Crackers! #6: Aboud Saeed

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We hope you’ve been enjoying our very merry, end-of-year series, Crackers!

We’ve asked eight writers to tell us about the best gift that 2015 gave them/the world, and we’ll be posting their responses all the way through to New Year’s Eve. Today’s cracker comes from Aboud Saeed, kindly translated by Eugene Matti.


When I was small a dog bit me, so I developed a phobia of dogs. I walk down the streets of Berlin and if I come across a dog I move in a different direction. This is something my friend David noticed. David borrows money from me every month, five or ten euros at a time. Sometimes he asks for money more than once a month, and when he gets his payment from the Job Centre he repays what he owes together with a little gift, like a second-hand lighter that’s about to run out of gas, a twig, or a book about the history of public transport in German, a language of which I know nothing but: danke schön!

He repays what he owes together with a little gift, like a second-hand lighter that’s about to run out of gas, a twig, or a book about the history of public transport

Earlier this year, David was absent for over a month; he owed me twenty euros. It was the first time David had been late in paying back his debt to me. I repeatedly went to his flat to ask for the money. I rang his doorbell, on which David’s handwritten note said: Don’t ring the bell! I rang the doorbell, but no one answered. Several days later, David returned and told me he had been in the Netherlands helping our mutual neighbour fix his small boat. Our mutual neighbour had been asking David to repay the fifty euros he lent him six months ago. Because it’s difficult for David to come by that amount, he’d decided to go there and fix the boat so he could get rid of this heavy burden. On the way back David saw a sign attached to a short pole at the entrance of one of the Dutch villages. It was suspended on one nail, upside-down. No one was reading it. He took it off the pole and brought it with him. David paid me the twenty euros and gave me the sign as a gift. On it was written in Dutch: Verboden door honden. No dogs allowed.


Aboud Saeed was born in 1983 and lived in the township of Manbij, in the province of Aleppo in northern Syria. Manbij was heavily bombed by the Assad-regime in 2012 and early 2013. In 2011 Saeed created a Facebook account and posted there every day. The Smartest Guy on Facebook (mikrotext, 2013) a selection of his status updates, in which he writes about his mother, smoking, Facebook, love, and daily life during the violent Syrian conflict, is his first book. He now lives in Berlin with political asylum. He has published a second book Lifesize Newsticker (mikrotext, 2015, German only) and writes a weekly column for VICE Germany.