Friday 18 January 2013

Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum / The lost honour of Katharina Blum

Heinrich Böll

Okay so I realise that German literature month was November, but I completely failed to review anything at that point, and so I’m going to belatedly catch up. (I don’t think I’m completely alone in this! #germanevenlatermonth)

When I read this book in November I was struck in much of a similar way to Christoph Hein’s Der fremde Freund that it was probably something every German schoolchild reads in school, and so is deemed too simplistic for German literature university syllabuses in England. It’s obviously a difficult balance to maintain, and I’m now able to remedy it for myself, but I definitely felt I had missed a treat by not stumbling across it sooner!

Sadly I know as yet very little about Heinrich Böll, and this was the first book/or work (or even poem I think) I have read by him. But I will endeavour to read more! What a masterly way he plays with the reader and the text. Building a beautiful story whilst commenting on the craze of the mass media to drive stories to their tragic conclusion. The language is playful and also critical. The ridiculously short chapters driving us ever onward in the search of “the truth” behind the story. And so we the readers also become Paparazzi, urging Katharina to reveal all, even when we know the end because that is the very place that Böll begins.

I loved this. And I think I will be re-reading it for a long time. It struck me how it seemed to speak well to a modern audience as well as evoking a specific West German 1960s/70s feel. Any recommendations of other Heinrich Böll I might like?


  1. Maybe someone else who knows more will chime in - I have only read Billiards at Half Past Nine, but I have read it twice and hope to read it again someday. This novel is about the war and responsibility, more or less. And architecture. And it features paprika cheese.

  2. Thanks for the recommendation Tom, I'll have a look out for it on t'internet. Anything featuring paprika cheese sounds intriguing!