Ich bin hier bloß der Hund
[I’m just the dog around here]
The dog, previously called Brendon, did his duty in the Hungarian Puszta where he kept an eye on the steppe cattle, wooly pigs and Wallachia sheep and protected them from wild cats and jackals. Old Sheepdog lineage. Brendon had his share of a few tragic events, which won’t be mentioned here, and ended up in a small German family where he was called Anton. Father. Mother. Toddler. And a cat. Mizzi (what kind of name is that?).
Jutta Richter has accomplished nothing less or more than to give Anton a long overdue voice. His story is told in ten short chapters, congenially illustrated in black and white by Hildegard Müller, that detail his experiences with the family in autumn and winter, with father Friedbert (struggling to live up to the role of leader of the pack), with mother Emily (sweet, but sometimes hysterical), with the little daughter (his favorite creature, whom he calls "the little one"), and of course with Mizzi, who shamelessly vies for his favorite places to hang out. And then there's the memory of Uncle Ferencz, the wise, old sheep dog from the early days in Puszta.
Jutta Richter's art consists primarily in making herself an invisible narrator. If we didn’t know better, we’d not only think Anton was telling us his own story while sitting with us at the kitchen table, we wouldn’t doubt for a second the veracity of his words. The text is composed in an unusually rhythmic fashion and reads like a long prose poem - a poetic monologue recited by a very clever dog that has seen both joy and suffering, as he puts it: "All in all, I’ve struck lucky.”
Translated by Zaia Alexander
By Siggi Seuß
Siggi Seuß, freelance journalist, radio script writer and translator, has been writing reviews of books for children and young people for many years.