WOMEN IN A RIVER LANDSCAPE: A Novel in Dialogues and Soliloquies by Heinrich Boll

WOMEN IN A RIVER LANDSCAPE: A Novel in Dialogues and Soliloquies

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Posthumous Boll--and not (as least not immediately) impressive. The theme is largely identical to that of The Safety Net (1982)--the fragile existence of power, its paradox of entrapped open-sidedness; but unlike in that major novel, the theme here is illustrated skimpily, in blackout conversations and stagy monologues. The characters are politicians and their women--some more shadowy than others--and chiefly it is the women who have wearied from all the intrigues, bad behavior, hypocrisy, and overt show. A state funeral serves as one central occasion, the other a bizarre series of vandalisms (the historic pianos of a number of wealthy bankers have been demolished by an axe). The first is a means of accession, the second a means of parodic attack on the smugness of culture that the powerful indulge in. Boll never gets beyond the stiff unnaturalness of characters desperately trying to give background in speech--and though there are moments here (Boll's Catholic humanism is in evidence late in the book: ""The only things that matter are love and loyalty--not faith. I'd do anything for my kid brother, even if he turned out to be a murderer. Law and order, Count, is something we can't afford. . .;"" and there is the odd confession by a West German diplomat of stealing Mercedes hood-emblems as prizes for Russian informants)--this is, overall, Boll at his least powerful.

Pub Date: June 30th, 1988
Publisher: Knopf