Views of a clown

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Heinrich Boell

Views of a Clown is a novel by the German writer and Nobel Prize winner for literature Heinrich Böll . Even the preprint in the Süddeutsche Zeitung triggered fierce criticism, especially from the German Catholic Church . The novel was first published in full in January 1963. Böll himself criticized his novel for being very constructed and emphasized that his work was not shaped by anti-Catholicism.


The novel tells the story of a man whose relationship and love for a woman, including himself, is falling apart in the value-mobile post-war society of the 1950s and 1960s.

The protagonist Hans Schnier has made a conscious decision against a career as a politician or entrepreneur, turning away from the traditions of his family, which was shaped by the economic miracle . This young man, endowed with high moral values ​​but completely independent of faith, began a relationship with a strictly Catholic girl named Marie Derkum very early on. They have had a full relationship for six years. When they want to get married, a discussion begins about the type of wedding ceremony and the upbringing of their children. And although Hans Schnier agrees on all points to bow to the ideas of his future wife, the bond that had connected the two is already fraying in the discussion. The next day, Hans Schnier found a piece of paper that read: “I have to go the way I have to go.” From that day on, the very successful clown, officially a “comedian”, goes downhill. He surrenders to alcohol and experiences a rapid decline.

The novel only covers a period of a few hours, starting with the arrival in Bonn.

In Bonn Schnier starts calling his parents and old acquaintances, but nowhere does he find himself understood. His parents were convinced of National Socialism . His mother now works for the “Central Committee for the Reconciliation of Racial Opposites”, which is in contrast to her attitude during the Third Reich . His father is a successful and smart entrepreneur. But he was also a staunch National Socialist. In an incident in which a group of the Hitler Youth attacked the ten-year-old because of a defeatist joke and in his fear he hurled a " Nazi pig " at the Hitler Youth leader , the father defended the ten-year-old son only half-heartedly.

He talks about his old teacher, who taught his students National Socialist values , but never had a party membership, and who made a brilliant career in office after the war, officially as a man with a “clean slate”. He talks about a writer, a staunch Nazi, who wrote a book about Franco-German love. As the protagonists end up getting married, the author was banned from writing for 10 months; after the war he was celebrated as a resistance fighter and repeatedly emphasized that he had been banned from writing by the Nazis. Schnier also keeps talking about Marie, probably the only girl he has ever loved, with the possible exception of his sister, who died as an anti-aircraft helper during the war after her mother sent her there.

The criticism of the unreflective changes in values ​​of the Germans in the transition from the “Third Reich” to the Federal Republic , of the failure to come to terms with the time of National Socialism and the Catholic Church , which as an institution demanded this unreflected adjustment to obedience from its supporters, is becoming increasingly clear .

The book ends with a pathetic picture: Hans Schnier sits down on the stairs of the train station in Bonn and plays the guitar, for which he does not sing the Lauretanian litany , as originally planned , but a spontaneously texted song that begins with the lines: “Der Poor Pope Johannes , don't listen to the CDU , he's not Müller's donkey, he doesn't want Müller's cow. ”(dtv edition, 43rd edition, 1997, p. 273.) Next to him he puts the hat that he goes with his Chaplin parodies had worn. People mistake him for a beggar, which he may be, and throw money into his hat. So he waits there for the return of his beloved. - The two writings of the novel that precede the print version each contain a final chapter in which Marie Derkum's return to Hans Schnier is described.


The Clown was in 1975 by Vojtěch Jasný in the production of Heinz Angermeyer and Maximilian Schell filmed and premiered on January 14, 1976th The actors are Helmut Griem , Eva Maria Meineke , Hanna Schygulla , Hans Christian Blech , Helga Anders and Rainer Basedow .

Stage version

In a text adaptation by Valery Pecheykin, the Nationaltheater Mannheim premiered a stage version " Frei nach Heinrich Böll" on March 30, 2019 . The Russian director Maxim Didenko directed the film. The production team with stage and costume designer Maria Tregubova and choreographer Dina Kuseyn created a “magical world with brightly colored dreams and dark nightmares”, “subtle gags everywhere”. The production, which lasted one hour and 45 minutes without a break, delivered a “clownish caricature” full of “lemurs of social mendacity” from the Adenauer years.


  • Rudolf Augstein: Potemkin on the Rhine. In: The time. No. 24 June 14, 1963.
  • Reinhard Baumgart: Unhappy or an accident? In: The time. No. 25 June 21, 1963, p. 11.
  • Günter Blöcker: The last person. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. No. 109 May 11, 1963.
  • Helmut M. Braem: A bitter Heinrich Böll. Critical comments on his novel "Views of a Clown". In: Stuttgarter Zeitung. No. 120, May 25, 1963, p. 4.
  • Elisabeth Endres: The Unmanaged Sacrament. In: German newspaper. (Stuttgart / Cologne). No. 120. 25./26. May 1963, p. 18.
  • Joachim Günther: Dispute over the new Böll. "Views of a clown" - social criticism as a brilliant fire. In: Der Tagesspiegel. (Berlin). No. 5411. June 30, 1963, p. 33.
  • Peter Härtling: A clown is attacking. In: The month. (Berlin) 15, H. 177, June 1963, pp. 75-78.
  • Urs Jenny: views upon views. In: Die Weltwoche. No. 1546. June 28, 1963.
  • Joachim Kaiser: Heinrich Böll's "Views of a Clown". What this moving book is about. In: The time. No. 22 May 31, 1963, p. 13.
  • Marcel Reich-Ranicki: The story of love without marriage. Heinrich Böll spun his now published novel from the threads of varying quality. In: The time. No. 19 May 10, 1963, p. 20.
Research Literature - Interpretations
  • Günter Wirth: Religious and social motifs in Heinrich Böll's novel "Views of a Clown". In: Manfred Brauneck (Hrsg.): The German novel in the 20th century. Volume II: Analyzes and materials on the theory and sociology of the novel. CC Buchners Verlag, Bamberg 1976, pp. 58-73.
  • Theodore Ziolkowski : From crazy to clown. In: Marcel Reich-Ranicki (ed.): In the matter of Böll. Views and Insights. (= German 730). 8th edition. Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich 1985, pp. 265–276.
  • Karl-Heinz Götze : Heinrich Böll: "Views of a Clown". UTB, Munich 1985, ISBN 3-7705-2291-5 .
  • Günter Blamberger : "Views of a Clown". In: Werner Bellmann (Ed.): Heinrich Böll. Novels and short stories. Interpretations. Reclam, Stuttgart 2000, ISBN 3-15-017514-3 , pp. 200-221.
  • Wilhelm Große: Heinrich Böll: "Views of a Clown". (= Analyzes and reflections. 8). 8., rework. Edition. Beyer, Hollfeld 2001, ISBN 3-88805-381-1 .
  • Reiner Poppe: Heinrich Böll: Views of a clown. (= King's Explanations and Materials. Volume 301). Bange Verlag, Hollfeld 2003, ISBN 3-8044-1758-2 .

supporting documents

  1. Harald Raab: "Alone Among Lemurs" , of March 30, 2019, accessed April 1, 2019