THE LOST HONOR OF KATHARINA BLUM or: How Violence Develops and Where It Can Lead by Heinrich Boll

THE LOST HONOR OF KATHARINA BLUM or: How Violence Develops and Where It Can Lead

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Boll's narrative technique for Katharina Blum is a variation on the one he used for Group Portrait with Lady (1972 -- the year he won the Nobel Prize). His heroine-protagonist is the sum of other people's opinions -- of facts, not feelings. A prudish and timid housekeeper for a corporate lawyer married to a female architect, she is virtually a social cipher. . . until she inadvertently becomes front-page copy for a notorious scandal sheet. Katharina calmly murders the reporter. Boll rewinds ""the truth"" about her after the fact in mock police-blotter style, pulling into the novel the industrialists and conservative politicians who were shielded from yellow-press exposure while Katharina and her ""Commie"" employers were thrown to the bloodthirsty lumpen readership. When a helpful friend asks her if she considers the paper's modus operandi ""a problem of the social structure,"" Katharina, the sacrificial lamb, shakes her head: she doesn't understand. Boll is a wry social critic with a particularly Teutonic sense of humor -- his irony is cool, his sympathy somewhat starchy. Katharina et al. are precisely drawn integers in a broad-based satiric equation of how--legal rights and freedom of the press notwithstanding-the system subsumes the personality. The jigsaw effect tends to become abstract, but Bell's concern in shaping the borders of our collective life is consummate and knowing.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1975
Publisher: McGraw-Hill