Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

*West Germany

*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.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Spoken discourse is Boll's primary method to portray character development, to unveil thematic concerns, and to regulate the "action" of the...

(The entire section is 245 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Deeply affected by the horror and the extent of human misery he encountered during World War II, Boll emerged from the experience with a...

(The entire section is 241 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Throughout his career, Boll acknowledged the influence of numerous literary figures including German as well as non-German authors indicative...

(The entire section is 326 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

"I am a clown," says Hans. "I collect moments." Ostensibly intended by Boll as a simple definition of character, the statement offers...

(The entire section is 166 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Capitalizing on the cinematic techniques employed by Boll in his fiction, the Czechoslovakian film director Vojtech Jasney collaborated with...

(The entire section is 176 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Beck, Evelyn T. “A Feminist Critique of Böll’s Ansichten eines Clowns.” University of Dayton Review 12 (Spring, 1976): 19-24. Beck analyzes Hans Schnier as a negative person who exploited Marie. Beck asserts that with Marie, Böll depicted a victim of male domination.

Böll, Heinrich. What’s to Become of the Boy? Or, Something to Do with Books. Translated by Leila Vennewitz. New York: Knopf, 1984. Written just before his death, this is Böll’s longest autobiographical work. In it, he reveals connections between his life and his novels.

Conard, Robert C. Heinrich Böll. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1981. A good introduction to Böll’s life and works.

Conard, Robert C. Understanding Heinrich Böll. Columbia: University of South Carolina Presses, 1992. Includes a brief biography, a chronology, and a bibliography. In one chapter, Conard analyzes Böll’s major novels, among them The Clown.

Reid, James Henderson. Heinrich Böll: A German for His Time. Oxford, England: Oswald Wolff, 1988. Reid’s book explores the connections among Böll’s fiction, his life, and his times.