|Los Angeles Review of Books|
Michael Wood on Group Portrait with Lady by Heinrich Böll
From "Good Germans": Group Portrait with Lady
August 3rd, 2011
[This is an excerpt from a longer essay on Böll's novels in these pages.]
Group Portrait with Lady is written in the mode of a formal, dogged, ultimately absurdist report — Beckett's name comes up repeatedly in Böll's novels — and describes a whole collection of what in another culture would be called drop-outs, apparent failures who are resolutely human in a world largely made up of humans become beasts. The tone here is remarkable, estranging, awkward, comic:
Borrowing a mode of indirection from Thomas Mann, but taking it into new zones of dryness and apparent inadequacy, this voice says almost everything it has to say by pretending to lose the essential and announcing the loss.