The Sunday I Became World Champion

Der Sonntag, an dem ich Weltmeister wurde; The Sunday I Became World Champion (1994)

This novella is a beautiful autobiographical study in miniature, which at times approaches a form of stream of consciousness narrative.

The narrator describes how he spent Sunday 4 July 1954. This was the day in which The Federal Republic of Germany (FRG, West Germany) won the Football (Soccer) World Cup in the World Cup Final against Hungary in Bern[e] in Switzerland. The German team, coached by Sepp Herberger and captained by Fritz Walter, beat Hungary 3-2. In German this event is known as ‘das Wunder von Bern’; ‘the miracle of Bern[e]’. The result provided a boost to West German confidence less than a decade after the end of World War Two.

The novella is set in the town of Wehrda, in the region of Hessen, near the town of Marburg in West Germany. The eleven-year old narrator is the son of the pastor of Wehrda. The narrator describes the omnipresence of religion in his life, particularly on a Sunday. The narrator feels stifled by the strict observances of the Sunday routine and by the piety of his parents. The narrator’s father sometimes appears to be almost inhuman because of his authoritarian presence, which is reinforced by the semantic confusion of the word ‘Vater’; ‘father’ which is used to refer both to God and to the narrator’s actual father.

As the narrator listens to the football commentary, he becomes aware that he is participating in a form of ecstatic devotion (whether pagan or secular). He finds this secular form of devotion greatly preferable to his father’s Christian faith.

English Translation

Friedrich Christian Delius, The Sunday I Became World Champion, trans. by Scott Williams (New York: Continuum, 2001)

Further Reading

Andrew Plowman, ‘Between “Restauration” and “Nierentisch”: The 1950s in Ludwig Harig, F. C. Delius, and Thomas Hettche’, in German Memory Contests: The Quest for Identity in Literature, Film, and Discourse since 1990, ed. by Anne Fuchs, Mary Cosgrove, and George Grote (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2006), pp. 253-29