Hot Best Seller

Group Portrait with Lady PDF, ePub eBook

4.6 out of 5
30 review

Group Portrait with Lady

Availability: Ready to download

File Name: Group Portrait with Lady .pdf

How it works:

1. Register a free 1 month Trial Account.

2. Download as many books as you like (Personal use)

3. Cancel the membership at any time if not satisfied.


Group Portrait with Lady PDF, ePub eBook 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 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 dazzling mosaic, rich in satire, yet hinting at the promise of a saner world.

30 review for Group Portrait with Lady

  1. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    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. Böll is obsessed with building and destroying materials, houses, evidence, characters. His stories are made up of Trümmerlandschaften - those scary skeletons of German cities and their inhabitants during and after the Second World War, witnesses of bombed-out history. Böll's protagonists wade through 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. Böll is obsessed with building and destroying materials, houses, evidence, characters. His stories are made up of Trümmerlandschaften - those scary skeletons of German cities and their inhabitants during and after the Second World War, witnesses of bombed-out history. Böll'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, grayish, broken up into shards of different sizes and colours. A feeling for analytical cubism is required for the author to make sense of the fragmented story lines, with their shared hiatus 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 past. The 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 1960s. Naturally, the sources turn out to be biased, to have their own ideas about what happened and why, and as the story progresses, the "author" gets to know the interviewees much better than the woman he wants to write about. She remains strangely remote. It is a group portrait, but the lady stays in the background. In 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 quite different in reality- if there even is such a thing as ONE reality. Evidence (provided by unreliable sources) points to the opposite conclusion. The novel shows with heartbreaking clarity how the war shapes people, how identities get 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 graveyard, 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 lover. Everything is loosely connected, but not straightforward. Broken lines. Trümmer. Absolutely outstanding novel!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    359. Gruppenbild mit Dame = Group Portrait With Lady, Heinrich Böll Group Portrait with Lady (German: Gruppenbild mit Dame) is a novel by Nobel Prize winning author Heinrich Böll, 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. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز بیست و هشتم ماه آگوست سال 1984 میلادی سیمای زنی در میان جمع - هاینریش 359. Gruppenbild mit Dame = Group Portrait With Lady, Heinrich Böll Group Portrait with Lady (German: Gruppenbild mit Dame) is a novel by Nobel Prize winning author Heinrich Böll, 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. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز بیست و هشتم ماه آگوست سال 1984 میلادی سیمای زنی در میان جمع - هاینریش بول (آگاه،)؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان آلمانی سده 20 م عنوان: سیمای زنی در میان جمع؛ نویسنده: هاینریش بول؛ مترجم: مرتضی کلانتریان؛ تهران، آگاه، 1362، در 448 ص؛ چاپ دیگر: 1377، در 557 ص، شابک: 9644160991؛ چاپ چهارم: تهران، آگه، 1383، در 557 ص، چاپ پنجم 1384، چاپ هفتم و هشتم: 1388، شابک: 9789643290788؛ چاپ دهم 1392؛ هاینریش بل، در این اثر خویش، از جامعه ی سرمایه‌ داری، و از نظام کمونیستی، انتقاد می‌کند. ایشان عملکرد سرمایه داری را، مبتنی بر حرص و زیاده خواهی می‌داند، و نظام کمونیستی را نیز، به عدم اجرای دستورهای سوسیالیزم، متهم می‌کند. «بل»، برای شرح زندگینامه ی: «لنی» - شخصیت اصلی داستان - از چهل و هشت سالگی «لنی»، آغاز می‌کند، و پس از شرح حال حاضر «لنی»، سیری، در خاطرات بگذشته ی ایشان دارند. سپس لحن داستان تغییر میکند، و زندگی «لنی»، از: بگذشته ها، تا به حال، و سپس آینده، شرح داده می‌شود. نوشته اند: برجسته ترین اثر «هاینریش بل» همین کتاب است، که شما برگزیده اید، جایزه ی ادبی نوبل، در سال 1972 میلادی، برای همین کتاب، و لابد برای کارهای پیشین ایشان نیز بوده، که به ایشان تعلق گرفته است. میتوان این داستان را بارها خواند، و باز هم چیزی تازه یاد گرفت، و آموخت، زندگی چهل سالگی است. از ما که بگذشته، شمایان دریابید. ا. شربیانی

  3. 4 out of 5

    David Lentz

    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.

  4. 4 out of 5

    J.

    *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 Böll 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 more. 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 Böll 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 more. There are somewhere near 125 persons who come into play in Heinrich Böll'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) Böll 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 is more 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 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. Böll 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 Böll 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 Böll'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 tilts more 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 more if the tone has been so altered.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Inderjit Sanghera

    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 perhaps more of an intellectual than emotional success.

  6. 5 out of 5

    AC

    What a marvelous, marvelous book...! If you've never read Böll 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.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly

    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: "Leni...is 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?!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Bob

    Böll likes to play with bureaucratic language and other styles of conveying information that differ from the conventionally literary. In this instance, his narrator is clear that he is not telling a story, but rather reconstructing a series of events (actually a whole life with a large cast of ancillary characters) as if he were somewhere between a journalist and historian. He works strictly with primary sources, interviews and letters, and rarely interjects his opinion or at least frequently as Böll likes to play with bureaucratic language and other styles of conveying information that differ from the conventionally literary. In this instance, his narrator is clear that he is not telling a story, but rather reconstructing a series of events (actually a whole life with a large cast of ancillary characters) as if he were somewhere between a journalist and historian. He works strictly with primary sources, interviews and letters, and rarely interjects his opinion or at least frequently asserts that he is not doing so. Leni, the protagonist, was born around 1920, and lives through the Nazi era in a rather limited sphere, working for a business that makes funeral wreaths. One of the workers there is a Russian prisoner of war - though he is brought to the workshop and escorted out daily by his guards, they nonetheless manage to have an affair and a child which makes her both a fallen woman and a political traitor in the eyes of many people, a judgment that persists in the "present" of the book which is around 1970. Böll's disillusionment with German society is, as is often the case, quite clear.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    020219 from ???: i remember, when reading this at my favorite coffeehouse several years ago, coming across a wonderful, droll, unexpected- though long-prepared-answer to a question that the acute reader will have been wondering for at least a hundred pages: and i laughed out loud! other coffeehouse patrons looked up, looked curious, looked maybe worried, and all i could do was gesture at and say ‘this book’… but the great ironic joke would be impossible to explain in any reasonable way, in the m 020219 from ???: i remember, when reading this at my favorite coffeehouse several years ago, coming across a wonderful, droll, unexpected- though long-prepared-answer to a question that the acute reader will have been wondering for at least a hundred pages: and i laughed out loud! other coffeehouse patrons looked up, looked curious, looked maybe worried, and all i could do was gesture at and say ‘this book’… but the great ironic joke would be impossible to explain in any reasonable way, in the moment, in person, if you have not read the book. i am surprised i have not first put it on favorites. for that moment of pleasure, indicative of the entire book, i must call it one. i guess it is sort of a post-modern work, a deconstruction dossier, one long, involved and involving, narrative joke (not just the one i mention..). this is also something definitely in the appropriate artistic medium: not a film, not a poem, not a painting or a song- something that only works as a book...

  10. 4 out of 5

    Nicholas During

    I really loved this book a lot. It is really post-modern. Filled with the author giving sources for all of his materials on the main character Leni, almost as if he is asking the reader to the doubt the author. He even writes "(au.)" when he wants to source his own thoughts and opinions. And then by bringing a host of characters as character-witnesses to Leni (see the title of the book), many of whom of course contradict themselves and cast doubts on the others, he expands the field of knowledge I really loved this book a lot. It is really post-modern. Filled with the author giving sources for all of his materials on the main character Leni, almost as if he is asking the reader to the doubt the author. He even writes "(au.)" when he wants to source his own thoughts and opinions. And then by bringing a host of characters as character-witnesses to Leni (see the title of the book), many of whom of course contradict themselves and cast doubts on the others, he expands the field of knowledge to a much larger group, something that I also think of as po-mo. And finally this book is not really much of a novel, the author (character, not really Böll since he takes a part in it at the end too), rather claims status as a journalist, often telling us what his expenses and tax credits should be during the research, and is pretending that this book is as accurate as possible. But what I really like about the book is that it doesn't take itself too seriously, unlike some of the other famed post-modern classics. Leni is worshipped no doubt, but that really is kind of cute, and many of the events are downright silly. To say nothing of the people. The author's arousal by nuns is probably the best example of this. And I shouldn't mislead you that this is really a big, wide-ranging semi-historical novel. Interested in Germany during the WWII and after? This is a great place to discover it. Not only do the Nazis get a very short shrift, no excuses for people who joined, and no sympathy for those who deny later or revert back. It also makes fun of the regionality of Germany, the stereotypes of lack of humor and efficiency, and the history of its symbols. What I really like is that complete denigration of the West Germany/Christian Democrats ethos. While it is in fashion to do that now one can imagine it being quite powerful in the 70s when this was written. None of that for Böll. Not really sure if I have explained why I like this book so much here, but I really enjoyed. Yes it is long, and nothing really happens, but I love a book that combines literary experimentation, humor, and an attempt to analyses historical and social process to a particular country or people. And this book does all of that.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Rosemary

    This was a struggle to read, but very rewarding in the way it showed life for random ordinary Germans during and just after the Second World War. It's experimental in style, written as if it were a report on or study of the main character, Leni Pfeiffer, who rarely appears. Instead we have the results of a series of interviews that the character called "the Author" undertakes with all the traceable people who have known Leni at different times in her life.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Bill

    this is a truly excellent book.although it is a novel, if you didn't know better, you would think it was a straight biography.boll(who calls himself author throughout the book)does everything a biographer would normally do...interviews people, checks facts, travels around to get info etc.by the end of the book you really feel you know the character he is writing about (leni pfeiffer)as well as all her friends and relatives.exceedingly well done and highly recommended.

  13. 4 out of 5

    S.

    When Heinrich Böll won the Nobel Prize, this novel was singled out as his crowning achievement, even though writers win for a body of work rather than an individual book. The novel is a marvelous panoramic look at German society during and after WWII, conducted as a kind of investigation into the life of the central figure, Leni Pfeiffer, through research and interviews with the people surrounding her. They - all 62 of them - are listed and identified at the beginning of the book. It is difficult When Heinrich Böll won the Nobel Prize, this novel was singled out as his crowning achievement, even though writers win for a body of work rather than an individual book. The novel is a marvelous panoramic look at German society during and after WWII, conducted as a kind of investigation into the life of the central figure, Leni Pfeiffer, through research and interviews with the people surrounding her. They - all 62 of them - are listed and identified at the beginning of the book. It is difficult to identify Leni as the book’s “protagonist.” She is present throughout, at least peripherally, and all the conversations and research have her at their core, though she has hardly initiated it, being a deliberate underachiever, and it’s not clear what the purpose of the investigation is. The author sets out to provide an objective study, but doesn’t. It is clear he is infatuated with Leni, as many characters seem to be. At 48, Leni is still an attractive woman (“if only she’d do her hair differently!”), extremely sensual, who, in her youth, was voted “most German girl.” The protagonist is much more “the Author” himself, referred to as “Au.” The pages and pages about Leni’s ‘being and becoming’ -more interesting than it sounds- provide a backdrop to the central conflict, which is that Leni is about to be evicted from a building that seems to be rightfully hers, but which has come into the possession of sort-of relatives, the Hoysers, who represent “achievement-oriented society” (aka Christian Democrats). In general, Leni and her supporters are trying to wrest what can be saved from this ‘new’ Germany through resistance, much as others resisted, even if passively, the dehumanizing Nazis. For me the Hoysers were also a hilarious send-up of Germans in general - materialistic and rule-based. There is a segment where the Au. goes to meet the Hoysers to discuss the Leni situation in their high-rise overlooking the Rhine. He wants to open the window because of the stuffiness and smoke but is not allowed because IT’S not allowed due to the cooling system, although the Hoysers confess that, yes, they would love to be like Leni, the kind of person who can just throw windows open at will. “At this point the Au. would have dearly liked to speak a few conciliatory words, he would even have been prepared to admit the relative unimportance of the annoyance over the jacket in view of the weighty problems of these tormented people who were not even allowed to fling open the windows in their own building.” (p. 380) I have read some reviews of this book lamenting how “dry” it is, how clinical. For me that was part of the book’s success. Pyrotechnics and more “action” would have superfluous. I thought the approach worked wonderfully. The one downside was the politics - that got kind of tedious for a stretch in the last quarter of the book, although the tedium is soon alleviated by some more lively input well before the story ends. I read this first in college decades ago before I had an inkling that Germany would be central to my fate. I remember admiring and enjoying it, despite having little real interest in German society. Years later it’s still a great novel, and I come to it much more experienced than I was at 20. First, the professor who taught the literature course, which I took on a whim, was more a language than a literature instructor and had no idea what “post-modern” meant. In any case, the topic never came up in class. Schade! Secondly, having now lived around 20 years in Germany, the book epitomizes for me a certain attitude and political point of view that has deep roots here.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Bryan "goes on a bit too long"

    Before this, I had only read Böll's 18 Stories, of which I remember almost nothing. The one thing I do remember is the unfamiliar feeling of reading stories where returning German soldiers from WWII were part of the landscape. In Böll's stories, these returning soldiers did not play significant parts in the narrative other than as a bit of verisimilitude; had these been American stories, a German soldier returning to his home would have been like Chekhov's Gun; I would be continually expecting t Before this, I had only read Böll's 18 Stories, of which I remember almost nothing. The one thing I do remember is the unfamiliar feeling of reading stories where returning German soldiers from WWII were part of the landscape. In Böll's stories, these returning soldiers did not play significant parts in the narrative other than as a bit of verisimilitude; had these been American stories, a German soldier returning to his home would have been like Chekhov's Gun; I would be continually expecting the plot to hinge on this event. I was reminded of that while reading Group Portrait--the larger point being that sometimes, even though I know better, I forget that other parts of the world have different ideas about historical events than I do--or have been taught to have--as an American, and when I am brought face-to-face with that idea, it's first surprising, and then refreshing. When I think of WWII, and of Germany, I have a lot of cultural references to draw from, but almost all of them are American. So there were many times when reading Böll's book that I was jarred by some action or reference I initially thought was out of place, or wondered about its appropriateness even. It just seemed strange. It's also humorous, though I suspect the amount of humor one finds will probably depend a lot on one's knowledge of Germany from about 1918 till 1970. What I could discern, I liked. The intersection of those who have read both Group Portrait and The Late George Apley is probably infinitesimal, but there were several aspects of the first that reminded me of the second--specifically how the narrator (self-referred to as The Author throughout) seems to be playing the straight man, while Böll (and in Apley's case, Marquand) uses him to satirize elements of the story, though the narrator remains oblivious to it. Here, the narrator is investigating a woman named Leni Gruyten, and her experiences during the war and after. To complete his investigation, the author tracks down all her acquaintances and interviews them, slowly building the group portrait referred to in the title, the end result being a glimpse at a cross-section of German citizens from the period. Others more knowledgeable about the time and the people can verify the accuracy of this portrait, but Böll is convincing to me--as a picture of Germany during these years, this one, at least, seemed far more effective to me than The Tin Drum, a book I could barely get through. I look forward to reading more of Böll's work--this one lands on my favorites list, and also on the list of the top books from the 20th century that I've read.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Saxon

    Group Portrait with Lady is an investigation into a German female named Leni who was born shortly after World War One. We learn about Leni not by following her throughout her life directly but through vigorous investigative reports into the places and with the people who knew, worked, and loved her. This in turn creates an underlying story about civilian Germany during World War 2 and the immediate post-war era. Through various stories about Leni we, of course, ultimately run into conflicting de Group Portrait with Lady is an investigation into a German female named Leni who was born shortly after World War One. We learn about Leni not by following her throughout her life directly but through vigorous investigative reports into the places and with the people who knew, worked, and loved her. This in turn creates an underlying story about civilian Germany during World War 2 and the immediate post-war era. Through various stories about Leni we, of course, ultimately run into conflicting details, opinions and stories of her life. In addition, we are revealed that often times these opinions, memories and details are often skewed by the interviewees own experience and/or political alignment during WW2. In the end this does two things: it questions the validity of truth and promotes a humanizing of German civilians and all those involved in the war (even Nazi soldiers). Boll is by no means denying anything that occurred during WW2 but he definitely is working against stereotypes-no doubt perpetuated by historians-of the German people during the second World War. Boll shows the various complexities on all levels of German society during this period and through those complexities we are revealed that to view things simply through such dichotomies as good vs. evil/axis vs. allied is often an injustice in itself. However, on top of that, "Group Portrait" is entirely written as if it is an investigative report that is dedicated to the utmost objectivity. Obviously, this is a satirical attempt by Boll. However, it often causes to book to drag a bit and get bogged down with almost too much detail to the point where the direction of the story is often lost amongst what I felt could of easily been edited. Nevertheless, this is an impressively dense and affective book that contains both a heavy emotionalism and a fair amount of historical critique.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Riley

    I've always had trouble connecting with Heinrich Boll's style, and this book was no exception. But I recognize that the problem may be me, and not him, and I keep going back to his books.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ana-Maria Bujor

    This was a weird one and I think you need to like the style to truly love it. I've loved books that tried to go to different places, like "House of leaves", but this one did not get the right note for me. Don't get me wrong, I liked it and also appreciated the original style. But one needs to accept a lot of things to enjoy it fully. For a start, the "author" spends the entire book talking to people who know a particular Leni to find out more about her. However, we never find out why. I found th This was a weird one and I think you need to like the style to truly love it. I've loved books that tried to go to different places, like "House of leaves", but this one did not get the right note for me. Don't get me wrong, I liked it and also appreciated the original style. But one needs to accept a lot of things to enjoy it fully. For a start, the "author" spends the entire book talking to people who know a particular Leni to find out more about her. However, we never find out why. I found the characters talking about Leni a lot more interesting than her in particular, but maybe that was the scope. The representation of the war and post-war world did not have such a strong impact on me, maybe also because I was reading a historical account of the post-WW2 world in parallel, but they were well written and without exaggerations. All in all, I've enjoyed it, but I think other people who enjoy this style will like it even more.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Martin

    Well, I'm glad that's over with. Sorry, Heinrich - um, Herr Böll, I mean. At roughly 450 pages, it took a good 80-100 pages to actually 'get into it', and - symetrically - the last 80-100 pages were an ordeal to read (especially Chapter 11 - what the... ?) It certainly was... different. Was there even a point to this book? Needless to say I doubt I'll ever read it again.

  19. 4 out of 5

    August Wordsworth

    I have had this book on my shelf for a bit over a year now, and it has been making eyes at me for quite a long time. I can honestly say this is a very interesting read starting with the way it was written to the way its characters were built, shaped and the way they evolved. Leni is the main focus of this novel and everyone who knew her loves her. The men lust after her and the women admire her. She is honest, good and doesn't care about social standards, and since this is a ww2 novel set in Germ I have had this book on my shelf for a bit over a year now, and it has been making eyes at me for quite a long time. I can honestly say this is a very interesting read starting with the way it was written to the way its characters were built, shaped and the way they evolved. Leni is the main focus of this novel and everyone who knew her loves her. The men lust after her and the women admire her. She is honest, good and doesn't care about social standards, and since this is a ww2 novel set in Germany, that was a life and death matter for the civilians. This novel is also valuable for its social critique of the German society, it sheds a light on the hypocrisy and humanity, the cowardice and vice, and just how war shapes people in ways unimaginable. The style is formal, almost scientific, the author is a character in himself, the narration is highly unreliable due to its sources, everyone can easily be biased, and even the author takes sides and cannot help but become an important part of the work. Full of humor at times and very sad quite a lot of those times it can be an enjoyable read if you have a lot of time on your hands.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Marsha

    This book has got to be the driest thing I’ve tried to read since attempting Darwin’s Origin of the Species and that’s stating something. This book is not a straight narrative by any means. It purports to provide insight about one Leni Pfeiffer through an anonymous author (referred to as Au.) who has contact with various people who knew Leni. Now in her forties, no longer fashionable but still pretty, she is reviled by her neighbors, booed by the children who slowly but surely take their cues fr This book has got to be the driest thing I’ve tried to read since attempting Darwin’s Origin of the Species and that’s stating something. This book is not a straight narrative by any means. It purports to provide insight about one Leni Pfeiffer through an anonymous author (referred to as Au.) who has contact with various people who knew Leni. Now in her forties, no longer fashionable but still pretty, she is reviled by her neighbors, booed by the children who slowly but surely take their cues from the adults around them and feeds her sensual nature with the meagerest of crumbs, mainly dancing and smoking eight cigarettes a day. The book resorts to endless “talking head” interviews in which the interviewees come off as being only marginally more interesting than Leni herself (with the possible exception of a strange nun obsessed with human feces). All in all, a very dull book indeed.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lawrence Kelley

    Bought this hardcover 2nd-hand from an old Lutheran church, around the corner from my home in the city of Rensselaer, New York. The church was shutting down after decades of serving the city's German-American population. Brought book with me - in 1997 - as I flew to visit German friend living in Hannover. I learned later that Heinrich Boell - a Catholic from Cologne - was a friend of Petra Kelly, and an important moral inspiration to the European Green movement.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Gerry

    Boll won the nobel prize in the seventies or eighties. Anyway, this is a very fine novel and there is a scene in this novel when a man and a woman--strangers--are in a cellar during a bombing and they are certain they are about to die. They make love. I thought then and now, that in those moments of naked human emotions, humans act human.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Deanne

    A description of a woman and her life as seen through the eyes of the people in her life, family, friends, aquaintainces and enemies. Interesting way of narrating a life. The author never seems to get information directly from Leni, so you're left wondering how much do these people know about Leni. How accurate is the portrayal of her character and life.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lysergius

    A superbly written tale of the effect on a group of people surrounding the Lady of the title of the Nazi period in Germany. Evocative and nostalgic. A masterpiece.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Nate H.

    A wonderful work of art.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    The 1971 magnum opus by Heinrich Boll, which pieces together German life around WWII, never resonated in the United States, despite the popularity of other WWII novels translated from German such as The Tin Drum. My full review is here: https://medium.com/@Dave.Nash.33/five... The 1973 New York Times book review is telling; Although 11 of his books have been published here to good reviews, the award of the 1972 Nobel Prize for Literature to Heinrich Böll for his “contribution to the renewal of Ge The 1971 magnum opus by Heinrich Boll, which pieces together German life around WWII, never resonated in the United States, despite the popularity of other WWII novels translated from German such as The Tin Drum. My full review is here: https://medium.com/@Dave.Nash.33/five... The 1973 New York Times book review is telling; Although 11 of his books have been published here to good reviews, the award of the 1972 Nobel Prize for Literature to Heinrich Böll for his “contribution to the renewal of German literature” has made little impression in America. Judging by the dearth of online reviews, that little impression has not changed since the begrudging NYT review in 1973. Here’s 5 reasons why, America, you are missing out! 1) Crowning Achievement for a Nobel Prize winner: this prize canonizes modern literature. Boll’s life work — rebuilding the German language from the ashes of WWII led to this award, he would be worthy even without out this crowning achievement and further, it is extremely rare for the committee to single out one work. Very few novels have the distinction of being singled for the Nobel Prize — don’t you want to find out why? 2) What your teacher didn’t tell you: while a fictional work, actual historical events drive this novel. Boll personally experienced the terror, shootings, hangings, lootings, and arrests that gripped the Rhineland in the few weeks before the Allies, the Americans, took control. This is a part of the war is not taught in America — high school or college. Germans were frequently shot by other Germans for hanging up a white flag. After surviving six years of war, to perish in the final days with the end in sight is truly tragic. Even after the allies took control, any able body man under the age of 50 couldn’t move outside in public without proper documentation. That authoritarian-like restriction on freedom was placed on Germans by all the allies, not just the Soviets. Boll and other German soldiers, conscripts, were sent to POW camps for up to 5 years, it’s estimated the three to ten thousand died in these POW camps alone — so much for Gitmo. While trying to remain factual, the novel is heartbreaking in dealing with aftermath of WWII. When Leni’s love is taken to one of those POW camps: She took off right away, on an old bicycle. She got across all the zone borders all the national frontiers, into the French Zone, into the Saar Territory, from there to Lorraine, going from camp to camp and asking each of the commandants after Alfred Bullhorst, pleading for him, courageously and stubbornly, I tell you, but she didn’t know that in Europe there were probably fifteen to twenty million German POW’s. She was on the road with her bike till November, coming home at intervals to replenish her supplies — and the she’d be off again….Well she found her Boris, her Yendritsky, her Koltovsky, her Bullhorst — pick any name you’d like. She found him, she found him in a cemetery. Boll brings a new level of humanity to this forgotten chapter in history, a chapter in history that very much involves the US. Personally, I’ve closely associated with the Rhineland with Germany, most likely because of Wagner’s Ring Cycle. Wagner, perhaps because of this, was co-opted by the Third Reich as a cultural hero. Yet, not all Rhinelander’s saw themselves in the Third Riech: You see correctly, views of the left bank of the Rhine only. I used to be a separatist, and still am and not only theoretically; on the fifteenth of November, 1923 I was wounded near the Agidienberg not for the honorable side, but the dishonorable one which to me is still the honorable one. No one can talk me out of my belief that this part of Germany doesn’t belong to Prussia and never has, nor in any kind of so-called Reich founded by Prussia. The history taught in schools homogenizes all Germans, except Jews. It depicts a nation comprised of goose-stepping Aryans, marching in mass towards us, which makes fire-bombing Dresdin and long-standing POW camps palpable, thus enabling us to maintain our irreproachable moral status in at least this theatre of the war. Meet the new demagogue: 3) We see ourselves in history: history doesn’t repeat, but it rhymes and its riffs keep rocking us today. In one Trumpian example, towards the end of the novel, the Au. visits Hoyser Sr — Leni’s father’s former bookkeeper who has profited nicely off the 25 years of reconstruction. Leni through a series of financially reckless decisions sold her family’s apartment building in Cologne to Hoyser. Now she can’t pay the rent because her son is in jail and Hoyser wants to evict her. Hoyser at this point is old, capricious, and senile — he rips a button off the Au.’s jacket attempting to emphasize a point before his grandson make excueses for him. I could see Trump doing this. Later, his grandsons ape the most far right capitalist rhetoric about the financial necessity of not forbearing on Leni’s rent and why for financial reasons they must evict her: Our action is something I am not ashamed to call a corrective measure, and affectionate guidance, that unfortunately has to make use of somewhat brutal means of execution. The more grandsons talk, the crazier they sound, their patrician veneer vanishes under their acrimonious oratory — not too different from WWII ideologues or the Trump family. As they talk, the room fills thick with smoke, asphyxiating the Au. who can’t get a word in— they’d like open the window but: [The Au.] would even have been prepared to admit the unimportance of the annoyance of the jacket in view of the weighty problems these people had who were not even allowed fling open the windows in their own building; This interview portrays the achievement oriented society led by the Christian Democrats in 1970's Germany and is reminiscent of our Republican Party in the eighties and nineties. Combining a small thread of Christianity to Capitalist thought, Republicans painted America as a meritocracy and used this line of thinking in opposition to the welfare state best symbolized through the welfare queen caricature. 4) Unique Narrative form: the story is told by the Au. as a series of interview reports which piece together the protagonist. The narrator, Boll himself, takes pains from the start to write in a investigative police-like matter: The female protagonist in the first section is a woman of forty-eight, German; she is five foot six inches tall weighs 133 pounds….The woman’s name is Leni Pfeifer, nee Grutyen,…as a result of having causally given away during the inflation, a considerable fortune in real estate, a substantial apartment house in the new point of town that today would easily fetch four thousand marks, she is now pretty much without resources. This style against the backdrop of World War II does not get tiresome. Almost instinctively after the war the Au. summarizes quickly and switches to a series of other primary source styles to finish out the novel with a psychologist’s report, letter from a nurse, and a police report. He also references an encyclopedia of sorts at one point, so it truly gives that investigative report feel. Only a highly skilled writer can pull this off over the length of events. Through the end, Boll adroitly maintains this narrative device: The Au. by now totally engrossed in his role of research (and always in danger of being taken for an informer while his sole purpose at all times is to present a taciturn and reticent, unrepentant person such as Leni Grutyen Pfeifer — a woman as static as she is statuesque — in the right light), had some difficulty in gaining or searching out from those involved a reasonably factual picture of her situation at the end of the war. 5) Literary Conversation: many artists and historians have published works on WWII and its aftermath. Gunter Grass, a German language author, German POW, and later Nobel winner, naturally compares to Boll. As the 1973 New York Times review drew this comparison: for most Americans, and for many writers and critics in Europe, the more aggressive and innovative Günter Grass is certainly as well‐known and often more admired. I’m not most Americans. Grass’ Tin Drum (1960), features a unique narration style and chronicles life in the free city of Danzing/Gdansk before and during WWII and then in Germany post war. Grass, who self-identified as a Kashubian (not German), is unable to maintain the narrative and drama in the third section, which explores post-war Germany. Tellingly, the movie version ends with the second section, sitting through the third section damages the first two. Grass does not achieve resolution or justifies the novel’s length with the third section. Moreover, The Tin Drum is less about the war and more about Oskar’s antics — a freakish, unreliable narrator who makes Holden Caulfield and Chief Bromden look normal. I also read Grass’ 2002 Crabwalk, which lacks the magical realism and inventiveness of The Tin Drum. The resolution there was simply to assassinate the past and create an internet hero for a new age of bigots. While there is no magical realism and no psychedelic adventures, Boll stays closer to reality - the real horror of WWII is more than enough fodder for novelist as skilled as Boll. As he shifts paces and styles before, during, and after the war, he’s able to keep drama and bring resolution. On a related note, Boll’s The Clown compares favorably with The Catcher in the Rye, if WWII is too immense or too miserable, The Clown may be a lighter read for you. Just Starting to Paint Some critics panned this monumental work because it has a happy ending: Leni loses her best friend, her teenage love, her mentor, her brother, mother, and father during the novel and at the end she can’t pay the rent, her son is in jail, and she just found out that she’s pregnant — given the privations of World War II evidently that constitutes a happy ending. Boll’s genius is not simply bringing humanity to an inhumane place, it is in bringing resolution, a resolution that has eluded other authors. A resolution of sorts to the greatest catastrophe of the 20th century. He brings humanity through a seemingly sterile and cold investigative reporting form, but the life stories of these enduring characters jumps out and grabs the reader during the barrage of successive interviews. Our struggle to find order in chaos and meaning in destruction has driven creative works from Homer’s Iliad to Springsteen’s Rising. Boll’s Group Portrait with Lady does an admirable job in that struggle. While it didn’t jump off US book store shelves in the seventies and doesn’t rank high on today’s electronic search algorithms, Boll’s work is rich in literary invention, historical reflection, social commentary, and above all humanity. A single review can’t do it justice, but you can start to do it justice by reading Group Portrait with Lady today.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lukerik

    This is a novel for advanced users only. It reminded me at several points of Kubrick's Barry Lyndon in that I was aware I was engaged upon a great piece of art so serious its creator was prepared to make absolutely no allowances for pacing and had complete confidence in his audience to submit to this. I consider myself an advanced user and for much of the novel I struggled with the pace. Frankly, I could have done with a little more Blitzkrieg and a little less Cold War. Still, there is much to e This is a novel for advanced users only. It reminded me at several points of Kubrick's Barry Lyndon in that I was aware I was engaged upon a great piece of art so serious its creator was prepared to make absolutely no allowances for pacing and had complete confidence in his audience to submit to this. I consider myself an advanced user and for much of the novel I struggled with the pace. Frankly, I could have done with a little more Blitzkrieg and a little less Cold War. Still, there is much to enjoy here. There's something unusual going on. It took me a while to figure it out. My theory is as follows: The novel is about construction and deconstruction. The chapter divisions make no sense. They are arbitrary divisions as blocks of text are moved into or out of place. The scaffolding is still up, so to speak, and it is not clear if the novel is in the process of construction or deconstruction. Böll writes at one point about the computer as big as Bavaria, a sort of astro-philosophical verberator that produces life stories. Is the novel under construction? Has Böll not finished novelising the information from his transcripts or has the verberator delivered the novel perfectly, only for Böll to deconstruct it into transcripts? This motif is reflected again and again in other ways, perhaps most obviously in Leni and her father (who runs a construction company of course) but also more subtly in other characters. And also in the setting of Germany itself, where Nazism constructs the country from the ruins of the Treaty of Versailles but in the process destroys it. This is a complex novel and having read it only once this must remain a theory but I see some confirmation in the opening passage where Böll describes Leni. At the same time as he constructs her in the reader's mind by giving information he is also deconstructing her from a person into a few pieces of information.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Zarina

    This was mostly about women, coffee, politics, and fresh bread. All good topics, so I'm really disappointed that the book was mostly unexciting. The last 60 or so pages were really hard to finish, but I knew if I put the book down I'd never pick it up again. Still, it had some bits I really enjoyed. Example: So what does our Leni do, the very first day the Russian shows up for work? She pours him a cup of her own coffee—1:3 mind you, while Kremp was drinking his watery slops—pours the Russian some This was mostly about women, coffee, politics, and fresh bread. All good topics, so I'm really disappointed that the book was mostly unexciting. The last 60 or so pages were really hard to finish, but I knew if I put the book down I'd never pick it up again. Still, it had some bits I really enjoyed. Example: So what does our Leni do, the very first day the Russian shows up for work? She pours him a cup of her own coffee—1:3 mind you, while Kremp was drinking his watery slops—pours the Russian some coffee from her own coffeepot into her own cup and carries it over to him. . .For Leni that was the most natural thing in the world, to offer a cup of coffee to someone who had no cup and no coffee—but do you think she had the faintest idea of how political it was? Anyway, I thought it was worth a read and only one read.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Cristina Popescu

    I very much prefer Billiards at Half Past Nine, but this wasn't bad at all. Actually, I couldn't put it aside. I was very curious till the end, although I could never really care for the characters themselves. I think this is a book for aspiring writers: his characterizations are exemplary. I think fragments of the book ought to be offered to students at Creative Writing classes when it comes to describing characters. In fact, this was one of the motives for which the author was awarded the Nobe I very much prefer Billiards at Half Past Nine, but this wasn't bad at all. Actually, I couldn't put it aside. I was very curious till the end, although I could never really care for the characters themselves. I think this is a book for aspiring writers: his characterizations are exemplary. I think fragments of the book ought to be offered to students at Creative Writing classes when it comes to describing characters. In fact, this was one of the motives for which the author was awarded the Nobel Prize. I would definitely recommend this book to people who are interested in a bird's eye view image of the last years of WW2 in Germany, but if anyone asked me which Heinrich Böll book he should read, I'd still advise him to go for Billiards at Half Past Nine!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mya

    I really liked this book! "We see her through interviews with dozens of 'informants'..." Yes! They are conducted by the "author" or "au.", as he refers to himself. He inserts funny judgements on people as he meets them and writes about the interviews he has with them. He's great and I want to read a book about him. *Note: the "author" is not Heinrich Böll. The first hundred pages threw me off because the way this book is written is unique, and I didn't like the "author"/narrator at first, but the I really liked this book! "We see her through interviews with dozens of 'informants'..." Yes! They are conducted by the "author" or "au.", as he refers to himself. He inserts funny judgements on people as he meets them and writes about the interviews he has with them. He's great and I want to read a book about him. *Note: the "author" is not Heinrich Böll. The first hundred pages threw me off because the way this book is written is unique, and I didn't like the "author"/narrator at first, but then he grew on me. I would reread it.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.