‘A Table is A Table’ by Peter Bichsel, translated by Michael Hamburger

‘I want to tell the story of an old man, of a man who has given up talking, who has a tired face, too tired for smiling and too tired for frowning’

An old man decides that something has to change, and invents his own language. As he pursues this idea, keeping track in blue exercise books, what was at first odd becomes funny, then suddenly sad.

With very little prompting (“is this just a weird story about an old man, or does it have a deeper meaning?”) even tough-guy teenage boys will discuss loneliness, dementia, immigration, and the importance of friendship.

First published in German 1973. Available on The White Review website, newly translated by Lydia Davis, here