Surrealpolitik: The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum

Author: Heinrich Boll

New York: Penguin Books (2009, first published in 1975)

Quick Summary

Katharina Blum, quiet, hard-working, frugal, "almost prudish" housekeeper goes to a dance and becomes enamoured with a Ludwig Götten, who turns out to be an army deserter whose relatively minor crimes have been greatly exaggerated by the police and the general public, for whom he is considered a ruthless murderer and bank robber, neither of which charges are true. In any case, she spends one night with him, shows him how to escape from her apartment building unseen, and she subsequently gets interrogated by the police and character-assassinated in the media. The novel opens with a report of what eventually happens after all that, which is that she kills a reporter, who, as we see as the story unfolds, is a particularly loathsome and vicious pseudo-journalist, and a cad. The book is a dry report of events, told with a restraint that is at once indignant and humorous. It's kind of an indictment of political hypocrisy and a society informed by a distorted news machine. Great book.


There are 3 quotes currently associated with this book.

Do the authorities realize what they are asking of their employees in terms of the psyche? Let us assume that a the,porarily suspect person of a vulgar nature, whose telephone is being officially tapped, calls up his equally vulgar sex partner of the moment. Since we live in a free country and may speak openly and frankly with one another, even over the phone, what sort of things may buzz in the ears of some moral, not to say moralistic, individual (regardless of sex) or come fluttering out of the tape? Can this be justified? Is there any provision for psychiatric treatment? What does the Union of Public Services, Transportation, and Communications say to that? There is concern for industrialists, anarchists, bank directors, bank robbers, and bank employees, but who is concerned about our national tape-security forces? Has the Bishops' Conference at Fulda or the Executive Committee of German Catholics no ideas on the subject? Why does the Pope keep silent? Does no one realize all the things that assail innocent ears, ranging from crème brûlée to hardest porn? We see young people being encouraged to enter the civil service -- and to what are they exposed? To moral outcasts of the telephone. Here at last we have an area where church and trade union might cooperate. Surely it should be possible to plan at least some kind of educational program for telephone monitors? History lessons on tape? That shouldn't cost too much. (page 75)
Tags: [Literary/Poetic, Bureaucracy, Surveillance]
First of all: the pastor confirmed his statement, saying that the News had quoted him correctly and word for word, no, he could offer no proof of his claim nor did he want to, he even said he did not need to, he could still rely on his sense of smell and he had simply smelled that Blum was a Communist. When asked to define his sense of smell he refused, nor was he very helpful when Blorna then asked him kindly to explain, if he could not define his sense of smell, what the smell of a Communist was like, how a Communist smelled, and at this point -- it has to be said -- the pastor became quite rude, asked Blorna whether he was a Catholic and, when Blorna said yes, reminded him of his duty to be obedient, which Blorna did not understand. (page 90)
Tags: [Humor, Media, Literary/Poetic]
She is considered a model prisoner, works in the kitchen but, if the opening of the trial is further delayed, is to be transferred to the commissary where, however (so one hears), she is most unenthusiastically awaited: there is dismay on the part of both administration and inmates at the reputation for integrity that precedes her, and the prospect of Katharina spending her entire prison term working within the commissary spreading alarm through every prison in the country, thus we see that integrity, combined with intelligent organizing ability, is not desired anywhere, not even in prisons, and not even by the administration. (page 94-95)
Tags: [Politics & Novels, Literary/Poetic]