What should become of the boy? Or: something with books

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

What should become of the boy? Or: Something about books is an autobiographical sketch by Heinrich Böll that was published by Lamuv Verlag in Merten in September 1981 . Before that, extracts from the work had been published several times, for example on April 18 of the same year under the title The Nazis I owe my Abitur in the FAZ

Böll, born in 1917, writes about his “Nazi school years” between 1933 and 1937.


Before graduating from high school, Heinrich Böll attained the “intermediate maturity”. The father, a man with an elementary school education, wants to "put him in an apprenticeship". At home it is “petty bourgeois”. The family does not really belong to the petty bourgeoisie. Böll describes them as a mixture of “ bohème ” and proletariat. The Böll family is particularly Catholic. In any case, Heinrich can continue to dream his most secret dream - he wants to become a writer - in school. Although he is bored at times, he likes to study. Furthermore, he can hide best from the Nazis at school. But Heinrich is convinced that there is no way he can avoid a coming war. As early as "after the Rhineland occupation in 1936", high school students were considered " Morituri " by some teachers . The idea of ​​emigration is completely beyond the imagination of the Böll family.

The school principal asks his pupils privately to join the Hitler Youth or then the SA , but later discontinues his advertising campaign. The Böll family, however, was advised by other sources that at least one should join the SA. Heinrich's brother Alois is persuaded by the family.

Heinrich's favorite subjects are history, Latin and mathematics. The anxious question What is going to become of the boy? - from time to time in the family - answered Heinrich himself: No theologian. The young Catholic Heinrich doesn't believe in celibacy at all . Occasionally the high school student tries as a "teacher"; gives a boy tutoring in math and Latin.

Heinrich doesn't want to know anything about the Nazis and their "leisure activities". He takes refuge in the role of a “nerd”, an “outsider”. What is meant is the study of literature. Titles by Bergengruen , Gertrud von le Fort and Barbusse are among his favorite books. The answer to the anxious question mentioned above is slowly taking shape in the now seriously concerned Böll family: Something about books .

Heinrich first looks at the world during the holidays. After the Olympic Games in a Cologne stadium, Jesse Owens , a completely “Un-Germanic” Catholic, shows some of his athletic highlights for Heinrich too. And besides - the young Böll prefers the many Romanesque churches in Cologne to Cologne Cathedral. After the church tour, Heinrich cycles down the Rhine, up the Rhine along the banks, comes to the Main, pedaling up to Bamberg an der Regnitz and looks for his imperial namesake Heinrich II in the old Franconian bishopric town .

Around 1938 Heinrich got used to Pervitin and was only able to cure his addiction in the middle of the war .


Wars also solve unemployment problems, ...


Böll unearths events that occurred more than forty years ago in 1981. He regrets the lack of any materials from the old days and has to admit gaping blackouts. Böll criticizes and corrects himself in writing. In the cases referred to here, from the present text, it is a question of reasonably verifiable facts of contemporary history, which, when recapitulated, the memory plays small tricks on the author. The overall tone of the writing ultimately gives the reader the impression that it could have been like this or something like that.


On page 5 of the source it says: "For Samay, Sara and Boris". These are grandchildren of Heinrich Böll.


  • The book is "an exemplary study of morality, cunning and failure".
  • In her investigation of this “autobiographical retrospect”, Sander points out that Hitler was seen through in the Böll family as early as 1933 and cites his examination of the writings of Léon Bloy as an example of the young Heinrich Böll's “reading escapism ” .
  • Herlyn emphasizes the “indestructible hope” of the young Böll “for a new society” after the Nazis.
  • Heinrich Böll had been very annoyed about Reich-Ranicki's review of the novel Fürsorgliche Siege published in 1979 . After his difficult operation at the end of 1979, Böll was barely able to work in 1980. In this complicated situation, Reich-Ranicki of all people brought him back to the desk. The critic had asked the Nobel Prize laureate for literature to write something about his school days in the Third Reich.
  • According to Reid, the writer Böll can be better understood after studying what the high school student Böll preferred for reading.
  • For SA membership of Alois Böll: Böll used in early 1964 , " removal of the troops " the motive "one has to be the loser." There someone from the Bechtold family is supposed to join the SA. Finally, the protagonist Schmölder can be persuaded to take the fateful step.
  • On Heinrich Böll's visit to Friedrich Wilhelm BautzGROSCHE, Robert. In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). Volume 2, Bautz, Hamm 1990, ISBN 3-88309-032-8 , Sp. 357-358. : Although Grosche von Böll in Vochem near Brühl is visited in this little autobiography , the scene is reminiscent of When the war was over (1962). There the first-person narrator visits an old theology professor in Bonn.


  • Heinrich Böll: What should become of the boy? Or: something with books . Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich 1983 (5th edition, 1990), ISBN 3-423-10169-5
First edition
  • Heinrich Böll: What should become of the boy? Or: something with books. Lamuv Verlag, Bornheim-Merten 1981.
  • Heinrich Böll: What should become of the boy? Or: something with books. Book guild Gutenberg, Frankfurt a. M. 1982
  • Heinrich Böll: What should become of the boy? Or: something with books. New Swiss Library, Zurich around 1985
Secondary literature
  • Gabriele Hoffmann : Heinrich Böll. Life and work. Heyne-Verlag Biography 12/209 Munich 1991 (Cecilie-Dressler-Verlag 1977), ISBN 3-453-05041-X .
  • Heinrich Herlyn: Beyond the performance principle? In: Heinz Ludwig Arnold (Ed.): Heinrich Böll . Issue 33 of the edition text + kritik Munich October 1982, ISBN 3-88377-120-1 , pp. 59–73
  • James Henderson Reid: Aspects of the literary legacy at Böll . In: Bernd Balzer (Ed.): Heinrich Böll 1917–1985 for his 75th birthday. Peter Lang AG Bern 1992, ISBN 3-906750-26-4 , pp. 245-266
  • Werner Bellmann (ed.): The work of Heinrich Böll. Bibliography with studies on early work. Westdeutscher Verlag, Opladen 1995, ISBN 3-531-12694-6
  • Gabriele Sander: The burden of the unread. Heinrich Böll and literary modernism. In: Werner Bellmann (ed.): The work of Heinrich Böll. Bibliography with studies on early work. Westdeutscher Verlag Opladen 1995, ISBN 3-531-12694-6 , pp. 60-88
  • Gero von Wilpert : Lexicon of world literature. German Authors A-Z . Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 3-520-83704-8 , p. 68
  • Jochen Vogt : How do I analyze a narrative? A guide with examples. Wilhelm Fink, Paderborn 2011, ISBN 978-3-7705-3919-2

Web links

  • Heinrich Böll - Cologne edition vol. 22

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Vogt, p. 219, 13th Zvu
  2. Bellmann, p. 198, entry 1981.7
  3. Herlyn, p. 71, 2nd Zvu
  4. Source, p. 82 4. Zvo
  5. Hoffmann, signatures for the photos on pp. 251, 262, 263
  6. From a review in Die Zeit , quoted in the source, p. 1, 7. Zvo
  7. Sander, p. 64
  8. Herlyn, pp. 71-72
  9. Hoffmann, p. 250 below - 259
  10. ^ Reid, p. 246
  11. Source, p. 51 middle
  12. Source, p. 96