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  HANS HERBERT GRIMM (1896–1950) was born in the town of Markneukirchen and fought in World War I. After the war he taught Spanish, French, and English in Altenburg, and published Schlump anonymously in 1928 to avoid drawing his employer’s attention to his pacifist beliefs. Schlump was not the commercial or popular success Grimm had hoped it would be, but his anonymity protected him when the book was burned by the Nazis in 1933. To avoid suspicion, Grimm joined the Nazi Party and worked as an interpreter in France during World War II. After the war, however, he was barred from teaching because of his party membership and began working in the theater and, later, in a sand mine. In 1950, two days after meeting with East German authorities, Grimm committed suicide; it is not known what was discussed at the meeting.

  JAMIE BULLOCH is a historian and translator of German literature. His most recent translations include Look Who’s Back by Timur Vermes and Raw Material by Jörg Fauser.

  VOLKER WEIDERMANN is the former director and editor of the Sunday edition of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and is currently a contributor to Der Spiegel. His most recent book is Ostend: Stefan Zweig, Joseph Roth, and the Summer Before the Dark.



  435 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014


  Copyright © 2014 by Verlag Kiepenheuer & Witsch GmbH & Co. KG, Cologne, Germany

  English translation copyright © 2015 Jamie Bulloch

  All rights reserved.

  First published anonymously in Germany in 1928

  The translation of this work was supported by a grant from the

  Goethe-Institut which is funded by the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs

  Cover art: George Grosz, Air Attack, 1915; © Estate of George Grosz/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY; digital

  image © The Museum of Modern Art and licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY Cover design: Katy Homans

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Names: Grimm, Hans Herbert, 1896–1950, author. | Bulloch, Jamie, translator. | Weidermann, Volker, 1969– writer of supplementary content.

  Title: Schlump / Hans Herbert Grimm ; afterword by Volker Weidermann ; translated by Jamie Bulloch.

  Other titles: Schlump. English

  Description: New York : NYRB Classics, 2016. | Series: New York Review of Books Classics

  Identifiers: LCCN 2016019773 | ISBN 9781681370262 (paperback)

  Subjects: LCSH: World War, 1914–1918—Fiction. | Pacifism—Fiction. | Soldiers—Germany—Fiction. | Psychological fiction. | BISAC: FICTION / War & Military. | FICTION / Psychological. | FICTION / Literary. | GSAFD: War stories. | LCGFT: Autobiographical fiction.

  Classification: LCC PT2613.R52125 S3513 2016 | DDC 833/.912—dc23

  LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2016019773

  ISBN 978-1-68137-027-9


  For a complete list of titles, visit www.nyrb.com or write to:

  Catalog Requests, NYRB, 435 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014


  Tales and adventures from the life of the anonymous soldier Emil Schulz, known as “Schlump.” Narrated by himself.


  Translated from the German by


  Afterword by



  New York


  Biographical Notes

  Copyright and More Information

  Title Page

  Book One

  Book Two

  Book Three



  Schlump had just turned sixteen when war broke out in 1914.

  That evening there was a dance in the Reichsadler – the final one, as the soldiers were due to mobilise the following morning. After sunset Schlump stole into the gallery with his friend; they didn’t dare enter the dance hall itself. The big lads, the twenty-year-old turners and metalworkers, would not allow them to share in the treasure; they needed all the girls for themselves. These older boys couldn’t take a joke, and were often quite rough. Up above, the two friends leaned over the banisters and gazed down ravenously into the hall.

  At midnight the band played a fanfare and the trumpeter announced a break of fifteen minutes to allow the girls to cool down. Schlump and his friend slipped out into the pleasant summer night, beneath the stately old maple trees.

  When the quarter of an hour was up, they headed back and came across a long line of giggling girls who were blocking the entire street. They were no older than Schlump and had been in his class at school, but of course they were already invited to attend the dance. Indeed, the elder boys prized these girls above all the others. One of the girls called out to Schlump, ‘Hey, you, come over here.’ Schlump could see the lamplight playing on her blonde locks, which shone almost white. He didn’t trust her. But she broke free, the others called out to him, and his friend said, ‘Go on, you’ve got a good chance with her!’

  As Schlump went over, he was grabbed by a pair of hands that guided him on to a narrow path set beneath dense foliage, at the end of which a lantern cast a weak light. His courage boosted, he put an arm around the girl’s waist and pulled her towards him. When they reached the lantern he took her chin in his hand and looked at her face. ‘You’re a pretty girl,’ he said. ‘What’s your name?’ ‘Johanna,’ she said softly. Then he moved her into the shadows and gave her a long, ecstatic kiss on the lips. She whispered into his ear that he should come and dance with her, and then he could take her home; she’d put off the other lads.

  He crept back up into the gallery, keen to point out the girl to his friend. But he couldn’t find her. The two boys went home. Schlump was blissfully happy. He could hardly believe his luck and was convinced that there could be nothing more beautiful on this earth than the girl.

  A few days later he’d forgotten Johanna.

  Young people are so profligate; they live in paradise and yet fail to notice when they come face to face with fortune personified.


  Schlump lived up in the attic. His father was a tailor by the name of Ferdinand Schulz. Whenever he looked up from his needle his gaze glided across the colourful roofs of the old town and greeted the watchman in his little tower room. Schlump’s mother still had the playful nose and bright eyes of her childhood, when she used to leap over the fences with the boys and nick strawberries. On Shrove Tuesday and at Whitsun she’d put on boys’ trousers, join the singers in the street, and amass a sack full of pretzels and cakes. But when her tiny breasts began to swell beneath her blouse and she realised that she was a girl, she stayed quietly at home, dreaming of pretty clothes and beautiful shoes, although at big celebrations her liveliness and sense of fun would be once more on display. Back then all the boys would give anything to get a good gawp at her.

  At seventeen she began her courtship with the earnest tailor, and at nineteen she married him because his serious and honest nature appealed to her. They celebrated a christening almost immediately, but the little girl died soon after the birth. The couple remained childless for ten years. The tailor went into business for himself and stitched for people at the window in his little room. He aged quickly; his short hair turned grey and his voice sounded weary and anxious. They had a boy who they christened Emil, because this was the name of the mother’s brother, a soldier. People said that Emil was the spitting image of his mother. He went to school and was soon the top dog amongst his fellow pupils as well as the class joker. If Emil Schulz was part of the group you could hear the racket from miles away.

  On one occasion some stalls had been put up in the marketplace for that Sunda
y’s shooting competition. Emil threw the knapsack off his back and clambered up the first stall he came to. Making a hellish din, the young louts hurled into the street anything they could lay their hands on. But trouble was just around the corner: a policeman grabbed Emil by the scruff of the neck and bawled at him, ‘You mischievous little Schlump!’ He may have been thinking of shrimp, scamp, scallywag and lump – a muddled concoction of all of these. At any rate, Emil was given a good thrashing and ran home howling.

  The marketplace was populated by terribly hard-working people who spent the entire day outside their shops, smoking cigars. They’d witnessed the whole episode. And when our little hero skulked gingerly across the square the following day, they all asked him, ‘Hey, Schlump, you got a proper hiding yesterday, didn’t you?’ From then on they all called him Schlump, and the name stuck for the rest of his life.


  Schlump’s parents sent him to secondary school, which was a great sacrifice as the school was expensive and the tailor had no money. At Easter, Schlump took his final exam.

  His certificate was of little use, but he did have a talent for drawing. He became an apprentice in a weaving mill, and learned how to draw patterns and designs. But as he worked, he could think of nothing but girls and the war. A few of his friends were soldiers and he wanted to volunteer too. He could picture himself in a field-grey uniform, the girls eyeing him up and offering him cigarettes. Then he would go to war. He pictured the sun shining, the grey uniforms charging, one man falling, the others surging forward further with their cries and cheers, and pair after pair of red trousers vanishing beneath green hedges. In the evenings the soldiers would sit around a campfire and chat about life at home. One would sing a melancholy song. Out in the darkness the double sentries would stand at their posts, leaning on the muzzles of their rifles, dreaming of home and being reunited with loved ones. In the morning they’d break camp and march singing into battle, where some would fall and others be wounded. Eventually the war would be won and they’d return home victorious. Girls would throw flowers from windows and the celebrations would never end.

  Schlump became anxious that he was missing out on all of this, and was desperate to sign up. But his parents forbade him. On his seventeenth birthday he went in secret to the barracks and volunteered. They examined him and deemed him fit for the infantry. He returned home bursting with pride and his parents abandoned their opposition. Schlump’s mother wept. On 1 August 1915 he took his trunk and moved into the barracks, very pleased with himself.

  Schlump had grown into a lean and strong young man, and the recruits’ training was child’s play for him. He moved as nimbly as a weasel and handled a rifle with skill. But to begin with his limbs ached and he felt like crawling up the five steps to the latrine on all fours.

  In his second week Schlump had barrack-room duty, which is to say he had to keep the barrack room clean and fetch coffee. On the Tuesday, he’d just finished the washing, and was hurrying back into the barracks with the basin, and the stool under his elbow. As he passed the non-commissioned officers’ quarters a hand grabbed his arm tightly. ‘Hey, son, here’s five pfennigs – go and get me some coffee from the mess.’ The five-pfennig coin was in Schlump’s hand and the corporal had vanished. If you go now, he thought, you’ll have to wait ages in the mess. The older soldiers will be at the counter and they don’t let recruits push in. Which means you’ll be too late to fetch coffee for the platoon, and so they’ll all be angry at you, while you’ll be in the corporal’s bad books for ever. Everyone will think you’re an idiot.

  Suddenly Schlump had an idea. Tossing the five-pfennig coin into the corporal’s mug, he put this behind the door to the barracks, shot past the NCOs’ quarters, picked up the large coffee pot, threw on the spectacles belonging to the man in the bed beside his, and sped back out to fetch the coffee. On the way back he bumped into the corporal, who was shaking his fist and cursing like a sailor. Behind the spectacles Schlump pulled a silly face and slipped past him.

  It was time for their lecture in the drill hall. They filed in wearing fatigue dress and carrying their stools. The hall was empty save for ashes and filthy windows. It was freezing cold; the sun was just coming up. Schlump thought about the war. What if life was equally dull there, and just as frightfully cold?

  They set off on their route march. In good spirits again, Schlump marched out into the morning and sang with the larks that warbled as they rose from the sods in the ploughed fields.


  Deputy Officer Kieselhart, who was in charge of training the recruits, was a man of peculiar habits. He would often creep up behind one of the poor recruits and grab the seat of his trousers with relish. Woe betide the soldier who provided Kieselhart with a mere handful of slack; his anger knew no boundaries. One day he was standing behind Schlump, whose trousers were baggy because they were a metre too long. But when his hand met a bottom as hard as steel, the deputy officer praised Schlump in front of all the non-commissioned officers. He never forgot this fine recruit and showed him favour at every opportunity. Thus Schlump had taken the first step forward in his career (although it was to be his last, too).

  The only thing he didn’t like was the blue peacetime uniform they wore, with shiny buttons. Schlump didn’t have the patience to polish all these buttons until they shone like white-hot iron. When the company fell in, he’d lift up his coat tails, vigorously rub the buttons of his sleeves on his trousers, then use the inner side of his sleeve to work on his coat buttons. He would stand to attention as erect as he could, and when the sergeant approached sternly, he’d flash him a glance with the brightest eyes in the world, forcing the sergeant’s gaze to shift to his neighbour, Private Speck. Speck was a shoemaker, who cleaned and polished with a touching zealousness in every spare moment he had. But whenever he fastened his coat, his thumb would rub against the gleaming buttons and extinguish their lustre. Then the sergeant would come and hurl a torrent of abuse at the poor shoemaker.

  Schlump thus freed up plenty of time to spend in the mess, where two pretty girls worked. One was curvaceous, blonde and blue-eyed; the other slim, with brown eyes and a brown plait. Every morning the curvaceous one set aside a roll and a hunk of salami for him, which he’d nip in and grab before setting off on a march. The slim one fed him chocolate during their time off in the afternoons. When the two of them were alone in the mess, she’d place the piece of chocolate between her own white teeth and Schlump had to take it devotionally into his mouth, a ritual he very much enjoyed.

  Once, when it was getting quite dark beneath the chestnut trees, Schlump saw the blonde one fetching water. He hurried over to her and gallantly worked the pump handle back and forth. He offered to carry the pail for her too, but she refused, upon which a friendly scuffle ended up in a very lengthy kiss. At that very moment, the elderly Sergeant Bauch came out of the barracks and walked past them. Schlump had not been a soldier long enough to know how to deal with every situation. In a panic he clicked his heels together loudly, pressing the poor girl to his chest with such force that her glowing face sank on to his shoulder, and thrusting his right arm smartly alongside the seam of his trousers.

  A reasonable man, who had two sons of his own in the war, the sergeant smiled kindly and went on his way.


  Time passed quickly. Their training in Germany was to last eight weeks, six of which were now up. The recruits were transferred to the military training camp at Altengrabow. Sergeant Major Bobermin, who on Sundays had made them circle the barrack yard for three hours, barking the same commands over and over again – ‘Lie down! Up! March, march!’ while the soldiers’ sweethearts watched from the benches in tears – this same Sergeant Major Bobermin addressed them prior to their departure: ‘Attention! You will now proceed to Altengrabow! The military training camp. You’ll be billeted in barracks. Be sure to tie up your arse every evening so it doesn’t get nicked while you’re asleep! Forward, march!’

  Every morning, early, hor
ribly early, they set out on a march, their backpacks filled with sand, and live cartridges in their ammunition pouches. It was cold and grey, and the barracks stood there ruthlessly. Everything was colourless; the world looked like an empty factory. The artillery regiment next door was still asleep and nothing stirred. On and on they marched until the mist eventually cleared and the sun rose high in the sky. The recruits started to swelter, the sand stuck their eyes together, and sweat ran down their cheeks, leaving behind channels as it dripped on to their ammo pouches. The tight belt chafed against your waist, and the spade clanked against your legs, and the mess tins knocked your head whenever you shifted your kitbag. Schlump had a full weight of sand on his back because he’d been caught out that morning. Corporal Mückenheim had lifted the flap of his kitbag – Schlump had forgotten to fasten the strap – and discovered an empty sandbag. Schlump was ordered to fill it and to report at lunchtime to the NCOs’ quarters in spotless marching gear to perform one hundred about-turns. Schlump was sweating and seething with anger. Eventually they were allowed to assemble their rifles and shoot at moving targets. Schlump enjoyed shooting at the dark heads that popped up. It was great fun and filled him with enthusiasm for going to war.

  On the way back, they had company exercises. The captain sat on his horse, issuing commands. The NCOs sweated and looked thoroughly annoyed, even though they weren’t carrying kitbags themselves. They took out their anger on the recruits, who had to wheel round and were forced to run through the sand like hares. The recruits were boiling with heat and rage. They met the artillery regiment, who were slumped drowsily on their caissons on their way out to target practice. Behind the copse by the sandhill they had to lie down, take their rifles in both hands, and then haul themselves up through the sand on their elbows. This was the worst thing of all. Some were so furious that tears came to their eyes. At last they reached the top. The captain ordered the company to fall in and issued commands on the march: ‘Load blanks and lock! Cavalry approaching from the right! Aim! Fire!’ The salvo resounded, the captain’s horse staggered, and the captain leapt down. His steed had taken a shot to the neck. The company marched back to the barracks. The man responsible was never found. Schlump was happy. The march had not been too much of an effort as he was a strong young man, but he was happy all the same. For he was hoping that they might be permitted a few days’ rest.

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