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The Readers Club...Pakistan's first Online Book Rental Service - ItemDescription
Heinrich Bll
ISBN # : N/A
Publisher: Weidenfeld and Nicolson
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Nobel Prize 1972

This book captures magnificently the feeling of being down and out and rootless. It is set specifically in post World War II Germany and describes well what surely were the feelings of many. But the sense of loss, alienation, lack of love, religious doubt set forth in the book go much deeper than that.

The book is told first person by its hero, a clown, Hans Schneir, who has enjoyed some success but has fallen to the state of pennilessness and drink after abanonment by his love, Marie, and an injury. The stuff of which romantic novels are made, but also the stuff of realism and symbolism too. Hans is from a wealthy but emotionally impoverished family who establishes a romantic liason with Marie, a young promising student who abandons her studies for him. She in turn ultimately leaves him based in part on her attachment to Catholicism. Schnier is an unbeliever but a"monogamous" unbeliever and can't adjust himself to the loss of Marie. He looks to friends, family, and others for comfort but finds none. Schneir says near the end of the book in an important passage "If our era deserves a name it would have to be called the era of prostitution. People are being accustomed to the vocabulary of whores." This theme is pervasive to the book together with hints about a way out. For example, in the course of a pivotal discussion between Schneir and his father Schneir alludes to and rejects the possibility that he must "lose [his] soul -- be totally empty, then I can afford to have one again."

The book is full of flashbacks from the narrators part interspersed with his reflections on his current actitivies and situation. His thought center on his own spiritual and emotional poverty, on the loss of Marie, his ambivalence towards religion, and the attempted change among Germans following their defeat. In some ways, the book and its end remind me of Schubert's great song cycle, Die Winterreise. The translation seems to me not of the best but it serves to convey the book. This novel is thoughtful, moving and worth reading.

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