The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum

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The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum or: How violence develops and where it can lead
Penguin Paperback 1984 HeinrichBöll TheLostHonourofKatharinaBlum.jpg
Original title Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum oder: Wie Gewalt entstehen und wohin sie führen kann
Translator Leila Vennewitz
Genre Novel
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
ISBN 0-14-004619-4
OCLC 59145306

The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum, or: how violence develops and where it can lead (original German title: Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum oder: Wie Gewalt entstehen und wohin sie führen kann) is a 1974 novel by Heinrich Böll.

The story deals with the sensationalism of tabloid news and the political climate of panic over Red Army Faction terrorism in the 1970s Federal Republic of Germany. The main character, Katharina Blum, is an innocent housekeeper whose life is ruined by an invasive tabloid reporter and a police investigation when the man with whom she has just fallen in love turns out to be wanted by the police because of a bank robbery. Spoiler : Later it turns out that he is not a bank robber: he is a deserter from the Army who had stolen money from his camp before deserting. Ultimately she shoots the reporter, after he arrives at her house for an interview that she requested. The book's fictional tabloid paper, Die Zeitung (The Newspaper), is modelled on the actual German Bild-Zeitung.


Four days after a Weiberfastnacht party, where Katharina met a man named Ludwig Götten, she calls on Oberkommissar Moeding and confesses to killing a journalist for the newspaper Die Zeitung.

Katharina had met Götten at a friend's party and spent the night with him before helping him to escape from the police. The next morning, the police broke into her house, arrested her and questioned her. The story is sensationally covered by Die Zeitung, and in particular its journalist Tötges. Tötges investigates everything about her life, calling on Katharina's friends and family, including her ex-husband and hospitalized mother, who dies the day after Tötges visits her. He paints a picture of Katharina as a fervent accomplice of Götten, and as a communist run amok in Germany.

Katharina arranges an interview with Tötges. According to Katharina, upon his arrival he suggests that they have sex, whereupon she shoots him dead. She then wanders the city for a few hours before driving to police headquarters and confessing to Moeding.

The book also details the effects of the case on Katharina's employers and friends the Blornas; Mr Blorna is her lawyer, and Mrs Blorna one of the designers of the apartment block where Katharina resides. Their association with Katharina leads to their exclusion from society.


The story is written from a first-person plural perspective. That is, the narrator is, as it were, presenting a confidential report to the reader on the basis of sources. The technique is documentary, as with Group Portrait with Lady, but with a much more disciplined focus on essentials. The reader is sometimes left to infer who the sources are for many of the reports, and even to wonder whether the narrator may not be one of the characters in the novel. This technique avoids the use of character-zoning by an omniscient narrator who assumes the authority to enter the minds of his characters. Instead, the narrator is reduced to a dependency on characters and the information they impart. The narrator becomes a researcher and critic of his source material, and in this novel is implicitly contrasted with the journalists who irresponsibly distort their sources. The attack on vulgar journalism is thus mounted from the perspective of a narrator whose moral authority is enhanced by the use of the 'regal' first-person plural form.


See also[edit]


Further publications
  • Bellmann, Werner, Heinrich Böll. Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum. In: Erzählungen des 20. Jahrhunderts. Interpretationen. Vol. 2. Stuttgart: Reclam, 1996. pp. 183–204. ISBN 3-15-009463-1
  • Bellmann, Werner and Christine Hummel. Heinrich Böll, Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum. Erläuterungen und Dokumente. Stuttgart: Reclam, 1999.
  • Bellmann, Werner. "Notizen zu Heinrich Bölls Erzählung 'Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum.'" Wirkendes Wort 54.2 (2004): 165–170.
  • Beth, Hanno. "Rufmord und Mord: die publizistische Dimension der Gewalt. Zu Heinrich Bölls Erzählung 'Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum.'" "Heinrich Böll. Eine Einführung in das Gesamtwerk in Einzelinterpretationen. Ed. Hanno Beth. 2nd ed. Königstein, 1980. 69–95.
  • Gerhardt, Christina. “Surveillance Mechanisms in Literature and Film: Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum by Böll and Schlöndorff / Von Trotta.” Literature and Film. Special Issue. Ed. P.M. Lutzeler. Gegenwartsliteratur 7 (2008): 69–83.
  • Harris, Nigel. "Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum": The Problem of Violence." The Narrative Fiction of Heinrich Böll. Social Conscience and Literary Achievement. Ed. Michael Butler. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1994. 198–218.
  • Jeziorkowski, Klaus. "Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum." Heinrich Böll. Romane und Erzählungen. Interpretationen. Ed. Werner Bellmann. Stuttgart: Reclam, 2000. 249–267.
  • Scheiffele, Eberhard. "Kritische Sprachanalyse in Heinrich Bölls 'Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum.'" Basis. Jahrbuch für deutsche Gegenwartsliteratur 9 (1979): 169–187.