The recent publication of Der blasse Hund was particularly interesting for the first appearance of a story written by Böll in 1936/37 at the age of seventeen, entitled 'Die Brennenden'. The tale was apparently not meant for publication. What is startling about it is not its technical accomplishment - it is in fact a rather mawkish amalgam of adolescent angst and German Expressionism — but its thematic content. The 16- year-old hero, Heinrich Perkoning, contemplates suicide, shocked by his discovery of the world's moral turpitude. He is rescued by two powerful forces: firstly, by the call of God, manifested in the vision of a tormented young priest, secondly, by a girl, Susanne, who under the guise of a prostitute is attempting to rescue young men from perdition when they visit the brothel where she pretends to work. We first meet her thus: 'Sie saß in ihrer mystischen Schonheit ein wenig nach vorne gebeugt, und ihr leidendes Gesicht war wie das eines apokalyptischen Engels' (12f.). Heinrich and Susanne, the eponymous 'Brennenden', decide to live together and 'in Armut ein Leben in Christus beginnen' (14).



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