The train pulled up to the farthest of the platforms in the Saarbrücken Hauptbahnhof, the existence of which the uninitiated could only guess at. To save a few euros, I had made the decision to book the train tickets separately and leave myself with a stopover of an hour or so. So I strolled among the station’s halls and shops, as I had and have on previous and later occasions. Only once had I brought myself to venture forth into the city itself.
Before perusing the bookshop’s offerings, I decided to walk the width of the station and see what lay the other side of the platforms and rails. At the top of stairs, a commercial bakery greeted me. Behind it stretched car park and square, the latter dotted with benches and a few stands promoting green energy in Saarland. I hesitated a moment before one such stand but judged Saardeutsch beyond my skills. With a knowing nod to the stand’s representative, I took my distance and made for a bench the other side of the square where I shrugged off my hiking pack.
Out of my bag came a bottle of water and my reading of the moment, a well-thumbed work on deliberative democracy, through which I read for a few minutes, laid out on the bench. At length, my light jacket and I gave way to the end-of-September chill and sought shelter in the glass-enclosed station. A short walk back under the platforms brought me to the small bookshop and a rotating plastic displays stuffed with Reklam’s pocket-sized reprints of works in the public domain, each bound between two aggressively yellow covers. Among their number that day I counted Hoffmann’s “Der Sandman”, Hebel’s Schatzkästlein des rheinischen Hausfreundes, various works from Kleist and Novalis, as well as certain from English- and French-speaking writers.
Tempted though I was by the Hebel, of which I had learned through a list compiled by Sebald, the cover’s dogeared corner dissuaded me, so I decided to save it for another occasion. Inside and interest exhausted, I stepped out but paused at the sight of a discount bin which I had overlooked on the way in. Pulling a few titles before me, I was rewarded with the German translation of A Very Hungry Caterpillar and, just behind it, a connect-the-dots book which made for a sharp contrast.
Indeed, Heiße Nummern promised nothing but “die schärfsten Sexstellungen zum Selberzeichnen” at a discounted rate of five euros. I suspected that the illustrator’s name, Nigel Partridge, might conceal the person’s real name as an internet search to that effect later turned up nothing. This dead-end left me to wonder just why a German man or woman would don an English male pseudonym with the aim of bringing to the public erotic connect-the-dots illustrations, of dubious commercial value. Perhaps the masquerade would, upon investigation, reveal an elaborate bit of German humor, what with the English being stiffs whose only sexual education came via poorly-selling, bargain bin, children’s books.
Amused though I was, the announcement sounded for my train, the Regional Express, and so I moved on.