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The Clown (1963)

by Heinrich Böll

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2,337395,717 (3.95)34
Includes the full German text, accompanied by German-English vocabulary. Notes and a detailed introduction in English put the work in its social and historical context.
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» See also 34 mentions

English (24)  Italian (3)  Spanish (3)  German (2)  French (2)  Dutch (2)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (37)
Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
I suppose this is the German version of the "angry young man" novel. Comedian Hans Schnier has had a kind of professional meltdown after his girlfriend Marie breaks up with him and goes off to get respectably married to someone else; with his last few Deutschmarks he retreats to his Bonn apartment and tries to take stock.

He blames Marie's Catholic friends who have been pressuring her to give up her sinful cohabitation with Hans, but widens this into a more general disgust with his wealthy parents, with Bonn, with the CDU, with the booming Wirtschaftswunder society that is obsessed with respectability and appearances but refuses to think about anything that it might have done wrong before 1945, and with the men in bars who are so happy to talk nostalgically about their good old days in the war at the drop of a hat.

Hans has made a stand against the hypocrisy of the world around him by dropping out of school and running away with Marie to build a stage career for himself, but after six years on tour this doesn't seem to have solved anything, and he has simply humiliated himself in the eyes of the world. Ironically, though, Böll seems to be suggesting that it's only by embracing this humiliation that he can start the process of reconciling himself with those around him. When we leave him in the last chapter he may be at the very bottom of his trajectory, but it seems that the only way is up.

In a way, this seems to be a bit like having your cake and eating it: Böll manages to enjoy the best part of 250 pages ranting against the hypocritical values of postwar German society in general and the Catholic Church in particular from the point of view of a radical atheist, but then plucks what looks very like a Kierkegaard-style Christian reconciliation out of it at the end. Very sixties, of course! ( )
  thorold | Jul 13, 2022 |
8489669260
  archivomorero | Jun 25, 2022 |
( )
  iffland | Mar 19, 2022 |
Fantastischer, fast vollkommener Roman -- Böll vermag, die Ansichten, Besessenheiten und logischen Rätsel eines aus seiner kleinen moralischen Welt ausgestiegenen Jungen mit Tiefe darzustellen, ausgerechnet wenn der Autor selbst nicht so jung war. Zu solchem ist der Roman geschaffen!!! Schade, dass so viele im Augenblick des ersten Abdrucks nichts des Jungen Gedanken kapiert haben, außer seine Abneigung zu Einfältigkeit, die sie ganz faul für Religionsfeindlichkeit nahmen. ( )
  EugenioNegro | Mar 17, 2021 |
A book that was done a disservice by its reputation, at least as far as I'm concerned. It didn't help that I read Wolfgang Koeppen's Death in Rome just before this one; in fact, I read this because of that one. Koeppen's novel is superior in many ways: it's stronger as a picture of German society; it's more interesting and entertaining; it's better on the meta-literary "why do we do art stuff anyway?" question. It's less psychologically plausible, but otherwise, The Clown loses out quite badly.

That said, if this had been presented to me as a kind of addendum to Proust's jealousy volumes, only with some post-Nazi world stuff thrown in, I might have enjoyed it much more. The core of the book is jealousy, not society; it's about an individual, pure and simple, who stands apart from the society he happens to find himself in (i.e., post-war West Germany), but would have stood apart from any society he found himself in. That makes it hard to take seriously as a tragedy (there's no real relationship between the individual and his society, except opposition).

I'm not sure what Boll was aiming at, then, but I know what he succeeded in doing: giving us a plausible depressed artist who has lost the woman he (thinks he) loves to someone he can't stand, even while he has to accept that the man he can't stand is more successful and competent than he is. If you know that's what's going on, you might enjoy it more than I did. If you go in expecting specific, historical, social criticism, you'll be pretty disappointed. ( )
  stillatim | Oct 23, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (76 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Böll, HeinrichAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Araújo Cardalda, LaureanoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hädeler, GüntherCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Piatti, CelestinoCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Plas, Michel van derTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Steen, KnutIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vargas Llosa, MarioForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vennewitz, LeilaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Die werden es sehen, denen von Ihm noch nichts verkündet ward, und die verstehen, die noch nichts vernommen haben.
Dedication
for Annemarie
First words
Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Es war schon dunkel, als ich in Bonn ankam.
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Vi sono dei limiti oltre i quali l'idiozia dovrebbe essere controllata.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Includes the full German text, accompanied by German-English vocabulary. Notes and a detailed introduction in English put the work in its social and historical context.

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Un clown, attraverso le sue pantomime, lancia accuse feroci all'opulente società tedesca occidentale che sembra aver smarrito ogni valore.
(piopas)
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