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The Silent Angel [Paperback]

Heinrich Boll , Heinrich Boell , B. Mitchell
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
Price: £5.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over £10. Details
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Book Description

17 Aug 1995
The first novel by the Nobel prize winner, never previously published. Written at the end of the Second World War it describes the death and destruction faced by the people of a city ravaged by war.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 184 pages
  • Publisher: Andre Deutsch Ltd; New edition edition (17 Aug 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0233989609
  • ISBN-13: 978-0233989600
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.7 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 274,006 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Heinrich Boll was one of Germany's best-known and most respected novelists. His outstanding contribution to world literature and the leading part he played in the renewal of German literature received international recognition when, in 1972, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. He died in July 1985. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Literature of the Rubble 24 Oct 2006
Written in 1950, the manuscript for Nobel Prize winner Boll's first novel was rejected by his publisher, who felt it was too depressing and that the German public wasn't interested in spending money to read about the grim postwar days they had just survived. (After finishing it, I can't say that I wouldn't have made the same decision in the publisher's place.) Thus, this book sat on the shelf, with elements and passages cannibalized by for use in in other works, until its posthumous publication in 1992.

The heavily autobiographical story is an elliptical, dreamlike journey through the rubble of 1945 Cologne -- where the only thing scarcer than scraps of bread is a sense of hope. Hans is a numb, exhausted, alienated, and depressed German conscript returning to his hometown, having escaped execution for desertion thanks to the intervention of a fellow soldier who died in his place. The story, such as it is, starts with his struggle to survive -- the need to find legitimate discharge papers, food, and shelter. Eventually, he comes to share a flat with a devout widow whose baby recently died, rendering her just as depressed and aimless as Hans. At the core of the book is the depiction of these two dead souls attempting to rekindle some flame of interest in life, and to find some glimmer of solace with each other.

Meanwhile, there's a somewhat confusing subplot involving Hans delivering a dead man's will to the man's dying widow. The widow wants to give this legacy away to the poor, but a rival legatee wants to steal and destroy the will in order to claim the money. As well as being a former Nazi, this man is a lawyer and art collector who seems to have come through the war just fine -- in fact, considerably better off.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  16 reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bleak, austere, unforgettable 5 May 2003
By Hugh Claffey - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The overwhelming feeling you get when reading this book is the desperate struggle for short term survival. The background is a German city (possibly Cologne) in the first
Days and weeks after the capitulation of the German army in 1945. Every conversation is focused on bread - not even full meals, just slices of bread. The city is bleak and devastated, the characters are transient figures struggling, dazed and nauseous, into whatever the future may hold. Their pasts are briefly mentioned, but the conditions in which they find themselves allow for almost total dislocation from their past lives.
The language of the book is austere, the characters are not clearly distinguishable, the colours mentioned - apart from grey destruction - are greenish and yellowish hazes. These tune in with the bilious, nausea of the characters as they continuously search for food and shelter. Throughout the story each character is portrayed as exhausted, struggling, nauseous.
The novels main character has deserted the German Army in the final days of the war, and under a certain sentence of death for desertion, has assumed numerous identities as he flees. He has, however, promised a dead comrade that he will return a coat to his comrade's widow. A will is discovered in the lining of the coat and this yields an subplot of intrigue and corruption. The main character meanwhile meets and briefly lives with a dazed, tragic woman who has been psychologically damaged by the war.
The novel's main impression is the exhaustion of emotion, the breakdown of society brings about a breakdown of morality and order. Stealing and dishonesty of all kinds are part of daily life, as are small gestures of generosity. In the broken cityscape, there is neither trust nor complete anarchy, just a meandering from one slice of bread to the next. Towards the end of the book , the main character has established a certain routine which allows him to steal coal from trains, which gives him some power to barter.
Boll's austere tale, gives us a view of the amoral aftermath of a societal dislocation. While neither describing nor moralizing, he shows us a set of normal characters and the lives they adopt to survive in the much reduced circumstances.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astonishing 12 Mar 2001
By A. Hogan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Heinrich Boll occupies for me the same place Dostoyevski does for many people: a deeply,morally complex writer who tells stories of profound depth involving average people thrown into situations not of their making. In the SILENT ANGEL, Bolls first novel{suppressed in germany for over 40 years},he tells of the immediate aftermath of WWII{the war ends in the first few pages, to his disbelief} on average germans, including the main character, a soldier struggling with fear and hunger to stay alive. In one of the early scens, the protagonist finds a nun in a hospital making soup, who gives him a piece of bread. The ecstasy the bread gives him{also symbolic of Bolls then Catholcism} can only been written by someone who actually expierenced hunger{I think much of this is autobiographical} Later the main character rediscovers love,amidst the falling plaster,the cold the hunger. A kind priest gives him a bottle of wine,which leaves him stunned at first,thenhe brings back to share with his new life. The idea of love flowering among people in such straits is remarkable,as is the ability to make one empathise with average germans, not an easy task after the horror of WWII> A Later scene with his new wife,where she describes a piece of pipe still standing after all the bombing{the unnamed city is Cologne}is marvelous, the touch of a master. That this is his first novel is almost astonishing,for it has true depth without much of the maudlin coming of age nonsense associated with first novels.If Heinrich Boll was not the most important novelist of the last 40 years, he was damn close. The opening act of a magnificent, important writer, thinker and moral witness.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A glimpse of Armageddon 12 Dec 2001
By Randy Keehn - Published on Amazon.com
I enjoy reading Heinrich Boll in part because he offers a perspective of WWII through the eyes of an every day German. Most German perspectives of WWII seem to be written by someone who wants you to know that they are one of the "good guys". In his books I have been given a glimpse of what it was like to be on the losing side. In "The Silent Angel" we get a glimpse of what it is like to return to a home that doesn't really exist any more. The vivid depictions in this novella are the works not only of one whose knows of what he speaks, but also of one gifted to tell the world. Boll is no apologist for Germany but he conveys the world as he experienced it. The destruction and the despair are overwhelming but there is hope in the relationship between the common sufferers. Many will read this book in a single sitting but the impressions will last long afterwards.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A small jewel 12 Sep 2005
By Eric Van Der Walde - Published on Amazon.com
I stumbled upon this book in a used book store and decided to give it a read. The prose is lean and economical and conveys rich sense of the of Germany immediately after WWII. I have never read anything quite like it. While it doesn't have a gripping storyline in the usual sense it was compelling and difficult to put down. I highly recommend this book and have been inspired to read more of Boll's better known works.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A rather sad love story... 20 July 2007
By GPC - Published on Amazon.com
This book, set in the horrible aftermath of World War II in Germany, depicts with superb clarity what life must have been like then. Many detailed descriptions of the burnt-out buildings, collapsing structures and rubble abound...but through it all circulates an engaging love story of sorts between a former soldier and the woman he befriends. A short novel that can be quickly read, it is not easily digested and is full of symbolism, especially of the religious sort. Once read, not easily forgotten...
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