Silent Angel

Silent Angel

by Heinrich Boll
     
 

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The Silent Angel is a haunting love story set amid the ruins of a bombed-out city, which is in fact Cologne but has been compared by the critics today to destroyed Sarajevo, Beirut, and Belfast. Suppressed in Germany for over forty-one years, the book has quickly become a major literary event and a bestseller in Europe, for it was Nobel laureate Heinrich Boll's first… See more details below

Overview

The Silent Angel is a haunting love story set amid the ruins of a bombed-out city, which is in fact Cologne but has been compared by the critics today to destroyed Sarajevo, Beirut, and Belfast. Suppressed in Germany for over forty-one years, the book has quickly become a major literary event and a bestseller in Europe, for it was Nobel laureate Heinrich Boll's first book, a work that was originally judged too strong for German readers still suffering from the ravages of war. The story begins with the return of a hardened and cynical soldier, Hans Schnitzler, who quickly falls into a dangerous web of financial and personal intrigues as he searches for the widow of a comrade. He meets Regina Unger, another war widow who has just lost her baby, and their ensuing love story, set among the ruins of the city, will force readers to recall Nathan and Sophie in William Styron's Sophie's Choice. Yet Boll's characters reach a completely different ending, for in Regina and in his reexposure to the church, Hans Schnitzler finds a redemptive purpose for living, and his psychic and physical recovery take on heightened meaning as he wanders through the "naked destruction, desolate and terribly empty, as if the breath of the bomb still hung in the air." Fans of Boll's classic works and new readers alike will be startled by the power of the novel's language, particularly by Boll's use of irony and imagery. For the remarkable language for this book, so ably translated by Breon Mitchell, echoes the power of earlier German writers like Franz Kafka and Max Brod yet also serves as the first harbinger of a generation of postwar literature that was still to come.

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Editorial Reviews

Peter Filkins
While the bleakness Boll portrays might have made German publishers wary in 1950, the artistry of his portrayal makes "The Silent Angel" a rich novel, one still pertinent to our own hunger for the bread of meaning amid the rubble of history. Heinrich Boll's gift to us is the skill with which he captures its first pangs. -- New York Times
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Boll's first novel, unpublished until after his death, tells a story of decay and redemption in post World War II Germany. (Aug.)
Library Journal
The late Nobel Prize winner's first novel, now published for the first time, is a significant example of German Heimkehrer literature, which describes the return of soldiers and prisoners of war to their homes after World War II and their problematic reintegration into a society facing the choice of repeating the mistakes of a discredited past or constructing a new, more just society. Particularly moving in its descriptions of the simple struggle for existence in a devastated German city in 1945, the novel explores a surprisingly full range of the mature writer's major themes. The plot centers around Hans, who, seeking a morally defensible life of love and commitment, is seemingly destined to live on the periphery of an economically recovering society. He is contrasted with Fischer, a wealthy and morally empty art connoisseur, who acquires increasing riches and influence with the aid of the hierarchy of the Catholic church. A fine beginning from a great writer; recommended for most collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/15/94.]-Michael T. O'Pecko, Towson State Univ., Md.
Donna Seaman
Nobel Laureate Boll's first novel has now been published for the first time, nearly a decade after his death. It's easy to see why it was rejected in 1951: its depiction of Germany smashed and damned at the close of World War II is staggering in its intensity and evocation of despair and shock. No one would have wanted to read it then. To read it now, however, is to reaffirm the horror and insanity of the war and to recognize the miracle of survival and recovery. It is also an occasion for renewing our appreciation for Boll's genius for setting scenes of tremendous emotional dimension and creating characters of great psychological vividness. His hero is a young man named Hans who, in the novel's brief overture, finds out he's been drafted. Time quickly shifts to the bitter end of the war. Hans is starving, homeless, and delirious, but as he struggles to stay alive in this shimmering void of hunger and defeat, he discovers that he's still capable of love. The world may be dust and ruin, and angels may be silent, but the heart still speaks. It seems that we're finally ready to listen.
From the Publisher
"A rich novel, one still pertinent to our own hunger for teh bread of meaning amid the rubble of history." —The New York Times Book Review

"A stark and brilliant novel . . . Breon Mitchell's translation is strong and accurate" —Ursula Hegi, The Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Vividly realistic . . . strongly symbolic . . . a story about the never-endinig war between good and evil." —Christian Science Monitor

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780312110642
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
05/23/1994
Pages:
176

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