In the High Peaks

Monday, February 20, 2012

Short Story Monday: Heinrich Böll

The Short Story and Its Writer, published in 1991 by St. Martins, is an enormous compendium of outstanding classic short stories as well as lesser-known stories by classic writers from all over the world.

For this week, my first foray into Short Story Monday, an event originally created by the Canadian book blogger John Munford of The Bookmine Set, I selected the short but powerful "Like a Bad Dream" by Heinrich Böll. The main character is a middle-class business contractor. He's bid on a job that he's desperate to get when he discovers that a Herr Kumen may hold the key to his winning it. The man's wife arranges a perfect dinner for the Kumens, but the contractor fails to broach the subject during the visit. After the Kumens have left, his wife takes over, and from this point on, a cascading series of odd late-night bribes and counter-bribes leave the contractor feeling baffled and soulless. He keeps gazing into his wife's eyes but realizes again and again he has no desire to kiss her. The next day he wins the bid, he should be happy, but he's feeling out of place, out of time--a profound dislocation.

Based on my research today, Böll was frustrated by German society in the entire postwar era--the rush to build businesses and wealth while not only denying the war and the country's fascist past, but also the centuries of culture preceding Nazism.

I have ordered a 900+ page volume of Böll's complete short stories, which has been published by Melville House.


  1. oh the boll short stories sound great ,all the best stu

    1. Hi, Stu,
      Yes, I can't wait to dig in!


  2. If you liked it enough to buy his complete short story collection, it must be good! Not an author I'm familiar with-- had you heard of him before?

    1. Hello, John,
      Thanks for your comment! Yes, I've read Boll before, though not a lot. What I read during my research yesterday made me realize I want to read much, much more of his work.

      I'm extremely interested in postwar German literature, and am continuing the challenge I started in 2011.

      Boll was a member of the "Group 47," along with Gunter Grass and many other writers and artists, who struggled to tell the genuine story of the final years of the war and the postwar period--a time that most Germans struggled to ignore (according to these authors).