The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum

Powerful Essays
Due Date: 8th April 2005

The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum

Long Essay

Question 2: Knowing about the writer of a literary text can shape significantly the way that it is read. Consider the effect of the writer’s context on your understanding of The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum.

The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum is the product of a political and social genius: it is a comment on Germany and society in general and is, as its author, Heinrich Boll would have it described, “a pamphlet disguised as a novel” . It was written, not just to entertain, but above all, to criticise the society in which it was produced. It is therefore impossible to fully understand the major ideas and themes of the text, and even, to and extent, the storyline itself without some knowledge of the milieu in which it was composed. Being aware of the context in which The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum was produced intensifies the impact of the major issues which it explores (notably the detrimental effects of power abuse, language abuse, and discrimination on the basis of wealth and social standing) by forcing us to rethink the childish yet widely held belief that a novel is merely a story and inviting us to read the this text not as a fairy tale, but as a excruciatingly honest commentary on humanity and modern social values.

Heinrich Boll was born towards the end of the First World War, and lived his childhood in its shadow. During this time he wrote many short stories with the background of economics and social consequences of the war. These reflected his experiences as a witness to Germany’s defeat in World War One – national humiliation, international debt due to the Treaty of Versailles, which also encompassed loss of land and foreign occupation, the political instability of the Weimar Republic, and the almost inevitable collapse of the German economy resulting in hyperinflation, unemployment and later, Great Depression of the 1930s. The shocking social, economic and political conditions in Germany eventually led to the rise of Hitler, Nazi Germany and later, to the Second World War. As a youth, Boll was conscripted into the army of the Third Rei...

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...Vintage, London

Used for quotes and textual support

Butler, Michael, (N.D.) The Conscience of a Nation: Heinrich Boll, [online], retrieved April 1, 2005, from

Helpful information on Bolls life and career as a writer

Class Notes

Useful background information on West Germany and Bolls experiences with the police and press

Corin, Chris, Fiehn, Terry, Communist Russia under Lenin and Stalin (2002), John Murray Publishers Ltd, London

Background reading – helpful information on communism and western attitudes towards its rise in Russia

Interwar Years – Economic Recovery, Spark Notes Online Study Guide [online], (2001), Retrieved April 3, 2005, from

Good brief overview of the years between the two World Wars – background information, useful for’ filling in the gaps’

‘Germany’ (2003), Encyclopedia Britannica Online Reference Centre [online], Retrieved March 30, 2005 through MLC school intranet.

Information on Germany in the past and present – interesting to see the positive comments made regarding freedom of the press
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