Childe Rowland, by Joseph Jacobs

Joseph Jacobs


This uncanny fairy tale, first set down in Jacobs’s More English Fairy Tales in 1894 and seemingly inspired by a fragment of Shakespeare’s King Lear and vestiges of a Scottish ballad, is of mysterious origin, and may even trace its roots to an Inca story. Wherever it came from, after 120 years it still never fails to delight and unsettle us. And the next time you feel the urge to walk around a church widdershins – just don’t.

Childe Rowland, by Joseph Jacobs {13:54}

The Sacred Flame, by Selma Lagerlöf


I’ve never done the math, but I suspect that you’ll find that one Easter story has been written for every one hundred Christmas stories. This holiday weekend, I’ve selected my favourite of all time, Selma Lagerlöf’s “The Sacred Flame” from her 1904 collection of Christ Legends. Enjoy.

The Sacred Flame, by Selma Lagerlöf {1:03:31}

On Running After One’s Hat, by G.K. Chesterton


In this classic essay, G.K. Chesterton tells us that “{a}n adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered.” Moreover, “{a}n inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.” Now you can do as you like, but I’m going to try this proposition out and see where it takes me. It sure beats getting annoyed. Roll with the punches, I always say…

On Running After One’s Hat, by G.K. Chesterton {10:22}

The Blue Flower, by Henry Van Dyke/Novalis

Van Dyke

The longing for the Blue Flower – precious, beautiful, always just out of reach – lies at the heart of literary Romanticism. This image first appeared in Novalis’s novel Heinrich von Ofterdingen, left unfinished upon the poet’s untimely death in 1801 at the age of twenty-eight, and is presented as tonight’s contribution to the Berlin Short Fiction Podcast in brief excerpt adapted into English by the American writer Henry Van Dyke in 1902.


The seemingly arbitrary abstraction of a Blue Flower as the essence of humankind’s deepest desire fits in well with Novalis’s poetic vision. Take, for instance, this excerpt from his Hymns to the Night as rendered by George MacDonald:

Must the morning always return? Will the despotism of the earthly never cease? Unholy activity consumes the angel-visit of the Night. Will the time never come when Love’s hidden sacrifice shall burn eternally? To the Light a season was set; but everlasting and boundless is the dominion of the Night. Endless is the duration of sleep. Holy Sleep, gladden not too seldom in this earthly day-labor, the devoted servant of the Night. Fools alone mistake thee, knowing nought of sleep but the shadow which, in the twilight of the real Night, thou pitifully castest over us. They feel thee not in the golden flood of the grapes, in the magic oil of the almond tree, and the brown juice of the poppy. They know not that it is thou who hauntest the bosom of the tender maiden, and makest a heaven of her lap; never suspect it is thou, opening the doors to Heaven, that steppest to meet them out of ancient stories, bearing the key to the dwellings of the blessed, silent messenger of secrets infinite.

The Blue Flower, by Henry Van Dyke [9.22]

Geschmack, von Roald Dahl (in German)


Wie weit würden Sie gehen, um Ihren Ruf als “Feinschmecker” und “Gebildeter” zu festigen? Wie wichtig ist Ihnen ihre gesellschaftliche Stellung? Viele Menschen gehen über Leichen, um “dazuzugehören”. Insofern ist diese Geschichte aus dem Jahre 1945 heute, in einer Ära maßloser Börsen- und Immobilienspekulation, wo Hedge Funds die Welt regieren, aktueller denn je zuvor.

Wichtiger Hinweis: Diese Kurzgeschichte sollten Sie sich lieber nicht bei einem schönen Glas Wein zu Gemüte führen – Sie könnten sich nämlich gewaltig daran verschlucken…

Geschmack, von Roald Dahl [36:24]

The Siege of Berlin, by Alphonse Daudet


The Franco-Prussian War of 1870/71, along with the ensuing siege of Paris and the horrors of the Commune, exert a certain gloomy fascination upon those of us interested in French history, and nowhere is the memory of those tragic events more vividly captured than in the literature of the time. Émile Zola’s La débâcle gives probably the most complete and wrenching account of the overall experience, but when it comes to short fiction – alongside Maupassant, of course – the works of Alphonse Daudet, particularly the tales in his 1873 collection Contes du lundi, render what certainly feels like a faithful account of what it must have been like to witness the violent fall and dissolution of the Second Empire. Tonight’s story tells a particularly poignant tale, with premonitions of Jacob the Liar and Goodbye Lenin.

The Siege of Berlin, by Alphonse Daudet {19:56}

The Sniper, by Liam O’Flaherty

Liam O'Flaherty

I love listening to such Irish traditional bands as the Chieftains and the Clancy Brothers with Tommy Makem, particularly late at night, when my thoughts wing their way back to the experiences of my own Irish ancestors along the Shamrock Shore. But as lovely and dreamy as the melodies are, the lyrics quickly pull me down to the tragedy and cruelty that has informed Irish culture until a fairly recent date. Tonight’s story by Liam O’Flaherty takes us back to the heart of the Irish Civil War of 1922/23. I expect that O’Flaherty, a veteran of both the First World War and of the Civil War, knew a thing or two about tragedy and cruelty.

The Sniper, by Liam O’Flaherty [12:14]