A huge stone itches the moss that has spread all over it, until it rolls into a schoolyard and the children climb around on it soothingly. A deep freezer is so in love with its plump, bald-headed owner that it cools at high speed until the inside of the house is covered with ice. A bear saves a girl from an evil dwarf, and when, according to fairy tale tradition, she mistakes him for an enchanted prince, he says: “Iwo, I’m a bear”, and instead of being royal, they live comfortably together from now on, with honey sandwiches every evening.
The children’s stories by Franz Hohler have a very special quality. Her humor often just barely misses the surreal, is a bit childish, definitely absurd. It never goes on as you would expect as an experienced reader. Whoever reads them, even as an adult, undergoes a – perhaps very Swiss – fresh air cure that no sanatorium could offer better.
Hohler, who will be 80 on March 1st, is a prolific writer, an author who is still bursting with ideas and is a Swiss cultural asset. As a cabaret artist he sings and speaks in dialect, but his novels, poems, stories are popular throughout the German-speaking world and beyond. Franz Hohler is a free fiction writer, but also a political mind and environmental activist. He wrote one of his best-known songs, “Der Weltuntergang” 50 years ago, when the Club of Rome published its first report in 1973. When you hear it today, you’re amazed at how up-to-date it is: Hohler knocks like a ticking clock and sings about the gradual loss of biodiversity and how it’s gradually destroying everything: first a stinking beetle dies out, then people.
Kathrin Schärer’s touching drawing style seems to have rubbed off on Franz Hohler
Some of the most famous illustrators have drawn and painted images to accompany his writing for children: Nicholas Heidelbach has illustrated a story book, which fits perfectly with the penchant for the absurd that both share. Rotraut Susanne Berner painted the pictures for his story “If I could make a wish”. And most recently, Franz Hohler has repeatedly worked with Kathrin Schärer (“Be there”), also Swiss.
Hanser is currently publishing a new picture book by the two of them: “The Little Wild Boar and the Crows”, and one has the feeling that Schärer’s loving, touching style of drawing has rubbed off a little on Franz Hohler this time. The most absurd thing here is the remedy that the wild boar doctor prescribes for the pig when it gets very ill: chestnuts, but they have to be from Paris. That’s much too far for the wild boar parents. But how fortunate that your child – not at all in the wild boar way – has made friends with the birds. It grunted the bass to their songs instead of learning how to forage. And while it’s hard for crows to fly all the way to Paris, it’s entirely possible. A story about friendship, about being different and about how, when one thing works into the other, everything can turn out well in the end. With “The Little Wild Boar and the Crows” Franz Hohler gave himself and his young and old readers a wonderful birthday present.