Wanderer, are you coming to Spa ...

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Wanderer, are you coming to Spa ... is a short story by the German writer Heinrich Böll (1917–1985). It tells the story of a seriously wounded man in World War II who is carried on a stretcher through his former grammar school, which he left three months earlier and which now serves as an emergency hospital . Little by little he notices where he is, but tries to deny this first in an inner monologue to himself. At the end of the story, in the drawing room of the school where he is to undergo emergency surgery, he finally finds clear evidence that it is his school: His handwriting in chalk on the blackboard: Wanderer, are you coming to Spa… .

The story was first published in 1950 as the cover story of the short story collection of the same name, which was published by Verlag Friedrich Middelhauve . Today belongs to Wanderer, if you come to Spa ... one of the best-known short stories by the author or the rubble literature at all.


The narrator is at the beginning of the short story in a car and is transported through a partially already burning city, which he can not identify. As well as the distance covered, he is also unclear about the time the journey took. He is unloaded and carried in in front of a makeshift hospital that has been set up in a school. Lying on the stretcher, he follows the path through the corridors and stairwells in every detail; it seems strangely familiar to him, but he blames this recognition on his pain and fever. It also occurred to him that perhaps all schools could be equipped in exactly the same way, so it is not surprising that he thinks he knows every picture and every door sign.

In the drawing room, where he has to wait for the doctor, he asks a comrade where he is: He is actually in Bendorf , his hometown, but even now he is still not fully certain that he is in the high school of all places in which he spent eight years of his school days. The former Thomas School - presumably named after Thomas Aquinas - was renamed after Frederick the Great , following the National Socialist zeitgeist . In addition to the question of the location, a second question arises: what wound did he actually suffer? The findings break in on him almost at the same time as he is placed on the improvised operating table: On the blackboard is still, by his own hand and to the annoyance of the drawing teacher at that time - three months ago - too capitalized, the mutilated quote Wanderer, come you after spa… . As soon as he has seen this and with it certainty about his whereabouts, he also realizes his own situation when he looks down at himself: He no longer has any arms and only one leg. The fireman, who looked after him until the doctor arrived, is the old caretaker at his school, with whom you drank your milk during the long breaks, and with

"Milk," I said quietly ... (p. 202)

then breaks off the narration. The protagonist, hardly having gone to war, has not only returned to the places of his childhood, but also to the state of a helpless baby (he himself even compares his reflection, distorted in a lightbulb, with an embryo ); he realizes that he has to die - but he doesn't know what he's doing it for. Although the first-person narrator writes in the past tense, i.e. tells in retrospect, it cannot be said that he survived his wounds. Rather, it can be concluded that the first-person narrator gives a voice to those who did not survive the effects of the war and whose view of the events therefore remained unsaid a million times and whose experience is actually unspeakable for the survivors.



The title quotes the beginning of one of the most famous distichs of ancient Greek, in Schiller's translation :

Wanderer, if you come to Sparta, proclaim there that you saw
Us lying here as the law ordered.

These verses by the poet Simonides von Keos are said to have stood - in the ancient Greek original  - as an inscription on the memorial stone for the Spartans who lived in 480 BC. In the defense of Thermopylae against the Persians sacrificed down to the last man. The phrase originally boasted death for the fatherland in a defensive war.

Such a motto was not chosen by chance in the protagonist's drawing lessons for the writing exercises, but rather to prepare young men for death in war. Like the quote, the entire equipment of the school also shows that the educational goal of this grammar school can no longer have been purely “humanistic”. In addition to the tried and tested school props such as the Parthenon frieze and thorn puller , the wounded man also recognizes an image that depicts colonial life in Togo , and among the images of the ancient philosophers there are also examples of National Socialist racial ideology on the walls of the school.

The title also evokes echoes of the Belgian city of Spa . According to Manuel Baumbach, however, there is no direct reference to the plot , as the school building is explicitly located in Bendorf near Koblenz and Spa is also not an option as a place of wounding. JH Reid, however, reminds the mention of spas to the end of the First World War , when the German headquarters were located there and Kaiser Wilhelm II was forced to abdicate. Böll thus thematizes the "fatal return of war guilt and consequences" in German history. Slavija Kabić contrasts the Belgian spa town of Spa as a “place of life” with Sparta as a symbol of senseless dying.


The short story can be divided into two parts: In the first, the narrator is brought into the drawing room of the high school. This part is characterized by a faster course of action and the hectic change of scenes. The narrator is on the move and hardly has time to reflect. In this first part of the story, he therefore only comes to a brief reflection. The second part of the plot begins when the porters step with the stretcher over the doorstep of the drawing room that has been converted into a hospital. They put the seriously injured man off and he now has time to think about the school and his condition, he even has time to smoke two cigarettes, with the porters having to help him. Six more reflections follow.

Due to the increasing reflections, the interruptions to the plot (e.g. from smoking) and the narrator's calm reclining position, the second half in the drawing room appears much calmer and slower than the first. Due to the inner monologue and the reflections of the narrator, the narrative speed in the second part is much slower than in the first; the difference between narration time and narrated time increases. The story begins as a moving, fast narrative and becomes slower and calmer towards the end, towards the death of the narrator.

See also


  • Wanderer, are you coming to Spa… . In: Heinrich Böll: Wanderer, are you coming to Spa… . Verlag Friedrich Middelhauve, Opladen 1950, pp. 47–59 (cover story of the collection of short stories).
  • Wanderer, are you coming to Spa… . In: Frankfurter Hefte . Volume 5, 1950, No. 11, pp. 1176–1181 (version slightly different from the first edition).
  • Wanderer, are you coming to Spa… . In: Heinrich Böll: Works. Novels and Stories 1: 1947–1951 . Edited by Bernd Balzer . Middelhauve / Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1977, pp. 194-202.
  • Wanderer, are you coming to Spa… . In: Heinrich Böll: Works. Novels and Stories 1: 1947–1951 . Edited by Bernd Balzer. Completed new edition. Lamuv Verlag / Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Bornheim-Mertzen / Cologne 1987, pp. 487-497.
  • Wanderer, are you coming to Spa… . In: Heinrich Böll: Stories . Edited by Viktor Böll and Karl Heiner Busse. Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Cologne 1994, pp. 296-305.
  • Heinrich Böll: Works (Cologne edition). Volume 4, Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Cologne 2002, ISBN 978-3-462-03258-1
  • Wanderer, are you coming to Spa… . In: Heinrich Böll: The man with the knives , stories. With an autobiographical afterword. Ditzingen / Reclam 2018, pp. 25–37.

Secondary literature

  • Manuel Baumbach : Wanderer, are you coming to Sparta. To the reception of a Simonides epigram . In: Poetica. Volume 32, 2000, Issue 1/2, pp. 1-22.
  • Hans-Dieter Gelfert : How do you interpret a novella and a short story? Reclam, Stuttgart 1993 ( RUB 15030) ISBN 3-15-015030-2 , pp. 161–165, chapter The search for a German form of the short story. Heinrich Böll: Wanderer come to Spa ... (1950) .
  • Klaus Jeziorkowski: The murder of the novella. On Heinrich Böll's story "Wanderer, you come to Spa ..." In: Heinrich Böll. Journal of the Korean Heinrich Böll Society . 1st edition, 2001, pp. 5-19.
  • David J. Parent: Böll's “Wanderer, are you coming to Spa”. A Reply to Schiller's “The Walk”. In: Essays in Literature. Volume 1, 1974, pp. 109-117.
  • JH Reid: Heinrich Böll, "Wanderer, are you coming to Spa ..." . In: Werner Bellmann (Hrsg.): Classic German short stories. Interpretations . Stuttgart 2004, pp. 96-106.
  • Gabriele Sander: "Wanderer, are you coming to Spa ..." . In: Werner Bellmann (Ed.): Heinrich Böll. Novels and short stories. Interpretations . Philipp Reclam jun., Stuttgart 2000 ( RUB 17514), ISBN 3-15-017514-3 , pp. 44-52.
  • Bernhard Sowinski: Wanderer, are you coming to Spa… . In: Bernhard Sowinski: Heinrich Böll. Short stories . Oldenbourg, Munich 1988, ISBN 3-486-88612-6 , pp. 38-51.
  • Albrecht Weber: "Wanderer, are you coming to Spa ..." . In: Interpretations of Heinrich Böll written by a working group. Short stories I . 6th edition, Munich 1976, pp. 42-65.

Web links


  1. JH Reid: Heinrich Böll, "Wanderer, are you coming to Spa ..." . In: Werner Bellmann (Hrsg.): Classic German short stories. Interpretations . Stuttgart 2004, p. 102.
  2. In the following cit. after: Wanderer, are you coming to Spa… . In: Heinrich Böll: Works. Novels and Stories 1: 1947–1951 , ed. by Bernd Balzer . Middelhauve / Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1977, pp. 194-202.
  3. Friedrich Schiller: The walk . ( Wikisource )
  4. Manuel Baumbach : "Wanderer you come to Sparta ..." On the reception of a Simonides epigram . In: Poetica. Journal for Linguistics and Literature Studies , Volume 32. Fink, Munich 2000, p. 2.
  5. JH Reid: Heinrich Böll, "Wanderer, are you coming to Spa ..." . In: Werner Bellmann (Hrsg.): Classic German short stories. Interpretations . Stuttgart 2004, p. 98.
  6. Slavija Kabić: A Kingdom for a Child. Childhood and adolescence in the German-language short story between 1945 and 1989 . Saxa, Cologne 2007, ISBN 978-3-939060-04-8 , p. 102.
  7. On the reflections cf. Table at Sowinski, Wanderer, will you come to Spa… , p. 49; general on the narrative tempo: ibid. p. 45 f.