The American reviewers of Böll's novel Filrsorgliche Belagerung (1979), published in translation under the title The Safety Net (1982), appear to be under the impression that the author intended to make public his views on terrorism in the Federal Republic. Some critics appear to have misinterpreted the novel as a narrative on the destructive effects of terrorism on German society. Careful reading of the work makes it questionable whether such an interpretation is harmonious with Böll's intentions. While the plot deals with aspects of terrorism, the author's main concern is to demonstrate that overreaction to terrorism by police and press are the real disruptive forces rather than the actual activities of the terrorists. Böll furthermore illustrates that the lives of the possible victims of terrorism are adversely affected by excessive security measures and that onerous guard duties have a negative effect on the police themselves. In addition, Böll deals with the role of the sensationalist media in harrassing and victimizing the citizenry. The German word Belagerung is indicative and directly related to the above points. Security forces guard the possible victims and their homes with exaggerated protectiveness which becomes oppressive to the point that the police resemble soldiers laying siege to a city. The possible victims feel as confined as hapless citizens under the siege of a deadly enemy.


This article was read originally during a special session on Böll's work at the annual meeting of the Modern Language Association of America, held in New York in December 1983. The news of Heinrich Boll's death (July 16, 1985) came just as this special issue was going to press.



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