MISSING PERSONS And Other Essays by Heinrich BÖll


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In an expansive and lucid essay on Tolstoy, Boell asks: ""At what point does a German cease to be German for foreigners?""--and it's to his enormous credit that his answer, held to the light from more than two dozen angles, is, basically, ""Never."" Speaking ""In Defense of 'Rubble Literature,'"" he refers to his German contemporaries as ""suspended in time, dates. . . wrapped around them like a net,"" and this charge not to evade the responsibility of history courses through the book; once it supports an aesthetic that will transform the objects in art ""back into a new reality that does justice to both object and material,"" then it becomes a shrewdly sane look at the situation in Northern Ireland. In his Nobel acceptance speech included here, BÖll refers to a reality in which must be discovered ""whole regions of the humiliated, of those alleged to be human refuse""--and so the five pieces on Solzhenitsyn, sketching the architecture of an opus where ""irony or poetry, God, fiction or resistance"" all amount to the same thing: the irrational ""remainder"" that hard-held freedom is. When the Russians invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968, BÖll happened coincidentally to be in Prague; his powerful (and terribly sad) reactions are culled under the title ""The Gun Was Aimed At Kafka."" Perfect. If, despite the Nobel, BÖll's novels are more respected than read here--how interested are the good guys who won in reading about the bad guys who lost?--perhaps this book, with its rigorously humane demands, will go some distance in providing a key by which the work of this unflashy and large-feelinged writer can be better comprehended.

Pub Date: Oct. 30th, 1977
ISBN: 0810111772
Publisher: McGraw-Hill