“Group portrait with the lady” Böll in short summary

Leni Pfeiffer, nee Grüten, German. She is forty-eight years old, she is still beautiful – and in her youth was a true beauty: a blonde, with a beautiful stately figure. Does not work, lives almost in poverty; she may be evicted from the apartment, or rather, from a house that once belonged to her and which she lost in frivolity during the years of inflation. Leni is a strange woman; the author, on whose behalf the narrative goes, is for certain known that she is an “unrecognized genius of sensuality,” but at the same time he learned that Leni was close to a man twenty-five times in his entire life, no more, although many men still long for her. He likes to dance, often dances half-naked or completely naked; plays the piano and “achieved some mastery” – at least, Schubert’s two sketches play magnificently. Of food most fond of fresh buns, smokes no more than eight cigarettes a day. And that’s what the author managed to find out: the neighbors consider Leni a whore, because it is obvious that she does not understand them. And again: almost every day she sees Virgin Mary on the TV screen, “every time she is surprised that the Virgin Mary is also blond and also not so young.” They look at each other and smile… Leni is a widow, the husband died at the front. She has a son of twenty-five, he is now in prison.

Apparently, having found out all this, the author also set out to understand Leni, to learn about her as much as possible, not from her – she is too silent and closed – but from her acquaintances, friends and even enemies. So he began to paint this portrait of dozens of people, including those who do not know Leni at all, but can tell about people who were once important to her.

One of the two close girlfriends of the heroine, Margaret, now lies in the hospital, dying of some terrible venereal disease. From her we learn, for example, that Leni was treating saliva and applying the hands of both her son and his father, the only man she really loved. Margaret, however, gives the first information about the man who had a strong influence on Leni, when she was still a teenager, lived and studied at the monastery. It’s a nun, Sister Rachel Guinzburg, a creature that is completely enchanting. She took a course at the three best universities in Germany, was a doctor of biology and endocrinology; she was arrested many times during the First World War – for pacifism; Christianity took thirty years. .. And imagine, this high-schooled woman did not have the right to teach, she served as a cleaner at the toilets at the monastic boarding school and, against all the rules of propriety, she taught the girls to judge their health by feces and urine. She saw them through and truly taught them their lives. Leni visited her and years later, when Sister Rachel was isolated from the world, locked in a monastery cellar.

Why? For what? Yes, because the general background of the group portrait is a flag with a swastika. After all, Leni was only eleven years old when the Nazis came to power, and all the development of the heroine was swastika, like all the events around her. So, from the very beginning of their rule, the Nazis declared the Catholic Church the second enemy of Germany after the Jews, and Rachel’s sister was both Catholic and Jewish. Therefore, the authorities ordered her to be removed from teaching and hid under the apron of the cleaning woman, and then – outside the cellar door: she was saved from death. But after the death of Sister Rachel, as if refuting the “brown” reality of Germany, the reality of war, arrests, executions, Donos, the roses themselves grow on the grave of a nun. And they bloom in spite of everything. The body is buried elsewhere – the roses bloom and there. It is cremated – roses grow where there is no land, where one stone,

Yes, strange miracles accompany Leni Pfeiffer… A small miracle happens to the author himself, when he comes to Rome to learn more about Rachel’s sister. In the main residence of the Order, he meets a charming and highly-trained nun, she tells him a story with roses – and soon leaves the monastery to become a friend of the author. So that’s it. But alas, for Lenin herself miracles, even light ones, always have a bad ending – but more about this later, first we ask ourselves: who, except Rachel, cultivated this strange woman? Father, Hubert Grüten – there is also his portrait. A simple worker “broke out into people”, founded a construction company and began to grow rich rapidly, building fortifications for the Hitlerites. It is not very clear why he made money for what he did – he still “threw them in piles, packs,” as another witness says. In 1943 made absolutely incomprehensible: he founded a... fictitious company, with fictitious turnovers and employees. When the case opened, he was almost executed – sentenced to life imprisonment with confiscation of property. True, Grüten embarked on this escalade after the death of Henry’s son, who served in the occupation army in Denmark. Henry was shot with his cousin Erhard: the young men tried to sell some Dane a cannon; it was a protest – they sold for five marks.

And Leni… She lost her brother, before whom she bowed, and the groom – she loved Erhard. Maybe because of this double loss and went somersault its life. Maybe that’s why she suddenly married a man who was absolutely insignificant.

Over all the misfortunes after the conviction of his father, Leni ceased to be a wealthy heiress, and she was sent to serve a labor service.

Again a small miracle: thanks to some high patronage, she fell not to a military enterprise, but to gardening to weave wreaths; Wreaths in those years required a lot. Leni turned out to be a talented platelist, and the owner of gardening Peltzer could not get enough of her. And besides toga, he fell in love with her – like most of her familiar men.

And there, in gardening, brought to work the prisoner-in-law Lieutenant of the Red Army, Boris L. Koltovsky. Leni fell in love with him at first sight, and he certainly did not resist the young blond beauty. Know the authorities about this novel, they would both be executed, but thanks to another miracle on lovers nobody reported.

The author made great efforts to find out how this Russian officer escaped the concentration camp “with a death rate of 1: 1” and was transferred to the camp “with an extremely low mortality rate of 1: 5, 8”? And besides, from this camp he was not sent, like everyone else, to put out burning houses or dismantle the rubbish after the bombings, and they sent wreaths to weave… It turned out that Boris’s father, diplomat and intelligence officer, serving before the war in Germany, got acquainted with a certain “high-ranking person,” who had enormous influence before, and after, and during the war. When Boris was captured, his father contrived to inform the acquaintance of this, and he found Boris in the most difficult way among hundreds of thousands of prisoners, translated it – not immediately, step by step, into a “good” camp and put him to light work.

Perhaps because of contact with the “face” of Koltovsky, the elder was recalled from his residence in Germany and shot. Yes, such is the refrain of this narrative: shot, died, imprisoned, shot…

… They could love each other only during the day – Boris was taken to the camp for the night, – and only during air raids, when it was supposed to hide in the bomb shelter. Then Leni and Boris went to the neighboring cemetery, into a large crypt, and there, under the roar of bombs and the whistling of splinters, they conceived a son.

This dangerous connection lasted until the end of the war, and Leni showed her unusual cunning and resourcefulness: first she found a fictitious father for the future child, then she managed to register the child as Koltovsky; Boris himself prepared a German soldier’s book – at a time when the Nazis will leave and the Americans will appear. They came in March, and for four months Leni and Boris lived in a normal house, together, and cherished the child together and sang songs to him. Boris did not want to admit that he was Russian, and he was right: soon the Russians “were loaded into wagons and sent to their homeland, to the father of all peoples of Stalin.” But already in June he was arrested by an American patrol, and Boris was sent – as a German soldier – to the mines in Lorraine. Leni rode the whole north of Germany on a bicycle and in November found it at last – in the cemetery: a catastrophe occurred in the mine,

In fact, here is the end of the story of Leni Pfeiffer; as we know, her life goes on, but this life is as if determined by those old, months spent next to Boris. Even the fact that they are trying to evict her from the apartment, to some extent connected with this. And the fact that her son, who was born on the day of a monstrous long hours of bombing, fell into prison for fraud, also correlates with Leni’s love for Boris, though not in a completely clear way. Yes, life goes on. One day, Mehmed, the garbage-Turk, knelt to ask Leni about love, and she surrendered-presumably because she could not stand when a man was on his knees. Now she is waiting for the child again, and she does not care that Mehmed has a wife and children in Turkey.

“We must continue to try to go in an earth carriage, harnessed by heavenly horses” – these are the last words heard from her by the author.


“Group portrait with the lady” Böll in short summary