ABSENT WITHOUT LEAVE by Heinrich Boll

ABSENT WITHOUT LEAVE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

To be absent without leave from the army is to become human, opines this survivor of service in the German forces during World War II. Heinrich Boll's present protagonist is a forty-seven year old widower, grandfather, devoted son-in-law, who declines himself as neurotic, romantic, resigned. Alienated from his national identity, allied with the Jews against the Nazis in his mind, he seeks sanctuary and sanity in his familial associations. He was born on September 22, 1938, at age of twenty-one, a date memorable historically for Chamberlain at Munich and the discovery of nuclear reaction, but for the narrator marked by his welcome into the Bechtold family, whose daughter Hildegard he marries. Henceforth his identity is merged with their lives. The author refers to his ""little work"" as a ""memorial chapel"" constructed on multiple levels of ambiguity and compares it to a child's coloring book in which one may move from dot to dot to create the picture. The readers who accept the invitation to play will find it a teasing exercise with a certain reward--Boll is a mood-master and even in a minor work attains a mysterious sense of significance, evident if undefined; he has a sense of irony. Two stories, of the day the war began and the day it ended, carrying less freight and more narrative satisfaction, complete the volume.

Publisher: McGraw-Hill