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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The Clown by Heinrich Böll

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Clown by Heinrich Böll

German fiction

Original title –  Ansichten eines Clowns

Translator – Lelia Venneewitz

Source – personal copy

I think it is a tradition to have a book from Heinrich Böll for German lit month. Having featured him three times before on German lit month on the blog. I have long been a fan of his works. This book is one I have wanted to put on the blog as the themes in the book are at the heart of what drove Heinrich as a writer and that was post-war Germany, the Catholic church, families and being a German male in post-war Germany. I fear he is slipping away from view, for many as a writer. I know there was some reissues. But that was a few years ago, luckily his books can be found fairly cheaply second hand.

I thought of Marie: of her voice and her breast, her hands and her hair, her movements and everything we had done with each other. Also of Zupfner, whom she wanted to marry. We had known each other quite well as boys- so well that when we met again as grown men we didn’t quite know whether to use first names of not – either way we felt embarrassed, and we never got over this embarrassment no matter how often we met.I couldn’t understand how Marie could have gone over to him of all people, but perhaps I never “Understood” Marie.

Hans looking back but also thinking what went wrong woith Marie.

The clown of the title is one Hans Schnier a 27-year-old. He makes his living as a clown around Germany. He is from a rich protestant family.But was sent to a Catholic school. Where he meets and lived with Marie for five years.She was a Catholic girl , they never married but spent many years ago . til she was drawn back towards the church and want Hans to join her.They were meant to go to an event at the hotel but Hans had to perform the night they were due to go to the Catholic even.  he got back to the hotel and in the morning she is gone, five years down the drain and the love of his life has gone with a man called Zupfner. We are told this in retrospective as the book opens with Hans after Marie has left lamenting her leaving him. He also has family problems as he confronts his father over there childhood, the family position after the war and its effect on him and his brother.

Even in the bathtub I missed Marie. She had sometimes read aloud to me as I lay in the tub, from the bed, once fro the old testament the whole story of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, another time the was od the Maccabees, and now and again from mThomas Woolfe’s Look homeward ,Angel. Here I was, lying completely deserted in this stupid terra cotta bathtub,  the bathroom was done in black tiles, but the tub, soapdish, shower handle and toilet seat were terra cotta. I missed Marie’s voice. Come to think of it, she couldn’t read the Bible with Supfner without feeling like a traitor or a whore.

Later he laments her but also has a wicked dig at the man she is with and his catholic religion.

At the heart of this is a lot of issues that were close to Boll. How Germany moved forward after the war.As Hans tried to break free of the family by being a clown.  How the church influenced people especially the Catholic church, his hometown of Koln is a very Catholic town. He must have also seen the effect of the church on Ireland a place. He visited many times as seen when I reviewed his, an  Irish Journals, a few years ago.You can even stay in his Irish cottage if you are a writer.Marriage is another thing that is touched on in the book. Hans and Marie lived together for five years, but Marie always viewed it as living in sin. This has echoes of works from Graham Greene, a book like the end of the affair.Which touched similar subjects, to this book was another novel that examined Catholic church.

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 ?

The lost honour of Katharina Blum by Heinrich Böll

The lost Honour of Katharina Blum  or how violence develops and where it can lead  by Heinrich Böll

Original title – Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum oder: Wie Gewalt entstehen und wohin sie führen kann

German fiction

Translator – Leila Vennewitz

Source – personnel copy

A couple of years ago I review the German Nobel laureate Heinrich Böll best known book billiards at half past nine .Böll  he refused to join the Hitler youth as a boy took an apprenticeship as a bookseller before becoming a full-time writer aged thirty .He was chairman of German PEN for a long time and then he chaired International PEN .He won the nobel prize in 1972 and passed away in 1985 .His book were mostly reissued in english a couple of years ago by Melville house .

Inquires into Blum’s activities during the four days in question progressed nicely enough at first ,and it was only when attempts were made to gather information about that sunday that they were brought up short

On the Wednesday afternoon Blorna personally paid Katharina Blum two full weeks wages at 280 marks per week ,one for the current week , the other for week to come

The reportage style of Böll writing in this book

 

The lost Honour of Katharina Blum ,follows Katharine Blum ,she gets drawn into a tabloid sensation after meeting a man at a party who it turns out is a bank robber  and she becomes the target of the newspaper “der zeitung “( this is thinly veiled version of the German paper der bild a sort of German  version of the sun ) .She is called a whore ,a communist sympathizer as she sees her private life torn apart by the paper and gets hate mail just for knowing one man . this leads her agreeing to do an interview with someone from the paper and now a couple of hours later she is at a police station giving this statement to the  police about recent events in her life  .What happened during that interview ? We see the story of her recent life unfurl .

Seven anonymous postcards , handwritten with “crude ” sexual propositions that in one way or another all included the words “communist bitch”

Four more anonymous postcards containing insulting political remarks but no sexual propostions .These marks ranged from “Red agitator ” to “Kremlin stooge ”

The fall out of what of Katharina Blum life in the papers .

 

The style of this book is like a police report or a bit of reportage we get a detached feel on the events in Katharina’s life and what lead to her agreeing to the interview and how she meet the man ,whom dragged her into the presses eyes .Amazing this book to say it was written in the 1974 before the modern scandals and rise of the modern celebs that have been caught in the media spotlight  ,Katharine blum reminds me of many people who have been in the  UK papers over the last few years people who have  gotten  caught up in a big story by chance  or accident , like the landlord of a recent victim of a killer  who saws his life invade by the papers by just being her landlord or the woman that hid her child .Katharine story is a bit more than theres in the end but we see how far some can be pushed by the tabloids and the prying eyes .For a book that is nearly thirty years old I would say the themes and style of Böll writing is still relevant today as much as ever .He captures what it is to have your life fall apart it seems .A small work that packs a punch above its weight .

Have you read Böll ?

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