Thursday, March 07, 2013

review: The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum by Heinrich Boll

With the Leveson inquiry fresh in the mind the idea of someone having their life destroyed by the press perhaps isn't too surprising. But rarely do you get such an insight into what exagerrated half-truths can do to someone.

This story follows the sad case of Katharina Blum who makes the mistake of falling for a young man that is wanted by the police. She doesn't spend that much time with him but when the press get to hear about it she becomes the villain of the piece.

The story around her takes on its own ever expanding proportions with her labelled as a communist, whore and her relationship with the man taken into the realms of fantasy as the newspaper writers write what they want about her.

Her life starts to crumble and the previous hard working and respectable existence that she had worked so hard to develop is pulled apart by damaging headlines and tabloid lies. Ultimately she resorts to something rather desperate and as a reader you are left knowing why she did it and even going as far as to sympathise with her actions.

The tragedy is of course that if you want to get back at the press you play into their hands by becoming the sort of person that they have been portraying you as. Losing control gives them even more material.

This story is a sobering one because it shows how dangerous lies can become when they were presented as fact. when you are caught in the middle of the nightmare as Katharina is then it must be a nightmare. A nightmare quite brilliantly pulled together by Boll.


AngloGermanTranslations Übersetzungen said...

I miss an important piece of information in this review, the translator's name. Is it a recent new translation or the old one by Leila Vennewitz?

As you might know, Heinrich Böll (with umlaut) wasn't only a writer, but a translator, too. In fact, he co-founded a world-famous centre for literary translators from all over the world, the Europäisches Übersetzerkollegium at Straelen, Germany.

One more detail is important for the plot. Böll wrote it in the wake of the Baader-Meinhof Affair. The gutter press accused Böll of sympathising with this group.

Simon Quicke said...

thanks for the info