And didn't say a single word

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

And said not a single word is a novel by the German writer Heinrich Böll from 1953, which deals with the post-war period in Germanythrough the relationship of a poor married couple with several children who live extremely cramped.

The terms "marriage novel", "marriage-critical novel" and "tenant novel" characterize different aspects of the plot or the intention of the presentation. With the drawing of individual figures (the uprooted war returnees, the priest with the “peasant face”) and with various motifs and plot elements, the book ties in with the homecoming novel Der Engel was in 1949-51, but published in 1992 . The final chapter of the novel is based on a radio play by Heinrich Böll (title: I meet my wife or A day as usual ).

Content and narrative

The married couple Fred and Käte Bogner have been living separately for two months because Fred is alcoholic and cannot control his aggressions, which arise due to the tightness of the apartment and the noise. The couple receives little support from the bigoted room landlord, who has excellent relationships with the local clergy; rather, a kind of adversary emerges in her. The Catholic official church also places the observance of commandments and the reception of sacraments above the physical and mental well-being of people, for whose needs it has no sensorium. An exception is a simple priest (with the face of a peasant) who, by striving for sympathy and practicing charity, founds a kind of “opposing church”. The meeting point for the members of this “opposing church” is a snack bar, in which, in addition to the “peasant priest”, Käte and Fred Bogner also frequent (Böll's working title for the novel project was: “The snack bar”).

The narrative begins on Saturday, September 30th (the date is probably 1950) and ends two days later, around noon on October 2nd. The focus of the plot is on the preparation and holding of a meeting between the spouses, which ultimately leads to the decision of the again pregnant Käte to end the relationship. A turning point, however, brings an “encounter” on the street that opens Fred's eyes (Böll uses the biblical word “recognize”) and allows him to return to their shared apartment - and to marriage. This is only hinted at at the end of the novel - by Fred's programmatic "home". Originally, Böll had drafted an additional fourteenth chapter, which depicts the actual homecoming of Fred. The blurb of the 1953 edition puts it at the end of the novel: “No resolutions are made and no happy new beginning is celebrated. Something else happens: submission to a law higher than that of personal well-being. "

The book is conceived as a double first-person novel; in the thirteen chapters - alternately from the point of view of the man and the woman - the problems of a marriage in difficult times (housing shortage) are reflected on. The criticism of the official church and bourgeois Catholicism (Mrs. Franke) also manifests itself in satirical passages, of which the description of a procession (in honor of St. Jerome) from Fred's point of view is a high point. The aim of satirical criticism in this scene is the hierarchical structure of the Catholic Church and its representational behavior. The author also pursues a satirical unmasking intention when he parallels the Catholic procession with the move of the Drug Association. In the drawing of the bishop leading the procession (including his philological hobbies), contemporary interpreters wanted to recognize an allusion to the Archbishop of Cologne, Joseph Cardinal Frings . In the military habitus of the bishop there is probably an allusion to the fact that the Catholic official church and especially Cardinal Frings as chairman of the German bishops' conference ideologically supported the remilitarization policy of the Adenauer government.


For this novel, Böll received several domestic and foreign prizes, including the literature prize of the Association of German Critics. Hans Werner Richter (group 47) described And did not say a single word in 1953 as "the best book that has been written in the post-war period".

Karl Korn wrote in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (April 4, 1953): “The novel can be called an event because it is undoctrinal, refrains from literary experiments and directions, expresses immediate human need honestly and truthfully, does not want to be clever , only true, nothing but true, ruthlessly true. […] If someone asks me in the future what kind of books the Germans have to offer today of real power and truthfulness, I will name the Böll. "

Friedrich Sieburg said in the magazine Die Gegenwart (April 11, 1953): “The strength to come together again is not drawn from God's commandments. But the moment when the man's eyes open is a religious event that human strength alone cannot bring about. It is a great moment that otherwise only Graham Greene knows how to identify and describe. "

Gottfried Benn commented in a letter on October 29, 1953: “Very good! (very Catholic) ”.

The book was also a huge hit with audiences. By the end of 1953, 17,000 copies were sold in several editions. Lis Hofmann wrote in the December issue of the monthly Geist und Tat in 1953 : "Something strange has happened: A book that deals with the external and emotional landscape of ruins has become a great, unimagined book success."

The composer Gottfried von Eine planned in 1958 and said not to base an opera on a single word . - The composer György Sándor Ligeti gave a famous lecture in 1961 on the subject of "'The future of music" - and did not say a single word. "


The novel was first published in 1953 by Kiepenheuer & Witsch , Cologne. A first paperback edition was published in 1957 by Ullstein ; the text of this edition has been shortened in many places. In 1962, Kiepenheuer & Witsch brought out a reprint with numerous text errors and unjustified interventions by employees of the publishing house. The printing of the novel within the first edition of the works (1977), the dtv paperback edition (first 1980) and the edition in volume 6 of the Cologne edition (edited by Árpád Bernáth , published 2007) are based on this edition , a procedure that has met with harsh criticism.



  • Hans Georg Brenner : Marriage in Our Time. 48 hours from the life of two people. In: The world. March 28, 1953.
  • Christian Ferber : Misery and strength in our days. In: The New Newspaper. (Frankfurt am Main). No. 85, 11./12. April 1953, p. 19.
  • Klaus Harpprecht : The interrupted marriage. Mental monologues become a dialogue in Heinrich Böll's new novel. In: Christ and the world. (Stuttgart). No. 32, August 6, 1953, p. 6.
  • Walter Jens : "... and didn't say a single word". A post-war author prevails - Heinrich Böll wrote the novel about a broken marriage. In: Welt am Sonntag. No. 19, May 10, 1953.
  • Karl Korn : A marriage at that time. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. No. 79, April 4, 1953.
  • Rudolf Krämer-Badoni : Happy ending out of serious conscience. In: Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger. January 22, 1954.
  • Rolf Schroers : The narrow gate. In: New literary world. (Darmstadt). 4th vol., No. 7, April 10, 1954, p. 12.
  • Friedrich Sieburg : Two voices. In: The present. (Frankfurt am Main.). Volume 8, No. 179, April 11, 1953, p. 247.
  • Roland H. Wiegenstein : ... and didn't say a single word. In: Frankfurter Hefte. 8, H. 6, June 1953, pp. 474-476.

Research literature

  • Erhard Bahr : Money and love in Böll's novel “And didn't say a single word”. In: The University of Dayton Review. 12, No. 2, 1975/76, pp. 33-39.
  • Werner Bellmann : From “The angel was silent” to “And didn't say a single word”. In: Heinrich Böll. Novels and short stories. Interpretations. Edited by WB Reclam, Stuttgart 2000, pp. 82-108.
  • Karl-Josef Kuschel : “And didn't say a single word”: A novel by Heinrich Böll. In: Karl-Josef Kuschel: JESUS ​​in contemporary German-language literature . Zurich et al. 1978, pp. 152-163.
  • Ernst Ribbat : Heinrich Böll: “And didn't say a single word”. A rescue attempt with reservations. In: German lessons . 33, No. 3, 1981, pp. 51-61.
  • Karl-Ludwig Schneider : The advertising slogans in the novel “And didn't say a single word”. In: Marcel Reich-Ranicki (ed.): In the matter of Böll. Views and Insights. 8th edition. dtv, Munich 1985, pp. 183-188.

Individual evidence

  1. Publisher's information on And didn't say a single word on dtv .
  2. Heinrich Böll's own statement, quoted from Werner Bellmann: From “The angel was silent” to “And didn't say a single word”. In: Heinrich Böll. Novels and short stories. Interpretations. P. 105.
  3. Heinrich Böll's own statement, quoted from Werner Bellmann: From “The angel was silent” to “And didn't say a single word”. In: Heinrich Böll. Novels and short stories. Interpretations. P. 94.
  4. Bread and Soil. In: Der Spiegel . No. 50, December 6, 1961, p. 74.
  5. Hans Werner Richter: Letters. ed. by Sabine Cofalla. Munich / Vienna 1997, p. 127.
  6. ^ Friedrich Sieburg: Two voices. In: The present. No. 179, April 11, 1953.
  7. W. Bellmann: From “The angel was silent” to “And didn't say a single word”. 2000, p. 106.
  8. Werner Bellmann: "... because they don't know what they are doing". Critical comments on the new edition of Heinrich Böll's novel “And didn't say a single word” in the Cologne edition. In: Wirkendes Wort 57 (2007), issue 3, pp. 417-424.