Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Richard Schroubek (SHREW-behk), a thirty-one-year-old bookseller by trade, recently abandoned by his girlfriend, Hannah Beyl. For Richard, who calls separation the most terrifying and shattering of all types of personal catastrophe, Hannah’s departure means the destruction of all prior connection to and identification with society. Without actually quitting or calling in sick, he simply stops working and sells an inherited Max Beckmann etching as a means of financially supporting his state of misery. He establishes a postal checking account, forgoing interest for the sake of solitude (he can withdraw money through the mail), and retreats to his apartment. Richard’s isolation is interrupted initially only by Frau N., the cleaning woman, and then by Fritz, another man rejected by Hannah. Gradually, the protagonist develops bad habits such as not bathing, not changing clothes regularly, and not cleaning. The general dirtiness and disorderliness of the apartment are greatly intensified by the mishaps to which the protagonist becomes prone.
Hannah Beyl (bil), the twenty-five-year-old girlfriend who suddenly and without explanation abandons Richard. Later, she spends three days with Fritz, only to leave him just as suddenly. Twice, Hannah seemingly attempts to re-establish contact with Richard. It is obvious from her appearance at an eventual meeting with...
(The entire section is 412 words.)
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The Characters (Masterplots II: World Fiction Series)
When he wrote Devotion, Botho Strauss was, like his protagonist Richard Schroubek, thirty-one years old, a resident of West Berlin, and an apolitical recluse and introspective survivor of the German student movement of the late 1960’s. Despite these similarities and Schroubek’s Strauss-like observations on Berliners and contemporary West German cultural stagnation, Strauss distances himself from his character by making him comically grotesque. The deeper Richard works himself into his self-imposed isolation and verbal narcissism, the more ridiculous he becomes. As he tries to cover up with a bohemian existence the emotional and social emptiness of his life, his despair becomes a pose, his increasing slovenliness a facade. He is aware of his own comic posturing as “Richard-without-life” and adds that “the comedy is only a protective ether that keeps the pain fresh.”
Richard’s greatest fear is of his own normality, the fact that he might be just like every other jilted lover, “lethargic, dim-witted, constipated,” as Fritz tells him. Although Richard misses the cleaning lady after her dismissal, she, twenty-five and happily married, epitomizes for him the kind of person he does not want to be, a self-satisfied, comfortable, unenlightened member of the consumer society. He, on the other hand, claims to long for poverty, solitude, shabby physical surroundings, and an erotic sensitivity to phenomena. Yet his growing addiction to...
(The entire section is 550 words.)
Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Adelson, Leslie. Botho Strauss and West German Prose of the 1970’s, 1983.
Adelson, Leslie. “Subjectivity Reconsidered: Botho Strauss and Contemporary West German Prose,” in New German Critique. XXX (Fall, 1983), pp. 3-59.
Dickstein, Lore. Review in Saturday Review. VI (July 21, 1979), p. 50.
Judd, Inge. Review in Library Journal. CIV (July, 1979), p. 1487.
Shrimpton, Nicholas. Review in New Statesman. XCIX (February 29, 1980), p. 325.