Hannover’s answer to Joe Btfsplk

Even on the sunniest of days or the clearest of nights, it never quite stops raining in Germany’s thirteenth largest city.

Here in the pedestrian zone in downtown Hannover, at the corner of Georgstraße and Große Packhofstraße, stands a dumpy, grumpy couple with a few drops of rain always dripping off their umbrellas. The slack-shouldered man with his briefcase and pot-belly, who has been standing here since 1983, seems to have a perennial appeal to self-deprecating Hanoverians.

Local sculptress Ulrike Enders (born 1944) did not give this gloomy man a name, as far as I know, but Americans of my generation will be reminded of Joe Btfsplk, the world’s worst jinx, in the comic strip “Li’l Abner” by Al Capp (1909-1979). Poor little Joe Btfsplk was a friendly, well-meaning man but he had his own little dark rain cloud above his head that followed him wherever he went, and he unintentionally brought bad luck to anyone who crossed his path.

A number of other sculptures by Ulrike Enders are on display in various parts of Hannover, including this one:


This sculpture is called Gegenseitigkeit, meaning mutual support. It shows two puffy, lethargic men supporting each other simply by leaning on each other.

Of course if they both fall asleep they might both fall over, which I suppose illustrates the limitations of mutual support. But as long as at least one of them stays awake, they’ll be fine.

By no accident this sculpture is on display at the headquarters of an insurance company that calls itself a mutual company, auf Gegenseitigkeit, i.e. a society whose members have agreed to support each other in case of need.

My photos in this post are from 2011. I revised the text in 2018.

See more posts on sculpture.

5 thoughts on “Hannover’s answer to Joe Btfsplk”

  1. So funny, I actually have a picture of my twin daughters with this statue from our first trip to Hannover, quite a few years ago! I did wonder if he had a story, he looks so defeated by life. I didn’t realise there was more than one. I’ll have to look out for the others next time I’m visit.

  2. Like Lou I enjoyed both the sculptures and your descriptions. The one with the umbrella reminded me of a sculpture I saw a few years ago in Jelgava, Latvia, and I had to check back to look at my photo to see if it might be by the same artist, but although the concept is the same (man under umbrella with constant drizzle provided through a fountain) the style is very different and the man less downtrodden 😉

  3. Thanks Don. I enjoyed Ulrike Enders’ work and learning a bit about Hanover. Very amusing text!

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