The Train was on time by Heinrich Böll

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The train was on time by Heinrich  Böll

German fiction

Original title  – Der Zug war pünktlich

Translator – Lelia Vennewitz

Source – personnel copy

I brought this when we went on holiday to Northumberland in a small Waterstones. I have been a fan of these Penguin European writer series books that have come out the last couple of years. But even more, I am a fan of Böll so far in the time I have blogged I have cover six of his books for me he alongside Gunter grass was the voice of those early post-war years of German. Now, this takes it right back to the start of his writing career and his Debut novel which had been out of print for a number of years and was first published in English in 1956.

But the silence of those who said nothing, nothing at all, was terriible. It was  the silence of tose who knew they were all done for.

At times the train got so full they could hardly hold their cards. All three were drunk by now, but very clear in the head.Then the train would empty again, there were loud voices, resounding and unresounding. Railway station. The day wore on to afternoon from time to time they would pause for a snack, then go on playing, go on drinking. The schnapps was excellent.

This line got me the fact about being drunk but still clear in head about their situation.

This is a story of one mans train ride from Dortmund through Poland to the Black sea and what is now Ukraine. The 23 Andreas a thoughtful almost one may say a daydream is heading back to the eastern front on this five-day train journey to what is maybe his and his companion’s death. So he is joined on the train by some fellow soldiers. The first of his companions an unshaven solider called Willi that has discovered his wife had cheated him and is seeking solace in the drink then the Blonde that has a sexual disease these are the ordinary soldiers that was the reality of the German army. As the train slowly moves east they remember the horror of the war they have seen their lives before the war and the present. On the way this young daydreamer and his train stops and meets a Polish girl in a brothel in an overnight stop in Poland he falls for her and from then on he wants to be with Olina a musician is drawn into prostitution but also a member of the resistance. Makes him want to escape the fate that awaits him. The death he saw before he boards the train.

“It’s funny that you’re a German and I don’t hate you” she fell silent again, smiling, and he thought, it’s remarkable how quickly she’s surerendered. When she went to the piano she wanted to seduce me, and the first time she played I’m dancing with you into heaven , seventh heaven of love, it was still far from clear.while she was playing she cried…

“All Poland” she went on,” is a resistance movement. You people have no idea.No one suspects how big it is. There is hardly a single unpatriotic Pole.

Oliona and Andreas first meeting the sense of a spark between the two of them a connection.

written whilst he was a prisoner just after the war ended this is a story of the real face of war the horror of a man barely a man Andreas struck me as a young 24 a virgin that falls for Olina straight away his first real chance of love and last glimpse of freedom. His two main companions maybe reflect two faces of what to do in war the Blonde with his sex disease remind me of the character that had crabs on his eyebrows in Das Boot someone having too much careless sex. Then the unshaven companion the drunken remind me of the character Ron Livingstone played in the band of brothers  Lewis Nixon. that using drink to get by through the war. This is a tragedy will he die we don’t know but it is looming and the fact he has envisioned it before he boards the train means he is almost predestined to happen but there is the curveball of Olina which till they meet shows the power of love can happen on one man. But also his conversation with a priest is a nod to Böll religious belief at the time he was a devout Catholic but in later life left the church. This is about the fragility of nature the nature of manhood brotherhood and the simple worthlessness of war.

 

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