Thursday, March 13, 2014

Billiards at half past nine

I finally found a Polish translation of this book by Heinrich Böll, after a couple of years of searching through 2nd hand bookstores. As it goes, I found the first Polish edition from the year 1961, only two years after the publication of the original.

It's easy to find the story of the book online,Böll was, after all, a Nobel laureate, but I will add some my comments. The book is definitely one of the best of his works. Very briefly, it is the history of the Fähmel family at the time after the First World War and Hindenburg, until the time of post-WWII West Germany. No big philosophy, more a personal psycho - sociological picture of the pathology in the society. Interestingly, it is not about a poor family, and is given in terms of the positive characters: architects, sincere, faithful, morally and socially unquestionable people. No creatures like then and current political or human shit of characters. Nazis are referred to as a primitive and inherently evil people, but more as a social evil than private.

Precisely in this way Böll achieved, at least for me, the most effective condemnation of bourgeois, or rather klein-buergerlich society. A woman from the apartment a couple of floors above the impoverished families in times of great crisis, which lends a half cup of sugar and is considering a debt returned only when she receives a full cup; outraged wealthy citizen who requires the bill in a restaurant charging HALF boiled egg, because he ordered it so, and not the whole egg; boys' arguments that eventually grow into national issues at the cost of people's lives... There is no better way to get to the core question: who are those people able to send a couple of million people in gas chambers and bring out such an ideology as the Germans followed during the Nazi time? In the book, Böll does not even mention those things by name, but they are constantly just behind the horizon; it feels like an army coming onto the city during a siege.

A sad thing is that today similar issues are emerging in Europe. See Ukraina today. Obviously we have not read enough of Böll, maybe a good time to refresh our memory a little?

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