside the Osnabrück Hut to see if the marmot that had been shot, that they had been talking about in the mountain hut, was still on the back seat with a leafy branch in its mouth, but we couldn't find the dead body anywhere, and continued on our way along the valley path, I with Hans Henny Jahnn's novel River without Banks under my arm, Georg with his painter’s portfolio. When I asked why the marmot had been shot, the thrill of the hunt was the expression the son of the woman who ran the mountain hut used for the hunters' urge to point the barrel of their rifles at the head of one of these rare animals. Blood lust! I whispered to him, giving him a wink with my left eye. When they have killed an animal the hunters, glassy-eyed and with loud and joyful cries, pour one jigger after another of the local schnapps down their throats. The artist and I came across an empty child carriage standing on the bridge across a mountain stream. I saw thousands of dolls floating down the stream, as I imagined myself pushing the carriage over the waterfall.