Between 1951 and 1954, Wolfgang Koeppen published three scathing, disillusioned novels ridiculing the notion of a new start and a clean slate for West Germany. At the time, perhaps as many as 80 per cent of public officials, including many judges and senior civil servants, were former members of the Nazi Party. Most people didn't want to be reminded of this and when The Hothouse was published in 1953, one review carried the headline: 'Not to be touched with a barge-pole'. The novels have come to be known as a trilogy, although they are united only in their concern to expose the residual effects of Nazism and the war on German society. Tauben im Gras (Pigeons on the Grass), the first of the three, is set in Munich on a single day and its 105 short fragments reveal the failure of more than thirty characters to face up to reality. The last to be published was Death in Rome, which examined the emotional and intellectual legacy of the Nazi period in two German families who meet again in Rome after the war. The Hothouse, the middle volume, is set in Bonn. It covers the last two days in the life of a disillusioned politician called Keetenheuve, who became a member of the Bundestag after returning from exile at the end of the war with high hopes for the newly created Federal Republic.
LRB 12 December 2002 | PDF Download