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359 Gruppenbild mit Dame Group Portrait With Lady, Heinrich B llGroup Portrait with Lady German Gruppenbild mit Dame is a novel by Nobel Prize winning author Heinrich B ll, published in 1971 The novel centers around a woman named Leni, and her friends, foes, lovers, employers and others and in the end tells the stories of all these people in a small city in western Germany in the 1930s and 1940s 1984 359 Gruppenbild mit Dame Group Portrait With Lady, Heinrich B llGroup Portrait with Lady German Gruppenbild mit Dame is a novel by Nobel Prize winning author Heinrich B ll, published in 1971 The novel centers around a woman named Leni, and her friends, foes, lovers, employers and others and in the end tells the stories of all these people in a small city in western Germany in the 1930s and 1940s 1984 20 1362 448 1377 557 9644160991 1383 557 1384 1388 9789643290788 1392 1972 Spoilers here This must be called Experimental Fiction, conflicted and preoccupied as it is with equivalent ways of telling the story Let s start again.For some reason author B ll hits on the idea that mindless categorizing, cross filing, a relentless focus on hierarchies and designations an accountant s myopia, of receipts and stubs well, no, there is some method to all that Once again.A book so willingly obtuse, bloodyminded and so obsessively nitpicking that no, once.The Spoilers here This must be called Experimental Fiction, conflicted and preoccupied as it is with equivalent ways of telling the story Let s start again.For some reason author B ll hits on the idea that mindless categorizing, cross filing, a relentless focus on hierarchies and designations an accountant s myopia, of receipts and stubs well, no, there is some method to all that Once again.A book so willingly obtuse, bloodyminded and so obsessively nitpicking that no, once.There are somewhere near 125 persons who come into play in Heinrich B ll s experimental novel Group Portrait With Lady Sixty one of them are outlined in the helpful List Of Characters in the front of the book By surreptitiously refocusing or maybe zooming out from his central character the lady B ll manages to render the collective insanity of Germany in the war years and thereafter, or maybe it is the madness of a century that produces this Germany By overdoing the scrutiny on the minima of the era, the author is able to slowly reveal the wider impact Somehow the war and horror isfelt than told when detail is so foreground that the reader must read into the subtext for the headline events There is so much raw data being racked up that the reader has to listen for reverberations trailing in the distance to get any sense of the overall world at hand As mentioned, there dozens of characters, which means dozens of narrators, dozens of threads they are called informants in the book, witnesses nearly all so unreliable that truth seems laughable As may be appreciated, these add up to a very palpable sense of the wartime realities of these people only detail and minima in the frame, and yet danger and moral collapse an epidemic all around The cruelty of wartime scam and black marketeering, fantasias like the Siegfried Line, forced labor for unknown beneficiaries the morbid fakery wherein wartime Memorial Wreaths are switched out post funeral to new clients as they enter the cemetery, and billed for each appearance stolen papers, false IDs, mislabeled gravesites begin to exert the kind of grim wear tear on the reader that leads to insight B ll has written a grandly complex novel here, something that touches along the lines of the cinema s Sorrow And The Pity and The Third Man But he s got little bits of insanity to include The flow chart of the book goes from the cited raw data approach, the listings and dry analyses which begin to form the ground on which his agents will move, characters who will work randomly against any set storyline toward human folly and delirium A centerpiece at this point is the miracle of the roses event, which provides a kind of mystical comic relief, after and because of which our author author in the book sees fit to passionately kiss a catholic nun His attentions are unexpectedly requited, without much ado, and she is swept into the narrative At times B ll seems mad, but he s after bigger game than just injecting an absurdist touch his book is at once a Great Big Unrelenting Shop Of Horrors, but also a sly rendition of the fragility of human ties, the lightning quick sting of reversed allegiances A difficult read, but intriguing Nobel Prize for literature, 1972.I gather from what I ve read elsewhere that there are intricacies of Translation that may not show B ll s work to it s best effect an example that has been noted is that this translation gives the writer character s interjections the title of author whereas the German tiltstoward editor That might be a very big shift in what transpires here, or maybe not so much Regardless, I m taking a one star rain check here the German text may plainly be well worth another star orif the tone has been so altered Apparently, this is the novel that was singled out by the Nobel Prize committee when analysing B ll s work up to this point, describing it as his most grandly conceived work of which, I wouldn t argue From what I ve of read him thus far, this is certainly the most challenging and broadest in scope, as by tracing Leni Pfeiffer s life through half a century of German history, he paints with such scrutinizing detail a portrait of a woman, a city, and a nation But I asked myself on completion di Apparently, this is the novel that was singled out by the Nobel Prize committee when analysing B ll s work up to this point, describing it as his most grandly conceived work of which, I wouldn t argue From what I ve of read him thus far, this is certainly the most challenging and broadest in scope, as by tracing Leni Pfeiffer s life through half a century of German history, he paints with such scrutinizing detail a portrait of a woman, a city, and a nation But I asked myself on completion did I prefer it to The Clown , Billiards at Half Past Nine , or And Never Said a Word , and the conclusion is no Two main reasons why first, certain parts of it dragged on too long for me it felt like walking up an escalator that was heading in the opposite direction And second, he at times indulges in sort of sentimental whimsiness to my surprise, and forces a too easy, optimistic conclusion to his story If I push these issues aside though, I still found much to like about it, mostly down to the fact that B ll has seldom moved any distance from writing realistic narratives of his homeland He has shown less aptitude and interest in experimenting than many other writers who are left their mark on modern literature, in Germany and elsewhere.Though she rents out rooms, Leni Pfeiffer, 48, faces eviction from her apartment in Cologne She cannot keep her creditors away, and as a war widow, with her only son is in jail for forging checks to get her off the hook, she cannot hold on without his income Her total indifference to profit and property are anomalous The building she is in doesn t yield enough income, her roomers are foreign laborers, and despite the fact she has lived here all her life, that she s known the landlord for thirty years, that his grandson was her son s godfather when he was christened at the tail end of the war, times are changing and loyalties shift Folk gossip about Leni as a loose woman, because she has taken up with one of her renters, yet she has had only four lovers in her nearly 50 years, including a love affair with a Russian prisoner, and much of the novel tells this tale But with a difference To paint what he pretends is a purely factual portrait of Leni, B ll himself appears in the book as The Au the Author working as a combination investigative reporter, sociologist and detective In this guise he interviews the sixty characters who know or have known Leni at various points in her life, and what emerges from this wry pseudo documentary is also a social portrait of Cologne from the 1920 s to his present, a Joycean style evocation of a city and its assorted people B ll gathers his material to exhibit that, even in Germany, life goes on under the surface and the lies of history, despite the concussive power of ideologies and individual rapacity By taking a biographical route, he dramatizes the impossibility of generalizing about people, and makes us feel the vast gaps that exist between political slogans and moral actualities, between those who slyly ride with the times, and those like Leni who could possibly lose their wealth, their family, and social position B ll s decision to put a woman at the heart of Group Portrait with Lady could be seen as adirect expression of his strong erotic and moral affection for women, which could be the result of a previously blocked energy due to the anger he so often feels toward German men and masculine society in general In a way, compared to his earlier novels, Group Portrait with Lady can be seen as his anti novel, and theI think about it, theit closely resembles a researched report It s an impressive work for sure, and maybe his best achievement, but that doesn t mean it s my favourite It is often the mark of a truly great book that style is at least as important as other aspects such a story line or character definition I have found this literary quality to be true in masterpieces by James Joyce, Proust, Faulkner, Gaddis, Gass, Virginia Woolf and many other genius literary novelists In fact, telling a tale in a new literary style distinguishes a good writer from a great one in my book So much so that I tend to discount straight ahead narrative styles as mundane and seek ou It is often the mark of a truly great book that style is at least as important as other aspects such a story line or character definition I have found this literary quality to be true in masterpieces by James Joyce, Proust, Faulkner, Gaddis, Gass, Virginia Woolf and many other genius literary novelists In fact, telling a tale in a new literary style distinguishes a good writer from a great one in my book So much so that I tend to discount straight ahead narrative styles as mundane and seek out novelists engaged in stylistic innovation Heinrich Boll is a novelist who wants to narrate in a new way He is focused upon German society during and after World War II when that nation was obliterated by Russian, American, British and French allies Boll s story is presented as a portrait of a lady, Leni Pfeiffer, against the backdrop of a group her friends, family, colleagues, religious advisers and lovers The Author Au presents this portrait in such a way that we see the protagonist with incredibly precise brush strokes from the point of view of the Author making a bureaucratic inquiry of Leni and through his research we come to know her by way of what others tell him about her In this sense we also come to know the Group based upon their perspectives in their narrations about the lady Leni may well be one of the finest character studies of the 20th century because of the narrative style driving the story line The story itself primarily has to do with members of German society, high and low, as they cope with the advance of American and Russian troops toward the close of World War II inside Germany This time period was so intense that its impact became telling in the way it defined the characters by their wit, intelligence,resourcefulness and integrity under pressure Boll introduces a cast at the outset as if the novel were a dramatic production To gain the most from your reading I would advise you to spend a few minutes understanding the players at the start and then refer back to them a few times as you move forward There are two Heinrich s, for example, in the cast and the Au likes to abbreviate the players so that they sometimes may seem unclear as references in the narration The author seems determined that you ll know his characters so well that you ll follow them even when he refers only to their initials William Gaddis took a similar approach when in JR he declined to define any of the speakers in his National Book Award Winning Novel Boll manages to create a 3D person from the 2D pages of his book in his narrative technique and is able to drive a story line through his use of actual events in WWII in Germany The view from inside Germany during its capitulation is intriguing as told by Boll who fought in and lived through the war The intensity of human experience tends to ramp up exponentially, of course, when an Au has witnessed first hand what Boll actually saw inside Germany during WWII At first I was a bit taken aback by the literary style and translation but with a modicum of patience it drove me into interiors of consciousness of the group and the lady in an uncommonly penetrating narrative Of course, Boll became a Nobel Prize Winner and leading light within PEN International in large part because of the densely rich and enlightening narrative style of this novel If you like literary novels, then odds are you will love this one I would consider it a masterpiece by virtue of its invention in literary style Questo romanzo di Boll offre uno spaccato di cinquant anni di vita tedesca dall et guglielmina al secondo dopoguerra Nella sua indagine su Leni, donna sensuale e di carattere, che attraversa gli eventi pi drammatici della Germania contemporanea, l autore veste i panni del cronista, mettendosi sulle tracce di tutti colori che l hanno conosciuta dal fratello poeta che si distrugge per sottrarsi all abiezione del nazismo, a suor Rahel, dall affarista Pelzer alla prostituta Margret Attraverso le testimonianze di quanti l hanno frequentata, attraverso foto, lettere, oggetti personali, l autore ricostruisce una biografia che insieme immagine di un epoca e di un ambiente The titular character Leni is seen via the point of view of a number of characters heartless harlot, timorous and timid, empty headed and sensitive and open to art, the depiction of Leni is a testament to the many different and often contradictory ways by which other see us Boll employs a number of different styles, often dependent on the narrator, often these act as pastiches and parodies, whether it is the lazy and jocular cliches of journalese or the highfalutin style of post modernism, Bol The titular character Leni is seen via the point of view of a number of characters heartless harlot, timorous and timid, empty headed and sensitive and open to art, the depiction of Leni is a testament to the many different and often contradictory ways by which other see us Boll employs a number of different styles, often dependent on the narrator, often these act as pastiches and parodies, whether it is the lazy and jocular cliches of journalese or the highfalutin style of post modernism, Boll explores and utilises these various styles to depict the lives of the characters Leni interacts with Beneath all of this lies the Nazi regime in which most of the the novel takes place and the sense of madness and paranoia it engenders Indeed the vast, almost innumerable number of characters can be slightly discombobulating for the reader, who is left dizzy by Boll s ever changing, jittery and frenetic style an interesting and original, if not always entirely successful form of literary experimentation, Group Portrait With Lady is perhapsof an intellectual than emotional success A couple of years ago I read the Lost Honour of Katharina Blum in which Boll through the experience of a German woman pulls apart the tabloid hunt for sensationalism with sharp wit and after reviewing it I received a recommendation to read this book which again uses the narrative device of a woman s life to reflect on the German experience both during world ward 2 and post war up to 1970 whilst again the author peppers his narrative with dark humour.In this story we do not meet Leni Pfieffer dir A couple of years ago I read the Lost Honour of Katharina Blum in which Boll through the experience of a German woman pulls apart the tabloid hunt for sensationalism with sharp wit and after reviewing it I received a recommendation to read this book which again uses the narrative device of a woman s life to reflect on the German experience both during world ward 2 and post war up to 1970 whilst again the author peppers his narrative with dark humour.In this story we do not meet Leni Pfieffer directly as her tale is narrated by a nameless Author who interviews anyone and everyone who has known Leni during the period , thus our understanding of this enigmatic woman is fractured and we never really have her perspective Perhaps that in itself is reflective of the outsider s knowledge of Germany during these years, we all bring our assumptions and cod psychology to bear on a people traumatised by those events in that period and whose history is dominated by guilt of the horrors inflicted by a Germany ruled by extremists but who also suffered as individuals the book graphically re enacts the experience of the Carpet bombing of Cologne in 1944.Leni is 16 in 1938 , a beautiful blonde woman who has the world and men at her feet as she starts work in her father s business We then meet her lost love, her short lived husband , and view her other wartime life as told by her friends , in laws, work mates, and other acquaintances as her experience of war is a mirror reflection of life itself in Germany at that time These years culminate in her relationship with a Russian prisoner of war and a passionate love affair in a church crypt as the bombs fall which result in her pregnancy The book also goes off on tangential threads as the author follows strings of plot , including the Russian prisoners removal to an American French labour camp with Leni searching for him on her bike, and the author s search for the story of the nun who Leni befriends which leads the author to an amorous adventure in a Rome convent whilst an apparent miraculous blossoming of roses occurs The book only hints at events in the front line during the war and the treatment of minorities by referencing some soldiers returning and taking on new identities but Leni is frequently expressed as unconcerned blind to race and not anti Semitic Whilst therefore perhaps a skirting of the elephant in the room this is a book about the civilian so that did not trouble me as I reflected on the life of an ordinary German.The book moves on to Leni in the 1960 s when she is living in a house which she has gifted to her best friend Lotte s son Lotte is a stand out character.The son , his brother, and father a brilliantly comic scene ensues when author interviews this triumvirate want to evict Leni , her lodgers who refuse to pay rent, and her Turkish lover.The book ends ambiguously with the reader still not really knowing who Leni is or what the news in the final few chapters presages for her and for Germany as we move into the 1970 s with economic expansion but also the threat of terrorism and emergence of new political extremes but I was not disappointed as I spent a few days reflecting on this story This is definitely a book to savour and probably one that I should reread I m sure Boll himself is well known to thosewidely read than I but I would certainly say that the ywo books I have read are brilliant pieces of fiction which deserve a far wider audience A wonderful work of art. What a marvelous, marvelous book If you ve never read B ll at the height of his powers, you ve a treat in store Humane, funny, rich, poignant, full of irony and love and compassion A great book, not to put too fine a point on it. At the center of this novel is a 48 year old German lady, Leni Gruyten Pfeiffer The narrator is the author but he refers to himself in the third person There are so many other characters, however, that before the story starts the author has a 2 1 2 page List of Characters which the reader would every now and then refer back to as a guide.The author s apparent aim is to know who Leni is He narrates of the countless interviews he made upon all these other characters and even other minor char At the center of this novel is a 48 year old German lady, Leni Gruyten Pfeiffer The narrator is the author but he refers to himself in the third person There are so many other characters, however, that before the story starts the author has a 2 1 2 page List of Characters which the reader would every now and then refer back to as a guide.The author s apparent aim is to know who Leni is He narrates of the countless interviews he made upon all these other characters and even other minor characters not in the initial list who, at times, would give contradictory impressions not only about Leni, but her immediate family, co workers, husband, in laws, lovers and friends Sometimes, a curious incident told by one character would somehow be explained by the narration of another character.The tone of the author s narration is somber and scholarly The setting is wartime Germany second world war But the reader is saved from complete boredom because of the deadpan humor permeating the first to the last page of this novel It even has a happy ending.The thing which pisses me off here, however, is not only those many characters but also the author s propensity to abbreviate things Referring to himself, the author becomes simply Au A character named Klementina would suddenly just become K Tears are T , weeping is W , suffering is S , laughter laughing is L , and beatitude or bliss is a mere B So you have to dog ear page 106 and go back to it whenever you see a sentence like Leniis pale from P and S., totally debilitated by W and T., without even a suggestion of the rudiments of L It s not even clear why the Au is so much interested with Leni On page 259 he said he is a researcher But why is he researching on Leni On page 365 he says his desire to conduct a research on Leni s life emanated from neither a terrestial nor a celestial authority, it was EXISTENTIAL Heinrich, what the F do you mean by that Foto di gruppo con signora


About the Author: Heinrich Böll

Heinrich B ll became a full time writer at the age of 30 His first novel, Der Zug war p nktlich The Train Was on Time , was published in 1949 Many other novels, short stories, radio plays, and essay collections followed In 1972 he received the Nobel Prize for Literature for his writing which through its combination of a broad perspective on his time and a sensitive skill in characterization has contributed to a renewal of German literature He was the first German born author to receive the Nobel Prize since Hermann Hesse in 1946 His work has been translated intothan 30 languages, and he is one of Germany s most widely read authors.


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