German author teaches economics with nurse love story

AFP - [email protected] • 30 Mar, 2009 Updated Mon 30 Mar 2009 08:12 CEST
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A cheesy love story dripping with kitsch: Doe-eyed sister Helga falls head over heels for handsome surgeon Robert. It's not the kind of story you would expect to find in an economics textbook.

"Sister Helga: You Maximise My Happiness" is German author Thomas Hönscheid's latest novel and an eccentric attempt at teaching struggling students the basics of supply and demand.

The work of fiction has "silky-haired," and "long-legged" Helga falling in love with broad-shouldered Doctor Robert, and being driven to despair in her tireless mission to conquer his heart.

Helga portrays the traditional smitten bimbo, intrigued by family secrets, dismayed by risky surgical operations and enchanted by idyllic strolls in the spring breeze.

But the surgeon of her dreams is not the moral and humane doctor he appears to be. Instead he is a money-driven businessman, only interested in maximizing his profits and minimizing costs.

Devastated, Helga plunges into the world of microeconomics in a desperate attempt to learn what goes on inside his head.

A ginger student casts light on the basics of Marxist ideology, and a natter in her hair salon spells out the theory behind the mechanism of price-fixing in a competitive market.

Abandoning her former bubble-headed self, the nurse becomes a die-hard fan of the free market. A family outing turns into an "afternoon of Pareto optimality," sending her into a simplified state of perfect well-being.

Before treating a sick child, she evaluates whether or not to nurse it to health, concluding that its "depreciation" would be "write down on a long-term investment."

Realising that the loss of a child is also the loss of "spezifisches Beziehungskapital" - relationship capital - Helga reassures the mother that she will recover as soon as she finds something more profitable.

Hönscheid even ventures into the unexplored terrain of theoretical romance.

"Helga! I love you. Would you like to enter into a long-term contractual agreement, declaring that we will exchange material and sentimental goods?" the book reads.

"All extreme economic theories, like Marxism and the ideal of the perfect free market, seem ridiculous to me," author Hönscheid - an economics graduate who was "initially slightly left" but later "became more liberal" - tells AFP.

"I remember that my university lectures were all rather dull," he says, adding that his book is targeted chiefly at "students who need help with their revision."

And despite the kitschy style, the theories are indeed all rather complex, consisting of difficult mathematical explanations and technical passages.

Hönscheid, who finished writing his novel in June, is proud of the outcome but does have one regret.

"If I would've waited until Lehman Brothers went bankrupt, I could have added a section about bankers and the financial markets."

Nonetheless, if the story of Helga proves to be a hit, Hönscheid promises to launch into his next project.

"A book on macroeconomics" - financial issues at state-level, including unemployment, investment, inflation.

Helga, he explains focuses more on microeconomics and the behaviour of individual stakeholders, like businesses and consumers.

"Perhaps I will make it a police novel, or a country romance set high up in the idyllic Bavarian Alps," he adds.



AFP 2009/03/30 08:12

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