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What's to Become of the Boy?: Or, Something to Do with Books

3.42 of 5 stars 3.42  ·  rating details  ·  114 ratings  ·  17 reviews
A vivid account of growing up poor, rebellious, and anti-Fascist in Nazi Germany

What’s to Become of the Boy? is a spirited, insightful, and wonderfully sympathetic memoir about life during wartime written with the characteristic brilliance by one of the 20th-century’s most celebrated authors. It is both an essential autobiography of the Nobel Prizewinning author and a comp
Paperback, 96 pages
Published December 6th 2011 by Melville House (first published 1981)
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Heinrich Böll ganó un Nobel de literatura por ser uno de los representantes literarios más importantes de la Alemania de la posguerra. Yo no sabía quién era. Compré Pero ¿qué será de este muchacho? porque el título me llamó la atención. Tiene solo cien páginas. Böll recuerda sus días de instituto, en Colonia, justo cuando Hitler ascendió al poder (podría haber ascendido a los cielos -o a los infiernos- directamente y nos habría ahorrado a todos mucho sufrimiento). También las hogueras de libros, ...more
Interesting, thankfully sometimes humorous, writer giving us a glimpse at his life in 1936-37 during Hitler's reign. Interesting time he chose to focus on. I liked what he did share about the people and few events covered in his life at this time, though I never felt I got a full sense of this author. I wanted more. I also didn't get a real sense of his family—his explanations didn't always fit my impressions from previous pages, so it was confusing to get a hold on them. Other characters, like ...more
A brief account, in the author's inimitable dry style, of his school years under the Nazis. Not perhaps one of his great works, but a small treasure all the same, despite the inclusion of details about people the reader may know nothing about and the lack of details about those the reader may want more about. As always Böll presents a view of civic, family, political, and religious life in which the combination of head and heart is quite unlike anyone else's.
Chad Felix
A short, heavily punctuated autobiography of the schoolboy Heinrich Böll within which the author describes the rise of Nazism and its impact on his daily life, family, friends, and mentors. Despite the Böll's brevity here (the book is just 80 pages), he manages a handful of moments of pure bliss. For example, of his family's demeanor in the face of poverty, he writes:

"I can't say it was a good time. We were both depressed and reckless, not the slightest bit sensible. At the very moment when we
Another book I bought for myself on Mother's Day, from a little shop in Ann Arbor specializing in well-preserved first editions. I picked this up hoping for hints on how to live in a time when all around you seem consumed by power and hate and scapegoating. What I got was a somewhat disjointed memoir of a man looking back at his teen years from many years distant. It was as much of a memoir of the ways memory deceives and disorders and lumps impossible things together as it was a memoir of comin ...more
Heinrich Böll beschreibt in diesen Erinnerungen skizzenhaft seine letzten Schuljahre in der Zeit zwischen 1933 und 1937 unter den Nationalsozialisten. Weder wird dabei eine umfassende Darstellung der Verhältnisse gegeben noch Objektivität oder Repräsentativität vorgegaukelt. Stattdessen steht bewusst Subjektives im Vordergrund. Da geht es nicht nur um Nazis, sondern auch um Dostojewski. Die Klarheit über den kommenden Krieg mischt sich mit der Unklarheit über die eigene Zukunft. Vieles wird nur ...more
Kohei Otsuka
I enjoyed Heinrich Boll's memoir style writing on his perspective of the Nazi rise during his teen years of the 1930s and I found everything very interesting. The author, however, tends to list lots of street name and names of people without much explanation, so I would have liked a little more depth. It was a good quick read but I would not necessarily recommend people to read this book, because I did not get much valuable lessons out of it.
I enjoy Böll's writing, and a German teen's perspective on the rise of the Nazis is fascinating. At times it was a bit too breezy, and was often peppered with laundry lists of writers' names without any explanation about their significance. I would have liked more depth, and more length wouldn't have hurt either.
Olga Zilberbourg
A short memoir by Heinrich Böll, born in Cologne in 1927, whose proletarian, Catholic, and staunch anti-Nazi family went through all the trials of Nazism and WWII. The memoir covers his four years in high school after Hitler came to power in 1933, through the burning of Reichstag, and Prussian occupation of Rheinland, events leading up to the war. Böll himself, coming of age at that time, in severely limited circumstances, faced with the choice of career and a future in the environment where, it ...more
Böll used to be one of my favorite authors, but I'd never read this memoir. An interesting story about growing up after the Nazi takeover in Germany in the 1930s, but clearly from his later years, when his literary skills were somewhat fading (although perhaps it was the translation, which somehow didn't work for me). Nothing one could never live without here, but a worthy quick little read.
Intermittently engaging. As a young, Catholic, German man coming of age in the mid 1930s, Böll hated school but milked it as long as he could in order to avoid what, for his generation, lay beyond that cocoon. He and his family despised the Nazis and privately mocked them, but they also lacked the courage to resist or even the imagination needed to flee the country.
Cooper Renner
I haven't read Boll's fiction--partly I'm sure because of my innate suspicion of writers who get much acclaim and big awards--so I thought this short memoir would be a painless way to get a taste. And it is! It's a very fine work, sly, funny, honest, pulling no punches about the Nazis. So maybe now I'll be able to make myself read one of his novels.
An idiosyncratic personal memoir of a grim moment in Germany history. Despite some narrative coyness, I can't describe the prose with any word other than limpid; even his forgetfulness is rendered with lovely clarity.
Autobiographical story of a young man growing up in Nazi Germany in a family that did not support the Nazis. Heinrich Boll was a Nobel Prize winner for literature.
Kris McCracken
A brief memoir of a boy's life in Köln in the years immediately following the Nazi seizure of power. An interesting angle of the coming of age tale. B.
Amazing story, although I didn't have this edition. The one I had was not the best translation - I think something was lost.
Not as good as his novels and doesn't hold a stick to his short stories, but better than Irish Journal.
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Heinrich Böll became a full-time writer at the age of 30. His first novel, Der Zug war pünktlich (The Train Was on Time), was published in 1949. Many other novels, short stories, radio plays and essay collections followed, and in 1972 he received the Nobel Prize for Literature "for his writing which through its combination of a broad perspective on his time and a sensitive skill in characterizatio ...more
More about Heinrich Böll...
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