The safety net by Heinrich Böll


The safety Net by Heinrich Böll

German Fiction

Original title  Fürsorgliche Belagerung

Translator – Leila Vennewitz

Source – Personnel copy

We made the cops look dumb
On the border line
Springer said 'must be the mood of the times'
Rudi says "we've got to get wise"
And we've got to get armed'
Its a

surveillance state operation Rich kid with a gun Al-Fatah in Palestine against the P.L.O. Andreas says 'She's not the girl that I used to Know Rudi says.......
A cheap lyric choice but I love luke haines as a singer and he did do an Album called baader meinhof (the name of the two main RAF members )


Well I’m back been off work for a couple of weeks on Holiday and decided to take a break from the blog as well , so I return with my first book for German lit month and it happens to be a book I won a couple of German lit months ago from Caroline , so it is a double prize winner really ! So this is the third book by the Nobel winning German writer Heinrich  Böll on the blog , he has for me long been one of my favourite german writers and in many ways the best post world war two voice on West Germany .This is one of the books that was reissued by Melville house a few years ago in the essential Böll collection .

During these last few months his fear had been directed almost entirely towards technical matters , security measures .Concern had been supplanted ; now it was no longer fear of something but fear for : for Sabine , and for Hebert , for Kathe’s follies , least of all – and this surprised him – for Rolf .

Fitz starts to feel the fear of attack grow closer .

The safety net is a novel , but could also be classed in some ways as a collection of  short stories as the story is built-in the chapter by glance into each of the people involved in the story .the story is of Fitz Tolm, a man who by luck in a way has risen to be a person of power within germany .The book is set in the late seventies actually in 1977 , just as the red army faction is falling apart .Now this is why we join Fitz and his family members as they have been threatened by the RAF , so have been taking into hiding by the German police to a safe house .So the story follows both the family as they adjust to being kept and restrict in their movements , but also in the team of people who are guarding them .Now Fitz accepts this but his children struggle , but also along the way Fitz finds out more about his children particularly his daughter Sabine , who he discovers is pregnant during this time .The is also Fitz’s old wives to add into the mix .Then there is a black sheep member of the family and is one of their kids involved with the terrorists !

and he recalled the young people sometimes met at Sabine’s , or rather had met , for of course the strict security measures had kept visitors away too .Among them there had been occasional flirtations with just that :pot and stronger stuff

The tough watching has brought restrictions too Fitz’s daughter Sabine , as the police check every one coming closer .

The story build slowly til we get to a climatic end .Heinrich tried to capture in this book , how the RAF effected the everyday lives of the rich and famous that were targeted by them at the time .but this is also a study into families and how they work internally , how the pressure of hiding away and having your every move monitored by the police can slowly open up even the smallest cracks with in a family .Heinrich had used this technique of voices of all involved in his other novels particularly Group portrait ,for me it is an effective way of capturing a moment like this is a moment of history from every angle .This was a bold choice when Heinrich first published it in 1979 , the dust hadn’t quite settled on the RAF and the events surrounding it .I said this before it is a shame Heinrich isn’t as well-known as he once was ,which is a shame .

Have you read his books ? Do you have a favourite ?

21 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. kaggsysbookishramblings
    Nov 02, 2014 @ 10:54:41

    I’ve only read “The Train Was On Time” – which was strange and rather wonderful.


  2. hastanton
    Nov 02, 2014 @ 12:09:35

    I came across Böll when I did Die Brot Der Frühen Jahre for German A Level . He is a fab short story writer ….was just thinking I might try and get hold of some for German Lit Month .Hope you had a good hol.


  3. jacquiwine
    Nov 02, 2014 @ 13:19:15

    He’s fairly new to me, Stu. His name is familiar, but I know very little about his work. It does sound as if he should be better known over here.


  4. hastanton
    Nov 02, 2014 @ 13:35:45

    There was a fab TV programme which was a meeting between him and Kurt Vonnegut ….talking about the War and writing . Both men were prodigious smokers !!!!!


  5. Col
    Nov 02, 2014 @ 16:49:47

    I’ve only read Lost Honour of Katharina Blum – it was years ago but I enjoyed it.


  6. Guy Savage
    Nov 02, 2014 @ 17:31:52

    I have to read something by this author. Been meaning to for years….


  7. 1streading
    Nov 02, 2014 @ 20:02:47

    Like Col above, I’ve only read The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum (that I can remember) and that was years ago. Always meant to read more. This one sounds particularly interesting.


  8. Judith
    Nov 03, 2014 @ 00:32:55

    I most enamored of his immediate post-war short stories and novels. They’re haunting, in a lyrical, beautiful way. I’m mesmerized by them. I bought an enormous short story collection from Melville House just a very few years ago. Looking forward to reading more of the stories there.
    Judith (Reader in the Wilderness)


  9. Mytwostotinki
    Nov 03, 2014 @ 09:46:46

    Thanks for this interesting review, Stu. Böll has been a bit out of fashion, but my impression is that people start recently to re-read him again and he is absolutely worth it. I like most his short stories – indeed he was maybe the one author that made the short story popular in Germany (a genre that is usually held not in the same high esteem there as the novel). His Lost Honor of Katharina Blum was on my reading list in school, and I like also The Clown and Group Portrait with Lady. Böll was also an advocat of good causes and an uncorruptable person. Many people called him The Good Heinrich, and not without reason. By the way, he has a kind of cameo appearence in Ralf Rothmann’s Young Light which I recently reviewed.


    • winstonsdad
      Nov 03, 2014 @ 11:52:00

      I think on english just lack of reissue sure penguin which was his main UK publisher will do at some point his books are very important and as you say in schools in Germany as reading


  10. Seamus Duggan
    Nov 03, 2014 @ 12:40:02

    I am working my way through Böll. My favourites so far are this (The Safety Net) and Billiards at Half Past Nine. I’ve read four and I have a few more ready to go. Hoping to read at least one this month. The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum also deals with the Red Army Faction, written when the hysteria was in full flow. I’ve reviewed three –
    Kudos for the Luke Haines mention! I’m a fan.


  11. Caroline
    Nov 03, 2014 @ 16:42:57

    I haven’t read this but it sounds like I should. Very interesting.


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November 2014


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