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The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum – Heinrich Böll

 
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Posted September 4, 2016 by

The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum – Heinrich Böll – 1974

Reviewed by: Linda             Date: 5 May 2002

Katharina Blum is a hard working, honest housekeeper with a small car, her own house and, after her divorce from her husband, not much of a social life. One evening during carnaval she decides to go dancing. Here she meets a man who she really likes, but who turns out to have a criminal record. And this is when things start to go wrong… A journalist from the ZEITUNG (“newspaper”), a pulp magazine claiming to be a respectable newspaper, puts his teeth into the story and starts damaging Katharina and her family, friends and acquitances. In the end Katharina takes justice into her own hands.

Place and time of this pamphlet (as Böll calls this book in an afterword) are West-Germany, 1974, so a conservative society at the height of the fear for the Red Army Faction, with an unbridled influence of the pulp press, in particular the notorious BILD-Zeitung. Böll has written a convincing accusation against these type of journals and the fact that people actually believe what they say.

The problem with this book is that it is outdated: in the meantime the world has moved on, readers (even those of newspapers like the ZEITUNG) have become more aware of the fact that these type of newspapers tend to lie and the accusations made in those types of newspapers are nowadays even more outrageous than in 1974. I also had some problems with the style of writing: even though the book is well written (as one may expect from a Nobel laureate), the narrator actively comments on what is going on, which is sometimes irritating and does not add anything to the story.


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