Rating: 2 out of 3
The next stop on our classic literature odyssey is Germany. Interestingly enough, "The Clown" is the first ever book that I have read by a German author. My impressions? I'll provide them soon enough, but first, a few words about the author of "The Clown".
Heinrich Boll (1917-1985) is noted as being one of Germany's foremost post-World War II writers. He also happens to have been the 1972 laureate of the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Boll was born in Cologne to a Catholic family that later opposed Nazism. (Boll himself refused to join the Hitler Youth in the 1930s.) He eventually married, worked as a translator of English language works into German, but, in in the 40's was conscripted and served in several countries before being captured by the Americans in 1945. After the war, Boll returned to Cologne and eventually, became a full-time writer at the age of 30.
A few more interesting facts about Boll. Boll was deeply catholic (though critical of some aspects of the religion), and later publicly left the church in 1976 "without falling away from the faith." Boll also took in Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, when he was first expelled from the USSR, and later even nominated him for the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Now coming back to "The Clown", this was one of the books that made Boll famous, and is about a young 28 year old clown (yes, an actual clown) who spirals into deep depression and financial woe after his partner leaves him for another man. The book basically chronicles the life of this man over the course of a few hours as he contacts all of his friends and family, one after another, in (ultimately) unsuccessful attempts to hit them up for money.
Now, there are two sides to this tale. The clown's side; basically, that when someone is in trouble, no one really helps including those who profess to be religious, the wealthy, etc. The other side is...well, that the clown is immature and needs to grow up and out of his sense of self-entitlement.
This book certainly stands out from others. At times it is an annoying anti-Catholic rant; at times I grew so tired of it and just wanted to put it away; but there was something strangely interesting and appealing about the novel. Boll really succeeded in fleshing out his characters; particularly those of the Clown and his former lover, Marie. I really felt as if I was in the Clown's world and that he could well have been a real person. Even the (at times) irritating ramblings of the clown made him more believable and human.
This was not the novel that I expected, but a fairly interesting novel nonetheless. Two stars for me.
NEXT UP: a book about collectivism in Soviet Russia and 'we're off to see the Wizard!'