Early, minor Boll, first published here as Acquainted with the Night and now newly translated. His postwar, rubbled German city is anonymous, and in it wanders Fred Bogner, a switchboard operator, a part-time tutor, an alcoholic trying to scrape together a few extra marks so that he can spend a night in a hotel with his wife--whom he's left, along with their three children, to go on without him in a cramped one-room. Claustrophobia, physical and religious, presses this thin story even thinner: Kate, the wife, watching her children, hears the sounds of the marathon copulators in the next apartment, sees that ""their expressions resemble those of trembling animals sensing death."" When Fred finally manages to pay for a room, the couple's release has been so hugely awaited that about all they can do is drop from exhaustion. When they're awake, Boll fits into their mouths soliloquies that explicitly limn the bitterness of their portions--a mistake in a book where everywhere else the desolation and loneliness and desperation is off-lit. But an earlier scene is Boll at his finest: Kate enters a half-destroyed church; in the darkness she's frightened by a figure looming up next to her, which turns out to be a statue of an angel, its face shrouded with dust: ""black flakes. I carefully blew them away, freeing the entire gentle oval from dust, and suddenly I saw that the smile was made of plaster, and that together with the dust the magic of the smile was blown away too."" Flawed and small--but the work of an artist.