“The Onlookers” by Kathrin Röggla

A short story about the apocalypse (or not) told through meeting minutes from a conference hotel.

Introduction by Petra Gropp:
Our world has entered a constant state of emergency. We are continually confronted with pictures of climate change, political upheavals, and collapsing infrastructures. We hear the sounds of panic: financial crises, epidemic plagues, and spectacular kidnappings. We watch scenes of panic, rescue missions, and security activities as if they were fiction. Indeed, these stories of disaster could be taken for Hollywood movies. Are we the heroes in a catastrophe movie? The anti-heroes? Are our lives a worst-case-scenario? Experts, curious onlookers and participants staring at the catastrophe and asking themselves: “”Did we survive?”” Kathrin Röggla reflects on the narration of catastrophe. She analyzes the language of panic, the jargon-laden rhetoric of experts, and the delusive doublespeak of security, creating an artisitic echo of the sounds of apocalypse.

1 short story
1 month
Quote from Translation
“So he had to admit he had bargained on just about everything, he had bargained on snipers, military convoys, and helicopter deployments. Aircraft carriers off the coast, or the National Guard at the very least. He’d expected them to show up fast and immediately partition the city into different zones, into different traversabilities and untraversabilities, but there didn’t seem to be any different degrees of traversability at all, as though it had turned out to be equally untraversable everywhere!”
Bibliographic Details
Röggla, Kathrin. "The Onlookers" ["Die Zuseher"]. The Short Story Project, 2016.