A New York Times Notable Book of the Year
Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature
In this collection of stories, written between 1938 and 1945, Heinrich Böll (1917-1985) recalls Erich Maria Remarque in his ability to depict war and its psychological aftermath.
As in The Clown or Billiards at Half-Past Nine, the stories in The Mad Dog demonstrate Böll's early and continuing commitment to certain basic themes: the religious impulse toward meaning in the midst of human chaos, the hope love offers to those for whom all else seems lost, and the enduring possibility of an ethical core of action in a maelstrom of personal and political corruption.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.74(w) x 8.55(h) x 0.68(d)|
About the Author
Heinrich Böll received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1972. His novels include The Clown, Billiards at Half-Past Nine, and The Silent Angel. He died in 1985 in Germany.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Like Graves, Sassoon and Owen in the First World War, Heinrich Böll brought a mix of apathy and disgust to his writings about World War II as well as a literary sensibility that condemned him to this genre. Böll, along with Günter Grass, author of The Tin Drum, and Arno Schmidt, is considered one of the most influential German writers of the postwar period. The Mad Dog represents the third extraction from material left by Böll at his death in 1985 and contains nine previously unpublished stories and a novel fragment, all written between 1936 and 1950. I think they represent the best introduction to Böll available. They also anticipate his best work, the novels, Billiards at Half-Past Nine and The Clown. The Mad Dog will probably have the most appeal to readers who are already familiar with these great novels and who want to listen to the source of Böll's recurring themes. Youth on Fire represents the earliest work contained in this book and is a poignantly clumsy parable of Heinrich, a sixteen year old boy of Wetherian turn of mind. When Heinrich meets a woman, however, his life takes a very different course. In a demi-parable uttered by one of the characters there is a flash of the mature Böll's bitter humor. The Fugitive and Trapped in Paris, composed ten years later, are the antithesis of Youth on Fire. These two stories are of a desperate and solitary soldier, in the former, an escaped POW or a deserter and in the latter a German soldier cut off from his unit during secret battles. In these stories, the iconic and discursive idealism of Youth on Fire is replaced by the naturalistic German Expressionism that became Böll's signature in the years immediately following the war and which reached its peak in one of his most famous stories, Stranger, Bear Word to the Spartans We. The Fugitive is very close to the model of Böll's postwar work and consists of a dramatic narrative of claustrophobia and fear that concludes abruptly and violently. The Rendezvous contains one of Böll's recurring themes: the difficulty of love. Böll was a writer whose sense of the absurdity of Eros was as highly developed as was his sense of the absurdity of Thanatos. Although many of his stories, such as the beautiful My Pal With the Long Hair, celebrate the triumph of love, most of them seem to center on love's impossibilities instead. Centering on a turbulent and mysterious affair, The Rendezvous contains an implicit riddle, much like Hemingway's Hills Like White Elephants. The Tribe of Esau is an unusual early experiment in the use of a female character's perspective and The Dead No Longer Obey, according to the translator's notes, reworks a passage from the draft of a play entitled As the Law Demanded. This story is yet another soldier parable with a characteristic poetic and rhetorical twist. The Tale of Berkovo Bridge and the novel fragment, Paradise Lost stand out as the work of the mature Böll and neither is really heretofore unpublished material. The former contains the reflections of a German military engineer who rebuilds a Russian bridge to facilitate the retreat of 1943 and offers a piece of absurdity as an effective metaphor for the regimented chaos of war. The Tale of Berkovo Bridge anticipates Böll's greatest novel, Billiards at Half-Past Nine and also contains a manipulation of emblem that some of Böll's readers have found objectionably schematic. The text of Paradise Lost was, in part, incorporated into Der Engel schwieg and Böll also published two extractions of it as Night of Love and The Gutter. As it is published in this collection, Paradise Lost is a returning-soldier story that dwells on yet another of Böll's recurring themes: the seemingly random and poignant stasis of solitary objects amid decay. Returning to the home of his lover after seven years' absence in the war, the narrator notices a section of a rain gutter hanging down just had it had prior to his leaving. The most palpabl