The Silent Angel

Heinrich Boll, Author, Breon Mitchell, Translator
Heinrich Boll, Author, Breon Mitchell, Translator St. Martin's Press $19.95 (182p) ISBN 978-0-312-11064-2
Reviewed on: 05/30/1994
Release date: 06/01/1994
Paperback - 192 pages - 978-0-312-13171-5
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Amid the charred rubble of Germany just days after World War II ends, cynical, numbed soldier Hans Schnitzler returns to Cologne under an alias to deliver a dead soldier's will to the widow, Elisabeth Gompertz. Hans was supposed to be shot as a deserter, but military court stenographer Willy Gompertz switched jackets with him and was killed instead. So begins what was Nobel-winner Boll's first novel, a touching love story and trenchant study of moral decay, which was written in 1950 but languished unpublished until 1992, when, seven years after the author's death, it appeared in Germany. Hans's love interest is another war widow, pious Regina Unger, whose baby has been killed by German machine-gun fire just days before they meet. Hans also gets caught up in a dangerous web of intrigue involving a struggle over Gompertz's will waged between Elisabeth and the two-faced Professor Fischer. A lawyer, Goethe scholar and editor of a religious journal, Fischer is also a former Nazi Party member not above filching a 15th-century Madonna from a bombed church. As Boll's lovers attempt to recover some semblance of humanity in a morally blighted world, religious symbols abound--bread and wine, candles and the eponymous smiling marble angel that sinks into mud as evil resurfaces. All of Boll's mature themes are present in this lyrical, spare and somnambulistic tale. (June)
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