the short story project

If That’s How It Is

Peter Reichenbach On:

If That’s How It Is by Dorian Steinhoff

I like stories whose content can be summed up in a single sentence, and Dorian Steinhoff’s “If That’s How It Is” is just such a story. If you’re asked what it’s about, you can answer easily and quickly: ‘It’s about an abortion.’ But – and I like this even more – as you speak the words, you realise that although what you’ve just said isn’t exactly wrong, the story is in fact about a whole lot more. Maybe so much so that, the longer you think about it, the further the general topic of abortion seems to recede into the background, until it hardly seems worth mentioning at all. Dorian Steinhoff’s formula is: watch closely, listen closely. It is often the simplest sentences that stick in your head. ‘On a scale of 0 to 100 per cent, how much would you say you do not want to have this child?’ the counsellor asks the couple sitting in front of her, for instance. This question or one very like it is probably asked every day, but in Dorian’s story it takes on a disturbing edge. Dorian Steinhoff knows exactly how to deploy sentences like this, making them say more than an entire newspaper article or essay on the same subject.