Life is not a petting zoo!

by Caitlin Hahn and Joy Hawley

On Wednesday the American essayist David Sedaris filled the Babylon Mitte Cinema with tales of sadistic rabbits, alcoholic cats, and pity-craving bears. A departure from his normal autobiographical work, Sedaris presented a collection of fables that satirically commented on human nature with a modern twist.

Donning a rabbit hat to open the reading, David Sedaris and Gerd Köster, who read in German, took turns reading the selected tales. Although the stories were at times graphic and jarring, the audience appreciated their relevancy. For example, the tale of the animals who built a gate at the entrance to the forest and the rabbit that guarded it satirized the controversial topics of border control, racial profiling, and national security.

Or the story of two married shepherd dogs, which explored questions of love and faithfulness with Sedaris’s characteristic, biting satire. Told from the the husband dog’s point of view, he puzzled over his wife’s affair with the bull terrier next door, who suspiciously resembled their newest litter of puppies. But “everyone’s allowed to make mistakes, right?”. Still, he was relieved when their owner gave the pups away, since “it’s just not the same when they’re step-kids. I just don’t feel the need to ever see them again.” Ouch.

Sedaris has an almost hypnotic reading style. His use of different voices for each of the characters is reminiscent of children’s bedtime stories, but like the old fairy tales, they contain a sprinkling of horror, which Sedaris read aloud with a twinkle in his eye. Despite the distracting switching between reading in German and English (including one instance where they switched languages in the middle of a story), Sedaris graciously bridged the language gap by trying out some German phrases of his own.

In an anecdote, he also touched on his own language learning experiences, illustrating the well-known German affinity for gruff humor and thereby humorously complementing the dark tone of his stories. Köster, who read nearly as much as Sedaris, masterfully created a distinct persona for each character. His performance emphasized the universality of Sedaris’s fables–whether in English or German, these stories are equally entertaining for anyone feeling nostalgic for the fables of childhood, with a deliciously adult twist.

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