The man with the knives

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The man with the knives is a short story by Heinrich Böll that appeared in April 1948 in the magazine Karussell (Kassel).


The first-person narrator, a first lieutenant in the Wehrmacht, made ends meet as a casual worker after the war . One evening he visits his former comrade, NCO Jupp.

Jupp's parents were killed in an air raid. After he was released from captivity, the inheritance was handed over to Jupp in a little suitcase by an old lady. With thirteen knives that he found in the little suitcase, Jupp now appears as a knife thrower in the “Sieben Mühlen” variety theater.

The number is not very popular. The attractive woman is missing, whom Jupp can just throw past every evening. Jupp finds the solution: The first lieutenant has to replace the missing stage partner.

The debut of the two comrades in "Seven Mills" was a success, and Jupps' fee was increased on the spot. The lieutenant realizes that he has a new job and a new superior - the man who throws knives at him.


Marcel Reich-Ranicki counted the short story 2008 among the literarily more important works of the Nobel Prize winner Böll and placed them in a row with the short story Wanderer, Sie geht nach Spa ... and the satire Doctor Murke's collected silence . In general, Böll's stories from the Second World War show "not how people make war, but what war makes of people." Even if they are read less, they will continue to be remembered.


  • Heinrich Böll: The man with the knives . In: Heinrich Böll works. Novels and short stories 1. 1947-1952. Edited by Bernd Balzer . Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Cologne 1977 (supplemented new edition 1987), ISBN 3-462-01871-X , pp. 102–114
First printing
  • Heinrich Böll: The man with the knives . In: "Karussell" (Kassel), 3rd year, volume 22, April 1948, pp. 25–33.
  • Heinrich Böll: The man with the knives. Narratives . Reclam, Stuttgart 1958.
  • Heinrich Böll: The man with the knives and other stories . Reclam, Stuttgart 1986, ISBN 978-3-15-008287-4
  • Heinrich Böll: Works (Cologne edition), Volume 3, Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Cologne, ISBN 978-3-462-03256-7
Secondary literature
  • Bellmann, Werner (ed.): The work of Heinrich Böll. Bibliography with studies on early work. Westdeutscher Verlag, Opladen 1995, ISBN 3-531-12694-6
  • Thomamüller, Elisabeth: "The man with the knives". In: Interpretations of Heinrich Böll written by a working group. Short Stories II (1965). 5th edition. Oldenbourg, Munich 1975. pp. 17-31.
  • Vieregg, Axel: Heinrich Böll's early text "The man with the knives" as an introduction to the subject of his work . In: Der Deutschunterricht 28 (1976) No. 6, pp. 51–68.

Individual evidence

  1. Bellmann, p. 131, entry 1948.2
  2. Frankfurter Allgemeine, May 28, 2008: Ask Reich-Ranicki: Will Heinrich Böll survive his time?

Web links

  • Heinrich Böll - Cologne edition vol. 3