Max and Moritz is an extremely quotable gruesome story of two boys and their pranks. It’s written in rhymed couplets, many of which have turned into common sayings because they are witty, sarcastic, or just brutal. They are in many ways an integral part of German culture, I suppose, but more importantly they were an inescapable part of my family’s culture. Being able to quote Max & Moritz was a survival skill.
Max and Moritz are cruel young boys, pranking everybody around them. They kill an old widow’s chickens, and subsequently steal the roasted chickens, too. They make people fall into rivers, stuff their teacher’s pipe with gunpowder, and fill their uncle’s bed with bugs. When the baker catches them stealing pretzels, they fall into a vat of dough and are baked, but gnaw their way out and escape. Finally though, they hide in sacks of grain, and are ground to pieces in the mill, and eaten by the miller’s ducks.
It’s a wild ride, it’s utterly hilarious, and the things Busch does to language are wonderful and dorky.
Many other poems and stories by Busch come close – consider “Der Affe Fips”, which is written in the same style – and when two old professors meet, he suddenly switches to hexameters. A modern author similar to Busch would be Robert Gernhardt.