*West Germany. Federal Republic of Germany, created when Germany was partitioned after World War II. Out of the rubble of the war, West Germany has become a modern industrial state with a vibrant industrial base. A new landscape has been created, one that papers over the tortured past of the Nazi Third Reich and the war. The novel’s flashbacks to the Germany that was under the control of the Nazis expose how readily the German state could change from its embrace of Adolf Hitler to its embrace of democracy. Over the years, Hans Schnier’s father becomes rich by extracting coal from German soil. The family remains seemingly unaffected by the political and economic turmoil that consumes the country because of this exploitation of the land.
*Bonn. New capital of West Germany that is the hometown of the clown Hans Schnier, who returns there a broken man. To Schnier, Bonn becomes the symbol for all that is corrupt with the new West Germany. He became a successful clown outside Bonn; he returns there disillusioned and takes up residence in the apartment that he previously shared with the love of his life, Marie Derkum. Schnier has not performed in his hometown. He had always ventured to other German cities such as Cologne and Hannover to make his livelihood as a clown. He is thus out of place in this city. By the end of the novel, he is reduced to begging for money at a train station, while hoping that Marie will come back to him....
(The entire section is 611 words.)