Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Heinrich Boll - Group Portait with Lady

From Nobel Prize winner Heinrich Boll, an inventive & sardonic portrayal of the effects of the Nazi period on a group of ordinary people. Weaving together the stories of a diverse array of characters, Boll explores the often bizarre & always very human courses chosen by people attempting to survive in a world marked by political madness, absurdity & destruction.
At the center of his tale is Leni Pfeiffer, a German woman whose secret romance with a Soviet prisoner of war both sustains & threatens her life.
As the narrator interviews those who knew Pfeiffer, their stories come together in a dazling mosaic, rich in satire, yet hinting at the promise of a saner world.

Comment: This is another of the books I borrowed from a friend and read in Portuguese.
I haven't personally picked any of the recent books she has let me read, actually. She picks them and tells me I will find them interesting even if I don't fall in love with them. So far, she has lent me some wonderful stories, others not so good but this one has to be my least favorite of them all. I really...I don't even know what to say about this.

The book focuses on Leni Pfeiffer I guess. She's a woman living in the post-war Germany.
The story is like a very prolonged interview in narrative shape where the author tells us about many character's lives under the Nazi influence or what happened after that dark period of German history. Not always precise, but often ironic, the author shows how that piece of History shaped many ordinary lives...

Humm... the idea of this story is quite interesting, yes. I was mildly curious about how it must have been like to be a German citizen during those awful years. I keep thinking ordinary people couldn't all defend Nazism, even if only in the safety of their houses or their minds. We have many books where the other side is portrayed, but I don't remember any book where we can see normal German people living under the Nazi regime. I was quite curious about this story because I assumed this would the key point of interest in the whole text.
Sadly, there was nothing in this book that captivated or grabbed me enough to make me eager to read. In fact, it was almost torture to keep reading and I only did it because I wanted to be truthful to my friend about why I didn't like it and that I did try until the end.
I'll be very quick about this. I didn't like the story because the writing style was very unappealing to me. It read as if this was a story the author was telling us orally and it contains too many characters and things some of them knew or told about the most important ones and to be honest not only did I lose track of them but I didn't find any of them intriguing. I thought this would focus on German citizens who lived during or after the Nazi regime and how did they cope and dealt with that, but the narrative was so out there, so unfocused on reliable actions/scenes I lost interest.
I've seen many readers like the style but I'm not one of them. I found this to be boring and irritating and I never connected to any character or action described. I understand the author is respected and knows what he's telling about, I get why he is renowned and won the Nobel and why his writing is evocative, special and how it shows aspects we would never think about if we don't read between the lines, but sincerely, I couldn't wait to escape this and I confess to have skimmed many passages.
There are too many characters and not enough continuity to seduce me here. It seems most of what we read is random and I really struggled to follow what was happening. Honestly, I lost focus, interest and desire to keep reading. I finished but it wasn't an experience I'll cherish or recommend.
Maybe my personal taste isn't up to the author's genius but thankfully there are many authors and books to different people to enjoy.
Grade: 2/10

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