In the middle of winter, in the night, deep snow covering the mountains and forests a doctor is
crossing the ridge from Traich to Föding to see a patient. He stumbles over a body in the darkness.
But it’s not a corpse at all! It’s Victor Halfwit, legless but still very much alive. ‘He was
lying in the middle of the forest, in the middle of the road, because both his legs, his wooden
legs, “perhaps because for once I tried to walk faster than usual,” said Victor Halfwit, had suddenly
broken. “All at once I forgot that I have wooden legs, none of my own, I thought that I
had my own legs again!” ‘ Halfwit had foolishly made a bet with a local mill-owner that he
could cover the distance between Traich and Föding in an hour or less, despite his wooden legs,
in the night, in the snow, in the middle of winter. Thanks to the doctor Halfwit wins the bet, he
will be able to buy the new boots that he longed for. But is it a happy end?
Victor Halfwit may have originally been considered as an absurd fable for children, but Berhard’s
masterly grasp of the intersection of tragedy and comedy renders this a story for all ages.
Sunandini Banerjee is an editor, graphic designer and translator who lives and works in Calcutta.