Owen Meany

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Owen Meany (1989; Original title: A Prayer for Owen Meany ) is the seventh novel by the American writer John Irving . He describes the childhood and growing up of two boys from very different families in America in the 1950s and 1960s. The narrative, designed as a flashback by the adult first-person narrator, John (aka Johny) Wheelwright, is set in New Hampshire . The German-language transmission by Edith Nerke and Jürgen Bauer was first published in 1990 by Diogenes Verlag , Zurich .

The book pays homage to Irving's role model and friend Günter Grass and his first novel The Tin Drum , whose protagonist Oskar Matzerath has many other parallels in addition to the initials. Irving has expressly confirmed this himself in many interviews. However, Owen Meany has a completely independent storyline, so it is not a retelling .


Owen Meany is short and has a voice like a comic book character due to his small height. Both earn him a lot of ridicule.

The friendship between Owen and John Wheelwright is close and Owen spends a lot of time in the family of his friend, who lives with his grandmother with his unmarried mother. Owen admires the beautiful mother of his friend, the first-person narrator, almost enthusiastically. In their free time, the boys mainly play basketball. For Owen, this sport is actually an absurdity because of his small body size. But his friend helps him overcome the missing length by running with him across the field and picking him up while Owen throws the ball into the basket.

Tragically, Owen hits the first-person narrator's mother with a sharply played ball in baseball on her temple, whereupon she is instantly dead. Owen now lives under the idea of ​​being an instrument of God, which also determines all his actions. He constantly thinks of his imminent death, which will accordingly serve a good cause and whose date he believes he knows long in advance through a vision. John, on the other hand, is not very interested in questions of faith and does not initially reveal any transcendent need. That will change in the course of his life.

The dramatic resolution of the novel answers many questions the reader may have while reading. Throughout the novel, John Irving works towards a singular event: Owen dies a sacrificial death.


After the book, a fictional film by the American film director Mark Steven Johnson was made in 1998 , although at the request of author John Irving it was not called the novel, but was called Simon Birch . It is about a small boy and the power of friendship and is set in an American provincial town from the 1960s. However, the film only partially processes the rich material of the novel and changes it relatively generously on top of that.


  1. Numerous parallels are listed in a book comparison at lesekost.de
  2. see e.g. B. Irving's article, A Soldier Once, on Grass's autobiography Peeling the Onion in the New York Times July 8, 2007.