Essay on The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum
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The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum
Knowing about the writer of a literary text can shape significantly the way that it is read. Consider the effect of the writer’s context on your understanding of The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum.
“As a writer of fiction Böll was interpreting history, creating patterns of meaning, ordering his material to enable his reader to make sense of it.” The experiences of Böll and his values that arose from these events have been influential on the content and themes of Böll’s novel, The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum. Böll experienced both the first and second world wars and the effects that these wars had on German society. Events such as the economic collapse in Germany post WWII, the construction of the…show more content…
In Böll’s eyes,
“After the experience of the trade crisis, of being at the mercy of economic forces, now came the experience of being at the mercy of political forces, which was almost worse, since you could get used to the former and somehow do something for yourself, but there was nothing you could do about the other.”
Böll found it especially distressing that the people who could have best afforded to resist the rise of fascism, for example the university professors, did so little. In The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum, Böll s attitude of contempt for the Nazi’s can be viewed in the lack of interrogation of Konrad Beiters, “Konrad Beiters voluntarily admitted to having once been a Nazi and that alone explained why so far no one had paid any attention to him”. Konrad is the only character close to Katharina who is not questioned by the police and this shows the right winged political stance that West Germany still had in 1974 and the misuse of authority by powerful people in social institutions such as the media and the police, especially men.
In 1949, Germany was divided into the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) and the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). Böll was living in West Germany at the time and this is where The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum is set. West Germany was allegedly the democratic, capitalist sector whereas East Germany was governed with communist ideologies. Great paranoia was present in West Germany about East Germany because
The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum, or: how violence develops and where it can lead (original German title: Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum oder: Wie Gewalt entstehen und wohin sie führen kann) is a 1974 novel by Heinrich Böll.
The story deals with the sensationalism of tabloid news and the political climate of panic over Red Army Faction terrorism in the 1970s Federal Republic of Germany. The main character, Katharina Blum, is an innocent housekeeper whose life is ruined by an invasive tabloid reporter and a police investigation when the man with whom she has just fallen in love turns out to be wanted by the police because of a bank robbery. The book's fictional tabloid paper, Die Zeitung (The Newspaper), is modelled on the actual German Bild-Zeitung.
Four days after a Weiberfastnacht's eve party (Wed. 20 February 1974), where Katharina Blum met a man named Ludwig Götten, she calls on Oberkommissar Moeding and confesses to killing a journalist for the newspaper Die Zeitung.
Katharina had met Götten at a friend's party and spent the night with him before helping him to escape from the police. The next morning, the police break into her house, arrest her and question her. The story is sensationally covered by Die Zeitung, and in particular its journalist Tötges. Tötges investigates everything about her life, calling on Katharina's friends and family, including her ex-husband and hospitalized mother, who dies the day after Tötges visits her. He paints a picture of Katharina as a fervent accomplice of Götten, and as a communist run amok in Germany.
Katherina arranges an interview with Tötges. According to Katharina, upon his arrival he suggests that they have sex, whereupon she shoots him dead. She then wanders the city for a few hours before driving to police headquarters and confessing to Moeding.
The book also details the effects of the case on Katharina's employers and friends the Blornas; Mr Blorna is her lawyer, and Mrs Blorna one of the designers of the apartment block where Katharina resides. Their association with Katharina leads to their exclusion from society.
The story is written from a first-person plural perspective, as if the narrator were presenting a confidential report to the reader on the basis of sources. The technique is documentary, as with Group Portrait with Lady, but with a much more disciplined focus on essentials. The reader is sometimes left to infer who the sources are for many of the reports, and even to wonder whether the narrator may not be one of the characters in the novel. This way, the narrator is dependent on characters and the information they impart, becoming a researcher and critic of his source material. This is implicitly contrasted with the journalists who irresponsibly distort their sources. The attack on vulgar journalism is thus mounted from the perspective of a narrator whose moral authority is enhanced by the use of the 'regal' first-person plural form. In some parts of the story, the elaborate and detached manner is also used for comic effect when retelling violent, silly or emotionally conflicted incidents as more and more personal secrets of the characters are revealed.
Main article: The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum (film)
Tilo Medek adapted the novel, on a libretto by his wife Dorothea, to an opera Katharina Blum which was premiered in Bielefeld.
- Böll. The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum. ISBN 1-85290-017-2.
- Böll. Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum (in German). ISBN 3-462-03145-7.
- Whose lost honour?: A study of the film adaptation. ISBN 0-907409-03-2.
- Bellmann, Werner (1996). "Heinrich Böll. Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum". Erzählungen des 20. Jahrhunderts. Interpretationen. Stuttgart: Reclam. 2: 183–204. ISBN 3-15-009463-1.
- Christine Hummel; Werner Bellmann (1999). Heinrich Böll, Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum. Erläuterungen und Dokumente. Stuttgart: Reclam.
- Bellmann, Werner (2004). "Notizen zu Heinrich Bölls Erzählung 'Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum". Wirkendes Wort. 54 (2): 165–170.
- Gerhardt, Christina (2008). "Surveillance Mechanisms in Literature and Film: Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum by Böll and Schlöndorff / Von Trotta". Literature and Film. Gegenwartsliteratur (7): 69–83.
- Harris, Nigel (1994). Butler, Michael, ed. ""Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum": The Problem of Violence." The Narrative Fiction of Heinrich Böll". Social Conscience and Literary Achievement. Cambridge: Cambridge UP: 198–218.
- Jeziorkowski, Klaus (2000). Bellmann, Werner, ed. ""Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum." Heinrich Böll" [The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum]. Romane und Erzählungen. Interpretationen. (in German). Stuttgart: Reclam: 249–267.
- Scheiffele, Eberhard (1979). "Kritische Sprachanalyse in Heinrich Bölls 'Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum.'" [Critical Language Analysis in Heinrich Böll's "The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum".]. Basis Jahrbuch für deutsche Gegenwartsliteratur (9): 169–187.
- Beth, Hanno. "Rufmord und Mord: die publizistische Dimension der Gewalt. Zu Heinrich Bölls Erzählung 'Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum.'" "Heinrich Böll. Eine Einführung in das Gesamtwerk in Einzelinterpretationen. Ed. Hanno Beth. 2nd ed. Königstein, 1980. 69–95.