Two short stories by Peter Altenberg


In the Amusement Park

»I want a blue balloon! I want to have a blue balloon!«
»There's a blue balloon for you, Rosamond!«
They told her it had a gas in it that was lighter than the air in the atmosphere, so that, etc., etc.
»I want to let it go –,« she said simply.
»Wouldn't you like to give it to that poor little girl over there?!?«
»No, I want to let it go –!«
She lets the balloon go and follows it with her eyes until it vanishes in the blue sky.
»Now aren't you sorry you didn't give it to the poor little girl?!?«
»Yes, I would have rather given it to the poor little girl!«
»There's another blue balloon; give it to her as a present!«
»No, I want this one to go up into the blue sky, too.« – She lets it go.
They buy her a third blue balloon.
Without being told, she walks over to the poor little girl, gives her the balloon and says, »You let
it go, too!«
»No,« says the poor little girl and looks at the balloon, all excited.
In the room it floated up to the ceiling, stayed there for three days, turned darker, shriveled, dropped
dead – a black little sack.
The poor little girl thought, »I should have let it go, up into the blue sky, and I'd have watched it go, watched it –!«
In the meantime the rich little girl received ten more balloons, and one day Uncle Carl bought
her all thirty of them at once. Twenty she let go up into the sky, and ten she gave away to poor
children. From then on she wasn't interested in balloons any longer. Not at all.
»Silly balloons –!« she said.
This made Aunt Ida think that she was a rather precocious little girl.
The poor little girl kept dreaming, »I should have let it go, up into the blue sky, and I'd have watched it rise up into the sky, watched it –!«


(Im Volksgarten, from the collection Wie ich es sehe, 4th, expanded and revised edition 1904)


My Ideals

The adagios in Beethoven's violin sonatas.
The voice and laughter of Klara and Franzi Panhans.
Speckled tulips.
Franz Schubert.
Asparagus by itself, spinach, fried potatoes, Carolina rice, crackers.
Knut Hamsun.
The intelligence, the soul of Paula Sch.
The blue »Kuhn 201« nib.
The spice sauce »Cat-sup«.
My room, no. 33, in the Graben Hotel, Dorotheergasse, Vienna, First District.
The looks of A. M.
Lakes Gmunden and Wolfgang.
The full-sized swimming pool in Vöslau.
The Schneeberg railroad.
Boxed Mondsee cheese, curdsy and young.
Sole, pikeperch, young pike, whitefish.
Hansy Klausecker, thirteen years old.


(Meine Ideale, from the collection Nachfechsung, 1916)


About the author

Peter Altenberg (pen name of Richard Engländer) was born in 1859 in Vienna and died there in 1919. He studied law and medicine. Book dealer, freelance writer, prominent member of the Viennese coffee house scene, bohemian. Discovered by Arthur Schnitzler in 1894, appreciated by Hugo von Hofmannsthal and Karl Kraus. One of the main proponents of Viennese Impressionism. Master of short, aphoristic stories based on close observation of everyday life events.

Hofmannsthal wrote about Altenberg's first published collection Wie ich es sehe (1896): »Even though entirely unconcerned with things important, the book has such a good conscience that one can immediately see that it cannot possibly be a German book. It is truly Viennese. It flaunts it – its origin – as it flaunts its attitude.«


Translated by Johannes Beilharz. Copyright © of translation by Johannes Beilharz 2002. The translations are based on: Peter Altenberg, Sonnenuntergang im Prater, 25 prose pieces, selection and afterword by Hans Dieter Schäfer, Philipp Reclam Jun., Stuttgart 1976.


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