Heinrich Böll Short Fiction Analysis
Heinrich Böll often appears both stylistically and philosophically to be a fusion of Ernest Hemingway and Franz Kafka, unlikely as that combination might seem. He frequently wrote in a simple prose style, recounting the day-to-day affairs of soldiers or former soldiers who smoke cigarette after cigarette and drink as much as Hemingway’s characters. Despite a surface reality, however, his world is often as surrealistic as Kafka’s, as stories such as “Unberechenbare gäste” (“Unexpected Guests”), “Wie in schlechten romanen” (“Like a Bad Dream”), “Der wegwerfer” (“The Thrower Away”) or “Er kam als bierfahrer” (“He Came as a Beer-Truck Driver”) testify. Böll has not decided whether his allegiance is ultimately to those who see humanity triumphing over the myriad disasters that dog it or to those who regard decency and justice hopelessly as overpowered by chaos, force, and intolerance.
Perhaps it is because his most formative and productive years were spent either in the field-gray uniform of the Third Reich or in cast-off civilian clothes observing its successor that his judgment wavers. Though he witnessed or heard of countless horrors, he also experienced incidents of kindness, love, and compassion that seemed to redeem them. From his experience came a hatred of intolerance but also an understanding that accusations of innate German moral inferiority themselves constituted a kind of racism. Thus, despite Hitler, the...
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