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The Devil Comes to Bonn - Reading Group Questions


The Devil comes to Bonn

DUAL TIMELINES

A “braided novel” weaves together two or more narratives. The Devil Comes to Bonn has dual timelines and dual stories. The 1941 and 2015 stories refract each other. What does each story say about the other?


Do you think that the stories of Hildegard and Stella mirror each other?


What is the significance of the Roman martyr story? What is its relationship to the two main stories?


Does reading a braided novel dilute the reader’s attachment to the characters? Does it make the reading experience richer?



GENDER

The novel was inspired partly by the #MeToo movement and its power to remind us of everyday gendered violence and bullying of women. Discuss #MeToo in relation to the story.


Was it an accident that Peter’s actions resulted in Stella’s arm breaking?


Does the world of the book appear to lay blame on Stella for David’s self-harming?



MORAL AMBIGUITY

Was Kurt fair to his wife?


Was Stella right to act against Costa if no one else did?


Is it sometimes right to take the law into your own hands?


Is there a moral duty to act if doing so will endanger ourselves and / or those close to us?


Is Kurt more like a wolf or a Greek god?



WORLD WAR II

Some of the action takes place in a historic hotel that Hitler visited many times; room 106 exists today. Discuss the blending of fiction with verifiable historical fact.


Most readers are not historians; they experience history through narratives on screen and in novels. What do you think of the role of historical novels as a way of engaging with history?


There have been hundreds of World War II stories. Are the events of the war so significant that more can continue to explain that period and enrich our cultures?



CHARACTERS

Stella stalks Costa and yet is shocked when he accuses her of doing this. Why does she have difficulty comprehending what she is doing?


Does Costa stalk Stella or is he an opportunist?


Have you met bullies like Costa?


Hildegard appears never to put the past behind her. Why?


What is the role of the Italian students?


Why does Stella think often of Caravaggio’s paintings?


Eva is depicted as a Nazi in her Band of German Maidens’ uniform. How would you characterize Marta?


Africans—Neo from Botswana and Takura from Zimbabwe—appear when Stella is in crisis. What is their role?


African men are contrasted to Caucasian men—what are the meaning effects of this?



MEMORY

What is the role of memory in this novel?


Is there a moral element to memory?


Is there a duty to remember dark pasts?


What is the role of World Heritage listing?


The Korean-Japanese dispute highlights some World Heritage problems. Is there a time to forget the collective past for the sake of harmonious contemporary relationships? Can we do this if issues are not resolved?


How should we respond if memory is an unbearable personal burden?


How does collective memory (eg of the Koreans’ wartime experience) differ from personal memory (eg Hildegard’s and Stella’s)?



LANDSCAPE AND WEATHER

Hildegard says that the River Rhine links different times. Discuss the narrative role of the Rhine.


What is the role of the heatwave?


Blackbirds appear throughout the novel; how do you interpret them?

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