Nine years after writing The Clown, a work that exemplifies the themes and methods employed in his other novels, Heinrich Böll received the Nobel Prize in Literature. Böll was a post-World War II German writer from a Catholic, pacifist family, a writer who fought in the war and was wounded four times before being captured and taken to an American prisoner-of-war camp, so his life and fiction encapsulate the religious, moral, and political dilemmas of post-World War II Germany. The Clown is the personal narrative of a single person, one individual, Hans Schnier, who is the clown of the title. In focusing on the character’s idiosyncratic view of the world and in particular on his love for Marie, the novel explores the problems of all humans in twentieth century societies.
On a political level, the book recounts Hans’s involvement with a Nazi youth group; his sister’s death for the Nazi cause; his mother’s anti-Semitic, pro-Nazi views; his own condemnation by another youth as a “defeatist”; and his father’s tacit support of the Nazis. The focus of Böll’s satire is on those hypocrites who blindly supported fascism as well as on those who impetuously shifted their allegiance after the war. Hans’s mother, for example, an ardent Nazi supporter before 1945, afterward becomes the president of a society for the reconciliation of racial differences. Böll accurately depicts and attacks the erstwhile Nazis who attained positions of power in Germany during the 1960’s, but on a more universal level the author satirizes all humans who heedlessly pledge allegiance to any...
(The entire section is 660 words.)