W.G. Sebald once said that this is the only novel that somehow captures the horror of the rubble in Germany in the late 40s. Perhaps it was too horrific for the German audience immediately after the war. Although written in 1949-50, the book was not published until 1992.
When it did finally find its ways into bookstores, its reviews were mixed. This novel 'of the lost generation', as Böll said himself, is not, like other works by the same author, widely read in German lessons. Perhaps, teachers struggle to point out anything educational about it. It does not try to be anything more, or less, than an account of the horrors that befell Germany and its people after the war was officially over and the altruistic charity that was needed to help the protagonist, Hans Schnitzler, towards any sort of future. "Talking is silver, silence is gold", a widely used German proverb, describes well Böll's style of writing. The absence of language is often more striking than its presence.
German suffering was often not mentioned or seen as a just punishment. The wounds of the people had to heal in silence, and Böll's novel really does encorporate this sentiment.