TO THE UNKNOWN HERO by Hans Erich Nossack


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Nossack who has written more metaphysically devious teasers--The Impossible Proof; The D'Arthez Case--now settles for a simpler put-on in the form of a short novel which twits with high good humor not only the narrowness of the academic mind (practically a stricture when a German is involved) but also the whole low German Kleinburgerlichkeit from which the narrator-history teacher here evolved. An ambitious verb for ""Professor Precise"" whose one accomplishment is a dissertation (given the ""flamboyant""--he thinks--title of this book) dealing with a minor revolutionary episode in 1919 when Comrade Hein, more familiarly known as Kuddel, and whose real name was perhaps not known at all, seized a Rathaus. The Professor's father was a shopkeeper-joker of Plattdeutsch (""nothing sounds very serious in Plattdeutsch"") origins and now--many years after his dissertation and his father's death--the Professor discovers a wool suit which reveals the whole falsification of identity, heroism and raffish circumstances that also betray historiography in its purest or rather impurest form. Heil--a touch-true comic talent footnoted with human fallibility and common sense.

Pub Date: Sept. 10th, 1974
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux