The Mad Dog Stories

Heinrich Boll, Author, Breon Mitchell, Translator
Heinrich Boll, Author, Breon Mitchell, Translator St. Martin's Press $19.95 (144p) ISBN 978-0-312-16757-8
Reviewed on: 09/01/1997
Release date: 09/01/1997
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Deserters, misfits and murderers wander through these 10 newly discovered stories by 1972 Nobel laureate Boll, known for his portrayal of WWII-era Germany. A moralist who often supported democratic socialist ideals, Boll explores the lives of people who are courageous enough to abandon something--ideals, a way of life-- they don't believe in and who, consequently, are often subjected to pain, starvation, mental breakdown or death. In their pursuit of a moral, peaceful life, Boll's defectors are likely to come under fire while fleeing, as in ""The Fugitive,"" or to fall in love with enemy civilians, as in ""Trapped in Paris."" Embedded within these tales of war is ""Youth on Fire"" (his earliest story in the collection, written when he was 19), in which Boll's Catholic upbringing is evident in a tale of a young man in love with a Christian prostitute intent on saving her johns from sin. Appropriately closing the volume, ""Paradise Lost,"" an unfinished novel, describes a man--one can only suspect he is a deserter who has successfully escaped--who returns to a once-familiar building whose ""roof tiles had been blown off"" to visit a woman whom he had thought about so much ""that he was afraid to return."" Overwhelmed by reality, his vision becomes blurred, and, while walking with the sun setting behind him, he realizes that ""I could never see it, and I knew that I would never reach it again."" These stories are rougher, less finished than Boll's previously published short fiction, but they are alive with raw emotion. The translations, though good, lack the sting, ease and exactness apparent in the translations by Leila Vennewitz (who has translated much of Boll's work). (Sept.)
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