Doctor Murke's collected silence

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Doctor Murke's collected silence is the title of a short story by Heinrich Böll . It was first published in 1955 in the Frankfurter Hefte , an expanded and revised version appeared in 1958 in the anthology Doctor Murkes Collected Silence and Other Satires . The theme is the intellectual continuity between Nazi ideology and post-war culture in the Federal Republic.


At the beginning of the 1950s, Professor Bur-Malottke, a well-known and influential figure, “who converted in the religious enthusiasm of 1945”, appeared at the director of his house broadcaster to announce that he suddenly had concerns “about the religious overlap of the Broadcasting to be complicit ”. The week before, he had given a two-half-hour lecture on the essence of art on tape, which will soon be broadcast, in which he frequently refers to God. He would now like to replace the word “God” in the lecture with the phrase “that higher being that we worship”, “which corresponded more to the mentality to which he had professed himself before 1945”. However, he refuses to speak the entire lecture again, but wants the word "God" to be cut out of the tapes and replaced by the phrase he wished.

Dr. Murke, a young editor in the “Kulturwort” department, is assigned this unpleasant task.

In the work that now follows - listening to the speech several times, cutting out “God” and preparing the new recording - Murke learns to hate Bur-Malottke, whom he does not appreciate very much anyway. When he appears to utter the sentence "that higher being whom we adore", Murke draws his attention to the fact that he needs the said phrase for 27 text passages, differentiated between nominative / accusative, genitive, dative and vocative ("O God!") and that the cut would lengthen the speech by a minute, which will have to be compensated for by cuts elsewhere. Bur-Malottke had not considered this and regretted his decision in view of the associated efforts, which Murke can increase through small harassment, but does not want to back down. When he visits the director again, he receives permission for an additional minute of broadcasting and expresses the wish that all of his audio recordings in the radio archive - probably over 120 hours - should be revised in the same way.

Murke completes the tape with the revised speech and leaves the tape snippets with Bur-Malottke's "God". When a religious program contribution is being worked on in the same studio soon afterwards, in which the word “God” is to be inserted instead of the repeated “silence” in the original version, the studio technician remembers the snippets and inserts them into them.

In addition to this main strand of the plot, the narrative contains a few secondary episodes that can be important for different interpretive approaches and are partly taken up in the next section.

Motives and content

Heinrich Böll places the story in the radio and in particular in its cultural department, which is presented as a plaything of political interests. The station's director helps an intellectual who was already highly praised during the Nazi era to a podium. This type embodies the literary figure Bur-Malottke, who resumes his anti-church direction, which was opportune during the Nazi era . The plot consists of a series of different episodes, most of which take place in the broadcasting house. The story achieves its effect “from the rapid sequence of scenes”.

In literary studies , the story was mainly interpreted as a satirical , caricaturing accounting with the radio system of the 1950s and their dealings with former National Socialists, or their fellow travelers and beneficiaries. The figure of Bur-Malottke comes to the fore. After the end of the war, the cultural manager had converted to Christianity in order to justify his sudden, anti-Nazi "change of heart". Now, in the mid-1950s, he believes he can herald the U-turn from the U-turn and would like to have the proclamations of God deleted from a lecture. Zimmermann interprets Bur-Malottke's actions and their function for the text as follows:

“When the aesthetic gossip, who converted in the religious renaissance of 1945, conjures up God 27 times in his lectures on the essence of art [...], then not only fashionable trends and their ritualization tendencies are travestated, the situation becomes too made aware of broadcasting, which cannot escape the compulsion to give these currents a due hearing. "

According to this reading, Murke becomes Bur-Malottke's opponent. He works in radio and was commissioned by the artistic director to technically implement the cultural reviewer's request. Nothing escapes the Murke described as “young, intelligent and amiable”. Bur-Malottke did not consider that “that higher being that we worship” in contrast to “God” has to be spoken in different cases . The case shifts make him uncomfortable. Murke uses this skillfully and lets Bur-Malottke atone for his hypocrisy:

“There is still a vocative left, the place where you say: 'Oh God'. Let me suggest that we leave it with the vocative and you say, 'O you higher being we adore!' "

The various scenes depict Murke as an internally opposing counterpart who experiences the various functional mechanisms of broadcasting, sometimes with mockery and sometimes with aloof fear. The story begins with extensive reference to the nightmares Murke goes through while he is working on Bur-Malottke's lecture during the day. He channels his anxiety in turn by collecting and cutting out passages in which the speakers are silent. He also urges his girlfriend to “keep quiet” from tapes. He needs the recordings in order to be able to play them to himself in the evening to recover from the hollowness and loquacity of the medium, that is to say for soul hygiene.

The story ends pointedly in a dialogue scene between the technician and the assistant director. Murke's cut-out god-snippets can be cut into another broadcast. The technician, who is friends with Murke, is happy that he can give him the silence that has become unnecessary: ​​"in all, almost a minute".

Böll himself explains his narrative form of representation by wanting to face a world "that constantly screams, that is loud and was loud then and is still louder today". It is incumbent on the figure of Murke to “build an altar to silence”.

Jochen Hörisch mentions Böll's short story and notes that Allied troops took over radio stations in rows in the spring of 1945. The resulting interruptions in broadcasting operations were the most important news for many listeners: a "cut of the ages".


The story began in 1964 with Dieter Hildebrandt as Dr. Murke filmed for television by Hessischer Rundfunk (Director: Rolf Hädrich ).

The second part of the two broadcasts was entitled Doctor Murke's Collected Obituaries . The radio play version (1986 as a co-production by Südwestfunk and Saarländischer Rundfunk , adaptation and direction: Hermann Naber , speakers including: Henning Venske , Hilmar Thate , Hans-Helmut Dickow , Heinz Schimmelpfennig ,) was awarded the Radio Eins Radio Play Cinema Audience Award in 2004.


  • Erhard Friedrichsmeyer: The satirical short prose Heinrich Bölls . Chapel Hill 1981, pp. 7-50.
  • Erhard Friedrichsmeyer: Doctor Murke's collected silence. In: Heinrich Böll, novels and stories . Edited by Werner Bellmann . Reclam, Stuttgart 2000, pp. 149-160.
  • John Klapper: Heinrich Böll's "Doctor Murke's Collected Silence". In: German teaching. The German journal of the Association for Language Learning. 5/1992, pp. 24-29.
  • Adolf Schweckendieck: Five modern satires in German lessons . In: German lessons. 3/1966, pp. 39-50.
  • Dieter E. Zimmer : Doctor Murke's collected silence. In: In the matter of Böll. Views and Insights . Edited by Marcel Reich-Ranicki. dtv, Munich 8th edition 1985. pp. 205-209.
  • Werner Zimmermann: Doctor Murke's Collective Silence (1958). In: WZ: German prose poems of our century. Interpretations . Part 2. 2nd edition of the new version. Schwann, Düsseldorf 1970, pp. 239-249.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Bernhard Sowinski, Wolf Egmar Schneidewind: Heinrich Böll. Satirical stories. Oldenbourg, Munich 1986, p. 59.
  2. ^ Werner Zimmermann: German prose poems of the 20th century. Interpretations II. 7th edition, Schwann, Düsseldorf 1989, p. 233.
  3. Wolfgang Stolz: The concept of guilt in the work of Heinrich Böll. In: Volker Neuhaus (Ed.): Kölner Studien zur Literaturwissenschaft 17. Lang: Frankfurt am Main 2009, p. 158.
  4. Jochen Hörisch: The sense and the senses . Eichborn Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2001, ISBN 3-8218-4195-8 , p. 335.
  5. ^ [1] Chronicle of the ARD
  6. Radio play announcement DLF on December 26, 2017