And Where Were You, Adam?
In this simple yet profound novella Heinrich Boll provides a brief portrait of the lives of some members of the Wehrmacht as they are in retreat near the end of World War II. Told episodically with a casual style the makes the horror of some of the episodes even more powerful. Bolls simple straightforward style is perfect as he tells of the horrific details. He draws extensively from autobiographical events during his time as a soldier in World War II. What characterizes all of Böll's war literature is the fact that there are no heroes; his protagonists are ordinary, downtrodden soldiers who lack control over their lives and whose deaths are usually presented as being completely pointless, often painful, and always ugly. In keeping with his condemnation of war, Böll's style is realistic; he saw the war not as an exciting adventure but as an illness "like typhoid." This is an unforgettable work as it portrays a perspective on the war that few if any non-Germans could imagine. An early work of Boll, this shows signs of the novelist who would go on to write many much more complex works.
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And Where Were You, Adam? by Heinrich Boll. Leila Vennewitz, transl. Northwestern University Press, 2000.