Read Viandante se giungi a Spa ... by Heinrich Böll Free Online
Book Title: Viandante se giungi a Spa ...|
The author of the book: Heinrich Böll
Date of issue: May 1987
ISBN 13: 9788804298045
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 715 KB
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Reader ratings: 5.8
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"Trümmerliteratur" - the literature describing the wreckage and ruins in Germany after the catastrophe of World War II and Third Reich ...
Quite literally, the German world was cut to pieces, broken down, destroyed together with the evil forces that had dominated the country since the 1930s. This affected all aspects of life, not least education and adolescent lives.
The short story "Wanderer, kommst du nach Spa..." was required reading in my German high school in the early 1990s, a school which proudly carried the name of a famous scientist. And it was probably read in many other Gymnasiums as well, called "Dietrich-Bonhoeffer-Gymnasium", or "Anne-Frank-Gymnasium", or "Geschwister-Scholl-Schule". The school names that still refer to older historical context usually include Goethe or Schiller or Humboldt, but NEVER Adolf Hitler or other symbolical figures of fascism. With the end of Hitler's Germany, education had to be re-evaluated.
History has had to be redefined many times.
In Böll's short story, a Gymnasium is the setting for a young soldier's last journey - a school transformed into an improvised hospital in a town burning bright at the end of the war. It used to carry a Christian patron saint's name, and the shadows of the crosses can still be seen on the walls where they left a light spot even after they were removed to reinvent the message of the pedagogy in the spirit of Nazism.
The soldier is carried on a stretcher past signs of pedagogical focus: heroes, classical art, portraits of politicians and orators in a long row of perfectly implemented "translatio imperii et studii" to the last in line: Adolf Hitler!
For his delusion of "Weltherrschaft", young men left school to fight a war of destruction, to die for their fatherland. That this was explicitly taught in class is made perfectly clear in the story. The soldier, looking for proof that he is actually in his own old school, identifies a quote on the blackboard - in his own handwriting: "Wanderer, kommst du nach Spa...".
The sentence, a sadly accurate symbol for the cut off, broken culture, the "Trümmerliteratur", is an unfinished line from a Schiller poem, telling the story of ancient Spartan youths willing to sacrifice themselves for the greater good of their nation - a worthy equivalent to the German men signing up for the war directly from school, believing in the old lie "Dulce Et Decorum Est Pro Patria Mori" long after Wilfred Owen and his fellow poets denounced it in World War I.
The poem is cut off in the middle of the word "Sparta", splitting the warrior society in the middle, and illustrating the rupture between literary tradition and "Stunde Null" in 1945. The soldier, in heartbreaking analogy - about to die - sees his own injuries: he has lost his arms and one leg, his body is a "Trümmer" like the school, the town, the country, the education system.
Politics and education are closely linked, and whenever a political system is breaking down, it implies changes for the next generation of learners. The Third Reich taught its children the ideology it needed them to believe in order to reign the world, and when the regime was overthrown, the symbols of its power were removed, just like the cross was removed before. But the brutal history left a shadow on the wall. The Gymnasiums nowadays carry the names of the victims of the Third Reich, like Anne Frank, or of representatives of resistance, like the Scholl siblings or Bonhoeffer, - and we read Böll, lest we forget.
What will the future have in store for our classrooms? What will we teach our children of the world? That will determine their lives not only on an individual level, it will define their role in a society shaped by a mass of people being taught with specific biases.
At a time when German right-wing politicians shout out that people should stop atoning for Nazi Germany, when isolationist and nationalist slogans become more and more "politically correct" in many traditionally liberal and open-minded countries, and propaganda and lying are a regular instrument of brainwashing in the world's leading "democracy", we need to consider where to put our educational emphasis. What message should schools send to the impressionable youth that will shape the future? We don't ever want to see German Gymnasiums called Adolf Hitler School again, do we?
The Schiller poem as seen through the historical lens of Böll is a method to create historical, literary and political awareness - and it works beyond national borders, as the ancient Spartan ideal has been usurped and abused not only in fascist Germany, but in many education systems across the world.
Trümmerliteratur speaks to us today, and reminds us of the dangers of indoctrination, war mongering and ostracism, and it is not an exclusive failure of Germany to repeat history again and again. All communities have to double-check their values when the wind is blowing in full storm from fascist elements of society.
Dulce et decorum non est!
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Read information about the authorHeinrich 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.
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