This powerfully affecting short novel was written in 1974
and is a searching but bitter analysis of urban German
society. Katharina is young, sensitive, competent and
hard-working. She is scrupulously honest, she keeps herself
to herself, she is well respected. There is a chance
meeting with an exciting young man, dancing, a night
together. Then her world is shattered. She turns herself in
- confesses to the murder of a journalist. She is
This is her story, told in the form of an arid set of
police reports, supplemented by the lawyer's case notes and
a debatable but not quite injudicious element of hearsay.
This is a very American-style novel, the film influences
are fairly obvious. Heinrich Boll, 1972 winner of the Nobel
prize for literature, is credited in this work with being
one of the forerunners of this style in German literature.
The disjointed and even choppy presentation, starting in
the middle of the story, flashback and forth, the mixed
interpolation of choice details and trivia en passant make
the reading hard work initially. Many of the characters are
bit parts, uninteresting, and somewhat unpleasant. The
veneer of polite society is stripped away by the stress of
the situation. However, about halfway through the book many
of the treads come together - but only in the mind - they
merely coalesce, in keeping with the style there is no
great effort to summarise or synthesise. The reader must
supply this effort.
She is a victim par excellence. She is unobtrusive but
highly valued by her employers. She is a model of model
citizens, a manifold pillar of society. Then the small but
understandable slip, associating with a suspicious
character. Even the help she renders him is innocent,
almost reasonable. The tabloid press destroy her for a
headline - systematic, ruthless. Some of the recurring
metaphor is good but the execution is clumsy and
irritating: for instance, the apology by the writer that
the report is 'fluid', and the image of linking up puddles
of dirty water during the course of the investigation. But,
if read with the necessary concentration and forbearance,
this adds to the authenticity of the style. The flashes of
hard humour and ironic observation add to the atmosphere.
The ending is predictable but somehow you don't predict it.
You are too wrapped up with the lost honour of Katharina Blum.
This report prepared by Michael JR Jose