Ein Prosit*

Clara proved a useful guide to the entertainment on stage. She said that she had grown up in a German-speaking part of Belgium, and was familiar with many of the songs the orchestra was playing. Like Anneke, she tucked in enthusiastically to her plate of bratwurst and sauerkraut. Thomas thought it strange that Belgians should be so ready to embrace the culture of a country which had occupied their own less than fifteen years ago, and committed many atrocities, but he did not say anything. It was not the right time to get involved in such discussions.

The orchestra had begun to play a particularly insistent and catchy song. Everyone who wasn’t eating began to clap their hands to the beat of the music. Clara leaned across the table and said -or rather shouted- that this tune was called ‘Ein Prosit’ and was a traditional Bavarian drinking song. She and Anneke were starting to clap along, too. The music got louder and louder, and the tempo faster and faster, as the chorus repeated itself incessantly. Many of the dinners were singing along, and suddenly, a few yards away from Thomas, two young women jumped to their feet, clambered onto the table and began to dance, scattering fragments of food and attracting more than the occasional glances as they did so. The diners laughed and cheered and stamped their feet. Many of them also got up to dance, and the singing got louder still:

Ein Prosit, ein prosit
Der Gemütlichkeit
Ein Prosit, ein prosit
Der Gemütlichkeit

(A toast, a toast
To cheer and good times
A toast, a toast
To cheer and good times.

Anneke and Clara jumped up and help out their hands for the men to join them. But Tony shook his head, grinning broadly, while Thomas took a long draught of beer and hid his face behind the enormous tankard. The women shrugged and began to dance with each other anyway.
«This is mass hysteria!» shouted Tony, looking around in amazement. «Isn’t this the kind of thing that brought Hitler to power?»
«Ssh! No politics tonight, please.»

*Expo 58, Jonathan Coe, Penguin-Viking

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About Narrator

" But it is no use to justify yourself. It is no good to explain. It is weak to be anecdotal. It is wise to conceal the past even if there is nothing to conceal. A man’s power is in the half-light, in the half-seen movements of his hands and the unguessed-at expression of his face. It is the absence of facts that frightens people: the gap you open, into which they pour their fears, fantasies, desires." H. Mantel


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