Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

"Action Will Be Taken: An Action-Packed Story" by Heinrich Boll

I am really glad I decided to once again participate in 

So far I have read and posted on these works, all but Kafka are new to me writers. 
The Tin Drum-by Gunther Grass
"The Judgement" by Franz Kafka
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque -very powerful war novel 
"A Letter from an Unknown Woman" by Stefan Zweig. 
The Death of the Adversary by Hans Klein - a work of genius
"The Job Application" by Robert Walser 
Chess Game by Stefan Zweig-I will read much more of his work
"The Battle of Sempach" by Robert Walser
I have also listed to podcasts of "Basta" and "Frau Wilkes" by Robert Walser
The March of Radetsky by Joseph Roth I hope to read all his work

Memoirs of an Anti-Semite by Gregor von Rezzori amazing work of art.

"Flypaper" by Robert Musil

"Mendel the Bibliophile" by Stefan Zweig - I totally love this story.

"The Dead are Silent" by Arthur Schnitzler an entertaining work from 1907

Heinrich Boll is one of the giants of post WWII German literature.   

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 characterization has contributed to a renewal of German literature." He was the first German-born author to receive this award since Hermann Hesse in 1946. His work has been translated into more than 30 languages, and he is one of Germany's most widely read authors.  From Goodreads

I think "Action Will Be Taken, An Action Packed Story" is one of  Böll's better known short stories.  None of his works are available as Kindle editions, my preferred mode of reading, so I was very glad to find this story online.  The work is quite short and you can read it online in a minute or two so I won't say a lot about it.  I think it is meant as a kind of attack on mindless obedience and the cult of action over thought.   It is very funny and i liked it a lot.

This segment of the story, a job interview as a factory is just flat out brilliant

"Question No. 1: Do you consider it right for a human being to possess only two arms, two legs, eyes, and ears?

Here for the first lime I reaped the harvest of my pensive nature and wrote without hesitation: “Even four arms, legs and ears would not be adequate for my driving energy. Human beings are very poorly equipped.”

Question No. 2: How many telephones can you handle at one time?

Here again the answer was as easy as simple arithmetic: “When there are only seven telephones,” I wrote, “I get impatient; there have to be nine before I feel I am working to capacity.”

Question No. 3: How do you spend your free time?

My answer: “I no longer acknowledge the term free time – on my fifteenth birthday I eliminated it from my vocabulary, for in the beginning was the act.”

I got the job. Even with nine telephones I really didn’t feel I was working to capacity. I shouted into the mouth-pieces: “Take immediate action!” or; “Do something! – We must have some action – Action will be taken – Action has been taken – Action should be taken.”  But as a rule – for I felt this was in keeping with the tone of the place – I used the imperative."

There is a really interesting twist at the end of the story.  

You can read the story in English here

I hope Kindle editions of his work will be produced soon.

Please share your experiences with Boll with us.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thanks. i stumbled upon this since I just finished reading "Action Must be Taken". I had never read any of his works before and now I'm very curious to read more.