Anekdote zur Senkung der Arbeitsmoral

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"Anekdote zur Senkung der Arbeitsmoral"
AuthorHeinrich Böll
TranslatorLeila Vennewitz
PublisherNorddeutscher Rundfunk
Publication date1963

"Anekdote zur Senkung der Arbeitsmoral" ("Anecdote concerning the Lowering of Productivity" in Leila Vennewitz' translation[1]) is a short story by Heinrich Böll about an encounter between an enterprising tourist and a small fisherman, in which the tourist suggests how the fisherman can improve his life.[2] It was written for a May Day programme on the Norddeutscher Rundfunk in 1963, and is considered one of the best stories written by Heinrich Böll.[3]


The story is set in an unnamed harbor on the west coast of Europe.[1] A smartly-dressed enterprising tourist is taking photographs when he notices a shabbily dressed local fisherman taking a nap in his fishing boat. The tourist is disappointed with the fisherman's apparently lazy attitude towards his work, so he approaches the fisherman and asks him why he is lying around instead of catching fish. The fisherman explains that he went fishing in the morning, and the small catch would be sufficient for the next two days.

The tourist tells him that if he goes out to catch fish multiple times a day, he would be able to buy a motor in less than a year, a second boat in less than two years, and so on. The tourist further explains that one day, the fisherman could even build a small cold storage plant, later a pickling factory, fly around in a helicopter, build a fish restaurant, and export lobster directly to Paris without a middleman.

The nonchalant fisherman asks, "Then what?"

The tourist enthusiastically continues, "Then, without a care in the world, you could sit here in the harbor, doze in the sun, and look at the glorious sea."

"But I'm already doing that", says the fisherman.

The enlightened tourist walks away pensively, with no trace of pity for the fisherman, only a little envy.


The story, with its several adaptions, has been circulated widely on the Internet, and has been quoted in many books and scholarly papers.[4][5] In one of the most popular versions, the tourist is an American (an MBA from Harvard in some versions), and the fisherman is Mexican.[6][7]

The story is also part of the syllabi of several universities.[8][9] It is often quoted in texts that discuss the relationship between money and happiness, and has been included in textbooks teaching the German language.[10]

See also[edit]

  • Pyrrhus and Cineas, a philosophical essay by Simone de Beauvoir, which features a similar conversation: Cineas asks Pyrrhus why he doesn't rest now instead of going through all the trouble of conquering empires, when his ultimate plan is to rest after the final conquest. The anecdote originally appeared in Parallel Lives by Plutarch.


  1. ^ a b Böll, Heinrich (1995). "Anecdote Concerning the Lowering of Productivity". The Stories of Heinrich Boll. Leila Vennewitz (translator). Northwestern University Press. pp. 628–630. ISBN 0-8101-1207-8.
  2. ^ Moeller, Jack (1991). Kaleidoskop: Kultur, Literatur, und Grammatik. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co. p. 167. ISBN 978-0-395-57260-3. OCLC 23220682.
  3. ^ Conard, Robert C. (1992) [1991]. Understanding Heinrich Böll. University of South Carolina Press. p. 43. ISBN 978-0-87249-779-5. OCLC 24106001.
  4. ^ Christoph Vorwerk. Anecdote Concerning the Death of Enterprise by Quality Assurance Archived February 11, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ Plass, Jan L.; Chun, Dorothy M.; Mayer, Richard E.; Leutner, Detlev (March 2003). "Cognitive load in reading a foreign language text with multimedia aids and the influence of verbal and spatial abilities". Computers in Human Behavior. Elsevier. 19 (2): 221–243. doi:10.1016/S0747-5632(02)00015-8.
  6. ^ Schwantes, V. David (2007). Ethics in a Cocoon: How (Not) to Live Well Together. AuthorHouse. p. 52. ISBN 978-1-4343-2004-9. OCLC 176931764.
  7. ^ Ghosh, Indranil (2006). 10 Feel Good Factors. Pustak Mahal. p. 13. ISBN 81-223-0953-4.
  8. ^ Education F205: The Study of Education and the Practice of Teaching. Indiana University
  9. ^ German 90b. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  10. ^ Turneaure, Brigitte M. Der treffende Ausdruck, Texte, Themen, Übungen, 2nd ed., pp. 26–28. W. W. Norton, New York, 1996. ISBN 0-393-96823-5.

Further reading[edit]

  • Böll, Heinrich (1995). "Anecdote Concerning the Lowering of Productivity". The Stories of Heinrich Boll. Leila Vennewitz (translator). Northwestern University Press. pp. 628–630. ISBN 0-8101-1207-8.
  • Nayhauss, Hans-Christoph Graf von (1995). "Probleme der Literatur-Rezeption am Beispiel von Heinrich Bölls "Anekdote zur Senkung der Arbeitsmoral"". In Bernd Balzer, Norbert Honsza (ed.). Heinrich Böll—Dissident der Wohlstandsgesellschaft (in German). Wrocław: Wydawn/Uniwersytetu Wrocławskiego. pp. 173–200. ISBN 978-83-229-1293-5. OCLC 185775050.
  • Zobel, Klaus (1985). "Anekdote zur Senkung der Arbeitsmoral". Textanalysen. Eine Einführung in die Interpretation moderner Kurzprosa (in German). Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh. pp. 180–186. ISBN 978-3-506-28432-7. OCLC 13032352.