The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum: Question #22 Water

by Heinrich Böll

Moderator: Liz

User avatar
fireflydances
ONBC Moderator
Posts: 3247
Joined: Tue Apr 28, 2009 9:15 pm
Location: under a pile of books
Contact:

Status: Offline

The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum: Question #22 Water

Unread postby fireflydances » Mon Mar 03, 2014 5:13 pm

The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum is full of references to water and the conduction of water; in fact the opening lines of the book provide a thorough discussion as to how water can be eventually drained:

If this report—since there is such frequent mention of sources—should at times be felt to be “fluid,” we beg the reader’s forgiveness; it has been unavoidable. To speak of “sources” and “fluidity” is to preclude all possibility of composition, so perhaps we should instead introduce the concept of “bringing together,” of “conduction,” a concept that should be clear to anyone who as a child (or even as an adult) has ever played in, beside, or with puddles, draining them, linking them by channels, emptying, diverting, and rerouting them until the entire available puddlewater-potential is brought together in a collective channel to be diverted onto a different level or perhaps even duly rerouted in orderly fashion into the gutter or drain provided by the local authorities. The sole objective here, therefore, is to effect a kind of drainage. Clearly a due process of order! So whenever this account appears to be in a fluid state in which differences in and adjustments to level play a part, we ask the reader’s indulgence, since there will always be stoppages, blockages, siltings, unsuccessful attempts at conduction, and sources “that can never come together,” not to mention subterranean streams, and so on, and so on. (pg 1)

In other places this metaphor is further elaborated on:

The reader is asked not to explore the sources of confidential information contained in this chapter; it is merely that the amateurishly erected earth wall of a subsidiary puddle has been breached and the water drawn off and/or caused to flow out before the weak retaining wall collapses and all that pressure and tension is drained away. (p 41)

This brings us to the end of the first backing up process, we have moved from Friday to the Saturday. Everything will be done to avoid further blockages and unnecessary building of tension. It will probably not be possible to avoid them entirely. (p 54)

Where elsewhere we speak of sources that “can never come together,” all we are thinking of is a song about the prince and the princess whose candle is blown out by the false nun—and someone fell into rather deep water and drowned. (p 73)

Exactly what was Boll’s purpose in this extensive use of metaphor and wordplay?
"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed and some few to be chewed and digested." Sir Francis Bacon, Of Studies

User avatar
nebraska
Posts: 29050
Joined: Tue Jul 06, 2004 8:15 pm
Location: near Omaha

Status: Offline

Re: The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum: Question #22 Water

Unread postby nebraska » Mon Mar 03, 2014 11:43 pm

I guess I can use this question to express my thoughts about how the story was constructed. I was confused
When I read the book the first time. There were too many characters with unfamiliar names, some of them very similar, and the story line kept jumping around in what seemed random fashion to me. I had no idea that "dear Ludwig" was a brand new acquaintance. The whole short easy read was overwhelming. Then I watched the German movie with the extras on the DVD, and after that I watched a VHS copy of the movie with Marlo Thomas. Finally I read the book a second time and the combination of all these things made it sensible to me. :blush: :dunce: The metaphor about puddles and dams and lakes and streams does explain a lot about the story, if I had caught it the first time.

"Here we have four puddles. Now, let's look at puddle #1. Ok, now that we understand puddle #1 we have to make a canal to connect it to puddle#2, but with a dam between them because they didn't happen the same day. Next, we have to go over there and look at puddle#3, which we first made at the same time as puddle#1 and we have to make a canal and add it to#1 because they are made the same day." :hypnotic: it really is a good way to move the story and connect the various segments, but I didn't quite get what he was doing the first time through.

It was a clever way to move the story along, I just wasn't a clever reader. And it certainly created a great visual for me. I could see myself as a child playing that way.

I have no idea if he had any other goal in using the water visual -- cleansing perhaps -- but as a story-telling device it was lovely. There were so many people doing things simultaneously in different places he had to put them in order somehow.

User avatar
Liz
ONBC Moderator
Posts: 12971
Joined: Thu Jun 24, 2004 2:13 pm
Location: The Left Coast

Status: Offline

Re: The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum: Question #22 Water

Unread postby Liz » Tue Mar 04, 2014 12:14 am

Wow! I'm in awe. I have to admit that I did not know what this particular question would be until today. And I was blown away. And what you are saying now is even more over my head. I never caught any of this stuff. Guess I should have read it a second time.
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

User avatar
SnoopyDances
Posts: 50325
Joined: Sun Feb 21, 2010 3:12 pm
Location: Tashmore Lake

Status: Offline

Re: The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum: Question #22 Water

Unread postby SnoopyDances » Tue Mar 04, 2014 1:29 am

It's been a while since I've read the book and I don't remember any of the water references. :dunce:
Kudos to you, Nebraska, for researching it further.

Usually, these subtle hints are lost on me!

I suppose water could also mean that we are drowning in too much information and are having trouble staying afloat and catching our breath. I think Katharina might have felt that and thought her only way out was to sink to the bottom. Perhaps she no longer had the strength to swim toward drier ground. :hypnotic:

User avatar
fireflydances
ONBC Moderator
Posts: 3247
Joined: Tue Apr 28, 2009 9:15 pm
Location: under a pile of books
Contact:

Status: Offline

Re: The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum: Question #22 Water

Unread postby fireflydances » Tue Mar 04, 2014 1:35 am

Liz wrote:Wow! I'm in awe. I have to admit that I did not know what this particular question would be until today. And I was blown away. And what you are saying now is even more over my head. I never caught any of this stuff. Guess I should have read it a second time.


I agree! Nebraska, a superlative answer! I have some thoughts I'd like to add but they're going to have to wait for tomorrow.
"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed and some few to be chewed and digested." Sir Francis Bacon, Of Studies

User avatar
nebraska
Posts: 29050
Joined: Tue Jul 06, 2004 8:15 pm
Location: near Omaha

Status: Offline

Re: The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum: Question #22 Water

Unread postby nebraska » Tue Mar 04, 2014 9:37 am

SnoopyDances wrote:It's been a while since I've read the book and I don't remember any of the water references. :dunce:
Kudos to you, Nebraska, for researching it further.

Usually, these subtle hints are lost on me!

I suppose water could also mean that we are drowning in too much information and are having trouble staying afloat and catching our breath. I think Katharina might have felt that and thought her only way out was to sink to the bottom. Perhaps she no longer had the strength to swim toward drier ground. :hypnotic:

Good answer!

User avatar
fireflydances
ONBC Moderator
Posts: 3247
Joined: Tue Apr 28, 2009 9:15 pm
Location: under a pile of books
Contact:

Status: Offline

Re: The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum: Question #22 Water

Unread postby fireflydances » Wed Mar 05, 2014 12:21 am

I still can't get over that dream of an answer, nebraska. In any case my attention was caught by the phrase "drain provided by local authorities" and also "the sole objective here is to effect a kind of drainage," which I took as meaning that the purpose was to resolve or eliminate anything that stood in the way, including information that didn't conform with the general drift. And then too, the idea of subterranean, undisclosed, facts. What might have been whispered one person to another, but not something that ever made it into the general, official conduit.

But what is lovely about nebraska's answer is that it fits the entire span of the book. Boll loves to play doesn't he? So much word play. Makes you want to go back and pull out all the references to water and line them up.

:angel:
"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed and some few to be chewed and digested." Sir Francis Bacon, Of Studies

User avatar
Liz
ONBC Moderator
Posts: 12971
Joined: Thu Jun 24, 2004 2:13 pm
Location: The Left Coast

Status: Offline

Re: The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum: Question #22 Water

Unread postby Liz » Wed Mar 05, 2014 2:09 am

I'm amazed at all of these answers. I love plays on words and I love how you guys have picked up on them and used them yourselves.

:notworthy:
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

User avatar
stroch
Posts: 1332
Joined: Tue Mar 22, 2005 6:41 pm
Location: New Orleans

Status: Offline

Re: The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum: Question #22 Water

Unread postby stroch » Wed Mar 05, 2014 10:41 am

Lovely, nebraska, thank you. I focused on the fluidity of the "truth" and how it was shaped by circumstance and phraseology, dammed by willful omissions and innuendo.
I'll buy you the hat....a really big one.
St. Roch -- patron saint of pilgrims

User avatar
fireflydances
ONBC Moderator
Posts: 3247
Joined: Tue Apr 28, 2009 9:15 pm
Location: under a pile of books
Contact:

Status: Offline

Re: The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum: Question #22 Water

Unread postby fireflydances » Wed Mar 05, 2014 7:02 pm

stroch wrote:Lovely, nebraska, thank you. I focused on the fluidity of the "truth" and how it was shaped by circumstance and phraseology, dammed by willful omissions and innuendo.


That's a very good answer, too! In fact I completely agree. The existential nature of truth.

What's interesting is how well the word play came through in English.
"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed and some few to be chewed and digested." Sir Francis Bacon, Of Studies

RamblinRebel
Posts: 609
Joined: Thu Apr 03, 2008 8:24 pm
Location: Chicago or thereabouts

Status: Offline

Re: The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum: Question #22 Water

Unread postby RamblinRebel » Thu Mar 06, 2014 2:31 am

nebraska wrote:"Here we have four puddles. Now, let's look at puddle #1. Ok, now that we understand puddle #1 we have to make a canal to connect it to puddle#2, but with a dam between them because they didn't happen the same day. Next, we have to go over there and look at puddle#3, which we first made at the same time as puddle#1 and we have to make a canal and add it to#1 because they are made the same day." :hypnotic: it really is a good way to move the story and connect the various segments, but I didn't quite get what he was doing the first time through.
I had some very muddled thoughts something along those lines, but couldn't quite make sense out of it. That was a wonderful explanation. :cool:
stroch wrote:I focused on the fluidity of the "truth" and how it was shaped by circumstance and phraseology, dammed by willful omissions and innuendo.
Beautiful.


Return to “The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 0 guests