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What's to Become of the Boy?: Or, Something to Do with Books Paperback – December 6, 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Melville House; Reprint edition (December 6, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781612190013
  • ISBN-13: 978-1612190013
  • ASIN: 1612190014
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.2 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,348,418 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Böll’s writing is filled with a bleak beauty that unflinchingly gazes upon the sources of both the bleakness and the beauty of life …” —The Rumpus

What’s to Become of the Boy? makes an ideal short introduction to Böll. At the same time, it offers an unusual perspective on Hitler’s rise to power: The rise of totalitarianism and the stultification of civil society, as seen through the eyes of a teenage boy.” —Anne Applebaum (from the new introduction)

"[P]ared down prose, lean but sturdy, subtle yet unsettling, always with the power to provoke and to devastate." 
—The Quarterly Conversation 

Language Notes

Text: English, German (translation) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Kerry Walters VINE VOICE on September 3, 2008
Format: Paperback
When I was much younger, I went through a stage where I devoured everything by Heinrich Boll I could get my hands on. His thin memoir What's to Become of the Boy must've been one of those volumes I read, because, taking up my old copy after nearly 30 years, I see my marginalia in it. But I'm afraid I had no recollection of the contents, and so rereading it was just like a first reading.

I wonder if I remembered so little of it because there's so little in it. Boll's memoir covers his last four or so years of formal schooling (equivalent to American high school). What comes across loud and clear is the poverty the Boll family endured during these years and their undying and uncompromised detestation of everything that the Nazis stood for. by the mid-1930s, the Nazi influence was increasingly felt in Cologne, Boll's hometown. As a student, Boll realized that his teachers, most of whom had served in WWI and brought a strong dose of nationalism into the classroom, were schooling their students in death, preparing them for the war that was coming. Boll resisted with everything he had. As he tells us, "The Nazis had become an eternity, the war was to become one, and war plus Nazis were a double eternity--yet I wanted to try to live beyond those four eternities" (p. 62).

An admirable ambition, especially in one so young. But the resistance to political and cultural entrapment stood Boll in good stead later on as a post-war writer.

For a book that purports to be a memoir, though, Boll seems oddly missing. His short memoir (a mere 80 pages) recounts exterior events and mentions in rather general terms interior responses, but one doesn't close the book with a sense that one's really gotten to know the man Boll. Perhaps this is because he believed he'd revealed himself adequately in his novels.

Three stars.

he memoir is
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Gary Sprandel on October 29, 2002
Format: Paperback
After almost 50 years, Boll looks back at his teens from 15 to 19, from 1933-37 in Germany, coinciding with Hitler's rise to power. Boll writes about the importance of books and intelligence in his childhood. These are not just the books in class ("Yes, school, I know -- I'll get back to that."), but more importantly outside reading: Dostoevsky, Dickens, Haecker. His family made every effort to provide his reading. Present in this account is his sense of humor (despite the foreboding of Hitler and the Hitler Youth), as well as the fighting of the meaningless bureaucracy; for example bribing to keep his brother from participating in any of the Youth activities. This includes the Boll we see later, watching "Hands in pockets, eyes open, street hawkers, peddlers, markets, churches, museums ...". From classroom efforts to condense Mein Kampf, Boll learned brevity; perhaps the only positive thing about the Nazi's during this oppressive time. Boll stands as an individual against the totalitarian climate. I think we are all pleased that Boll pursued a career of "Something to do with books".
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Bernard Chapin on December 6, 2006
Format: Paperback
I decided the other day to give many of my old Heinrich Boll editions a second and third reading both to preserve both their memory and also to strengthen my own mind. Few other authors can educate and entertain in the manner of this German master who survived immersion in the cauldron of the Third Reich. His career was devoted to preserving the past and helping us prevent what could be. What's to Become of the Boy is a tender novella in which we hear of the young author's aspirations to become an writer in the midst of corrupted teachers, students, and even a would be apprenticeship at a coffee concern. We discover the way in which a normal, hard-working, Catholic family took the news of a monster coming to power--a monster whose work would bring down the fall of their people, their nation, and discredit a thousand years worth of civilization. Boll's mother, with unbelievable intuition, upon hearing that Hitler has come to power, announces that war is coming. This short story plus is a brief, snippet of time which demands being devoured at once. Upon opening it, I am certain that you won't be able to stop reading it. If you are unfamiliar with this legend then I envy you and wish I could experience his genius for the first time all over again.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on December 20, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I'm sorry but this book simply goes nowhere. I read it in its entirety hoping it would get better...a real letdown.
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