Summary (Masterplots II: World Fiction Series)
In The Safety Net, Heinrich Böll seems to be more interested in creating a situation than in telling a conventional story. Böll defines a national state of paranoia that creates, in turn, a state of mind that is extremely disturbing and distasteful, as his characters, whose privacy is invaded by the “safety net” that is cast over their lives, attempt to deal with family and professional crises. Their lives are dominated and controlled by cadres of security guards assigned to protect them against terrorist attacks, kidnappings, and assassination attempts. The development is entirely psychological. This is a story of terrorism that generally avoids incidents of physical violence. Instead, it focuses on administrative terrorism, the intellectual discomfort experienced by those who are constantly under surveillance.
The novel begins with a decision reached by a conference of top industrialists of the Federal Republic of Germany. The central figure, Fritz Tolm, an elderly, cultivated publisher, has just been elected to head this industrial syndicate, called the Association, replacing his predecessor, the steel magnate Pliefger.
As a figurehead for the nation’s leading industrialists, Tolm knows that he will become the prime symbolic target for terrorists. Because of his influence and recognition as a respected and admired avuncular celebrity, Tolm has had reason to fear for his life: “Now it was no longer fear of something but...
(The entire section is 1008 words.)
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