Edge of Venomverse gWhat 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 Areat book not to put too fine a point on it 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 perhaps of an intellectual than emotional success 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 Alliance Rising: The Hinder Stars I (Alliance-Union Universe) 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 elsewhereThough 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 toet 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 randson was her son s odfather when he was christened at the tail end of the war times are changing and loyalties shift Folk ossip 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 uise he interviews the sixty characters who know or have known Leni at various points "In this uise he interviews the sixty characters who know or have known Leni at
Various Points Her Life And What Emerges From This Wry points her life and what emerges from this wry 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 athers his material to exhibit that even in Germany life oes 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 eneralizing about people and makes us feel the vast aps 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 a direct 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 eneral In a way compared to his earlier novels Group Portrait with Lady can be seen as his anti novel and the I think about it the it 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 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 12 page List of Characters which the reader would every now and then refer back to as a Island Girls (and Boys) guideThe 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 wouldive 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 someho 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 humourIn this story we do not meet Leni Pfieffer directly as her tale is
by a nameless Author who 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 Calvinists Incorporated: Welsh Immigrants on Ohio's Industrial Frontier guilt of the horrors inflicted by a Germany. Uesto romanzo di Boll offre uno spaccato di cinuant'anni di vita tedesca dall'etàuglielmina al secondo dopoguerra Nella sua indagine su Leni donna sensuale e di carattere che attraversa li eventi più drammatici della. .
NARRATED BY A NAMELESS AUTHOR WHO
Iatus in the war But each character s hiatus is in a different spot at a different moment When did each person break lose a part of their life change into a new form It depends The detective work is made harder still by the synthetic cubist portraits the protagonists have created of themselves after the war Into flat undefined shapes they have drawn minimalist lines to indicate the person they have become starting at point zero ignoring the broken shards of their pastThe plot seems easy yet tedious in the beginning A narrator referring to himself as the author sets out to describe the life of a shy but sensual woman called Leni Pfeiffer There are numerous sources of information which he interviews repeatedly to put together a complete picture of Leni s love life and friendships from the beginning of the war until the 1960sNaturally the sources turn out to be biased to have their own ideas about what happened and why and as the story progresses the author ets to know the interviewees much better than the woman he wants to write about She remains strangely remote It is a Call the Next Witness group portrait but the lady stays in the backgroundIn the end even the objective role of the author shows cracks and he reveals his weaknesses biases and his involvement in the delicate relationships between different characters leaving the reader to suspect that the house the author built and hid behind the scaffold of his narrative progress looks uite different in reality if there even is such a thing as ONE reality Evidence provided by unreliable sources points to the opposite conclusionThe novel shows with heartbreaking clarity how the war shapes people how identitieset lost and are entangled in complicated dangerous webs of interdependence and how power structures evolve and influence relationships The balance is changing all the time In March 1945 it may still be safest to keep a Nazi facade but in April that may be outright dangerous for example What to do if all you want is to live Love is in the strangest of places and social boundaries don t count when you hide in a raveyard waiting for the bombs to stop falling on your beloved city The soldiers who survive the war often carry their fragmented past visibly with them coming home as amputees For Leni the ordeal doesn t start until the war is over and she has to face the hatred of her neighbourhood for raising a child by a Russian loverEverything is loosely connected but not straightforward Broken lines Tr mmerAbsolutely outstanding novel A wonderful work of art Spoilers hereThis must be called Experimental Fiction conflicted and preoccupied as it is with euivalent ways of telling the story Let s start againFor 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 againA 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 "era the author is able to slowly reveal the impact Somehow the war and horror is felt 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 et 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 Bulletproof Feathers: How Science Uses Nature's Secrets to Design Cutting-Edge Technology gravesites begin to exert the kind ofrim wear tear on the reader that leads to insight B ll has written a Casuistry and Modern Ethics: A Poetics of Practical Reasoning grandly complex novel here something that touches along the lines of the cinema s Sorrow And The Pity and The Third Man But he sot little bits of insanity to include The flow chart of the book Charlestown Blues goes from the cited raw data approach the listings and dry analyses which begin to form theround 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 reuited without much ado and she is swept into the narrative At times B ll seems mad but he s after bigger Charlestown Blues: Selected Poems, a Bilingual Edition 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 uick sting of reversed allegiances A difficult read but intriguing Nobel Prize for literature 1972Iather 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 ives the writer character s interjections the title of author whereas the German tilts toward 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
"or if the "if the has been so altered 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. Rista Pelzer alla prostituta Margret Attraverso le testimonianze di uanti l'hanno freuentata attraverso foto lettere oggetti personali l'autore ricostruisce una biografia che è insieme immagine di un'epoca e di un ambien. ,
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Ruled by extremists but who also suffered as individuals the book raphically re enacts the experience of the Carpet bombing of Cologne in 1944Leni 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 acuaintances 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 Bright College Years goes off on tangential threads as the author follows strings of plot including the Russian prisoners removal to an AmericanFrench 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 freuently expressed as unconcernedblind 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 GermanThe book moves on to Leni in the 1960 s when she is living in a house which she hasifted 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 loverThe 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 those widely 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 It is often the mark of a truly Chicagos Urban Nature great book that style is at least as important as other aspects such a story line or character definition I have found this literary uality to be true in masterpieces by James Joyce Proust Faulkner Gaddis Gass Virginia Woolf and many otherenius literary novelists In fact telling a tale in a new literary style distinguishes a Cezanne and Provence: The Painter in His Culture good writer from areat 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 roup 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 "see the protagonist with incredibly precise brush strokes from point of view of the Author making a bureaucratic inuiry 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 German society high and low as they cope with the advance of 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 intelligenceresourcefulness and integrity under pressure Boll introduces a cast at the outset as if the novel were a dramatic production To ain 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 cast and the 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 techniue 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 roup 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 Construction and destruction of a narrative architecture shown in the process of building with the scaffold still raised to support the work thus hiding vital parts of the architecture behind it B ll is obsessed with building and destroying materials houses evidence characters His stories are made up of Tr mmerlandschaften those scary skeletons of German cities and their inhabitants during and after the Second World War witnesses of bombed out history B ll s protagonists wade through the rubbish heaps of their former identities to find bits and pieces that make sense that add to a cubist portrait of their self brownish rayish broken up into shards of different sizes and coloursA feeling for analytical cubism is reuired for the author to make sense of the fragmented story lines with their shared 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'affa. ,