The Training Ground

Siegfried Lenz, Author Henry Holt & Company $24.45 (425p) ISBN 978-0-8050-0943-9
Bruno Messmer, guileless narrator of this study of emotional death and nationalist tensions in postwar Germany, was saved from drowning at WW II's end by the Zeller family. Now, more than 30 years later, he stands to inherit the most valuable tracts of Herr Konrad Zeller's vast tree nursery in the German region of Schleswig. Bruno and his rescuers, Sudeten Germans who lost everything in the war, are treated as outcasts by their Danish-descended neighbors in the bleak coastal community. Max Zeller, one of the sons of ``the chief,''preaches a communitarian gospel against private possessions but attempts to deprive Bruno of his inheritance, as do the others, while Dorothea, Konrad's long-suffering wife, looks on. When the German authorities pass regulations, reminiscent of the Nazi racial laws, stipulating that all trees must have a proper pedigree, the strains in the Zeller household become intolerable. Lenz's ( The German Lesson ) brooding portrayal of a family's slow disintegration resonates with symbols of a postwar Germany unable to resuscitate itself spiritually. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1991
Release date: 01/01/1991
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