The lightship. Chained to the seafloor, it assumes the role of a lighthouse, warns passing ships of shoals, or, in this case, mines, that are left in the Baltic Sea after WWII. Nine years after the war the mines are mostly cleared and the lightship has had its day. For the final watch captain Freytag takes along his teenage son. One day the ship's crew takes three men on board, apparently shipwrecked, who turn out to be violent criminals. They try to force Freytag and his men to help them in their flight. In the limited space of the vessel a psychological and physical struggle develops.On the surface this is a thrilling crime/murder-story on high sea. There's bound to be conflicts galore: The exchanges between Freytag and Caspary, leader of the gangsters, two men who cannot be more different in character, the struggle of the captain's son, whose respect for his old man hit rock bottom after an incident in the captain's past, the disputes among the members of the ship's crew on how to best deal with the situation. Apart from the obvious crimes the most notable themes, to me, are: Duty and responsibility, bravery and cowardice. How to approach the bad guys that have the guns? Is it better to be a living coward than a dead hero? Is martyrdom worth the risk? Wer keine Waffen hat und keine Gewalt, hat immer noch mehr Möglichkeiten, und manchmal glaube ich, dass hinter diesem Wunsch, sich um jeden Preis den Gewehrmündungen anzubieten, der schlimmste Egoismus steckt. I like the book, but – and I hate to say it –, I don't love it. I expected more from one of my favorite German authors. To me this book fails stylistically and linguistically in comparison with other books by Lenz I read (e.g. his most famous one, Deutschstunde, and my favorite Die Klangprobe). The prose here is too functional for my taste, too detached, and some of the dialogs are downright awkward. I wondered why that is. Of course the author was only 34 when this book was first published in 1960, and maybe he hasn't found his style yet. Another reason might me his admiration of Ernest Hemingway back then (Lenz later distanced himself from Hemingway and moved on to Faulkner). I am in no way an expert when it comes to Hemingway, but I think some parts of The Lightboat, especially the captain's back-story, are rather Hemingway-ish. Anyway, it's a style that doesn't speak to me very much.In a speech Lenz once said: Ich schätze nun einmal die Kunst, herauszufordern, nicht so hoch ein wie die Kunst, einen wirkungsvollen Pakt mit dem Leser herzustellen, um die bestehenden Übel zu verringern. I do not esteem the art to challenge as highly as the art to create an effective pact with the reader in order to decrease the present evils.(thanks to Steve for the translation of this quote) In this book the pact with this reader wasn't formed very well. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
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