Flughunde (Roman) - Flughunde (Roman)

Flying foxes is a novel of the author Marcel Beyer in 1995. The story that during the time NS plays deals with Hermann Karnau, a sound engineer and vocal researchers, as well as the oldest daughter Joseph Goebbels , Helga Goebbels. These narrative strands of the two characters run parallel and meet again and again in the novel, with Hermann Karnau sinking more and more into the National Socialist ideology, while Helga Goebbels begins to question this more and more. Another central motif of the novel are the eponymous fruit bats , which appear again and again in the course of the story. The novel can be - like most of Beyer's novels - theAssign postmodernism , noticeable by the fact that many passages only hint at something instead of actually saying it; Helga Goebbels is never mentioned by her last name during the entire novel, Joseph Goebbels is only called “the father”. [1]


In Part I, the first-person narrator, Hermann Karnau, describes how he arranged the microphones and loudspeakers for a speech by Joseph Goebbels to disabled people and disabled people. He then takes the tram to his apartment. Meanwhile, he thinks about a childhood incident in which a bat was in the school classroom. The event seems to have impressed him very much. He also describes the evening he spends with his dog Coco. He listens to records with various noises that are made available to him as an acoustician.

Part II begins from the point of view of Helga Goebbels, who says that she and her siblings are being brought to Karnau because no one at home can look after the children because the mother is giving birth to a child. At Karnau the children have breakfast and later in the day they go for a walk, during which Karnau and Helga talk. In the evening they go to bed, but Helga cannot fall asleep and hears the noises of the deaf and mute, which Karnau is listening to from one of the records. At the end there is a brief account of the next morning when the children imitate the deaf and dumb war invalids.

Part III begins with a story by Karnau who misses the children in his apartment. Then Helga reports how her brother destroyed her watch, but she is punished. In the next part, Karnau tells of his stay in Strasbourg, where the National Socialists try to remove foreign words and "Germanize" them. He picks up the voices of people who secretly don't speak German. In doing so, he makes a mistake, so that he cannot prove to an officer that he did not hear people speak German. In the end, however, he still finds the "guilty". Meanwhile, Helga reports how her father, Joseph Goebbels, bought her a new watch. In the following passage, Karnau gives an inner monologue as to why he did not record the voices of the Goebbels children, since he thinks they could help him with his vocal research. Then Helga reports on a visit to the hairdresser. Meanwhile, Karnau has been transferred to a war hospital where he can pursue his research. A doctor named Doctor Hellbrandt shows him some patients who are temporarily deaf due to explosions or gunfire and therefore only make strange noises, which Karnau finds very interesting for his “voting card”. Then Helga reports how her father takes her and her eldest sister Hilde for a walk in a new car. Karnau's point of view then tells of the fact that he picks up voices, especially screams, in the trenches.

At the beginning of Part IV, Helga reports on how she and her mother are in the mountains and, among other things, take a newspaper photo there. Karnau then describes how he is expanding his “voting card”. In her part, Helga tells of her arrival in Berlin, where they meet her father. They talk about Alsace and the process of "emptying"which Karnau helped drive. Karnau, on the other hand, is giving a lecture in Dresden on the fact that, in his opinion, people continue to hear after death. This lecture is made possible for him because of his relationships with Joseph Goebbels. The children, on the other hand, visit the Berlin zoo with their father. Again from Karnau's perspective one learns that he has now been permanently employed at the university to research his voice theories. Helga tells how she and Hilde force their little siblings, for their own pleasure, to clean the floor in the Goebbels' house. A few days later, Karnau is at a party with the Goebbels family.

Part V reports parallel to how Helga heard the Sportpalast speech on February 18, 1943, at which Goebbels asked, among other things, whether the people wanted total war [2] . At the same time, Karnau tells of his first human attempts on handicapped people who are supposed to serve his "voting card". It is described how Karnau shows Helga and her siblings the fruit bats of his friend Moreau. Afterwards, Karnau and Moreau chat while the children secretly eat Moreau's chocolate.

In Part VI, Helga tells about how the Goebbels family takes war refugees into their home. She also talks about how her father tries with his propaganda to uphold the motivation of the Germans so that the war can continue. Meanwhile, Karnau reports on his visit to the destroyed Berlin zoo . The children try to help their father with the propaganda. In his next narrative passage, Karnau is in the Führerbunker , where he is supposed to record Hitler's last speeches , since his health is deteriorating consistently because he only consumes chocolate. When Hitler dies, Karnau and the rest of the staff flee to pretend to be opponents of the regime so that they will be spared from the Allied troops.

Part VII begins with an omniscient narrator who tells of the year 1992 in which the record archive of the records intended to research the “voting card” was found by chance. Karnau is found as the only known person involved, but he lies and says he was just a security guard. Then Karnau tells from the first person perspective of a nightmare in which he is dissected by former colleagues for an experiment. When he wakes up, he looks for records that he was able to take from the Führerbunker and finds some recordings of the Goebbels children’s voices, which he made secretly, although Goebbels has forbidden him to do so. He begins to listen to them and to remember.

Part VIII begins with Helga's story of how the Goebbels family still lives in their house in Berlin, which is part of the Propaganda Ministryhas been converted after its actual building was destroyed by an explosion. Shortly afterwards, the Goebbels family moved into the Führerbunker, where the Karnau children met again. He tries to cheer up the children and often looks after them in the evenings. He also steals chocolate from the supplies that are intended for Adolf Hitler so that the children can give it to their sister Hedda for her birthday on May 5th. The theft of supplies is actually punishable by death, but Karnau is not discovered. After a while the children are told that they will flee by plane and that they will be injected with something to calm them down. The syringe actually contains the poison with which the children are murdered.

In Part IX, Karnau reports on his recordings made by the children, which end with their death.

The novel ends with a note that all of the characters are fictional, although some of them have real people's names.



Beyer divides his novel into a total of nine parts, which are self-contained and permanently, usually only separated by a paragraph, fade between the stories of Karnau and Helgas. There is usually a certain time gap between the parts, the largest of which lies between part “VI” and “VII”, between these are approximately 45 years, while the previous intervals comprised a maximum of one month to one year. About the time in between the reader learns little or nothing, but much of what happens there is hinted at. Most of the compartments are also provided with their own important motifs, for example the first compartment is clearly permeated by the motif of the deaf and mute , which also accompanies the rest of the novel. [3]

Narrative attitude

With the exception of the seventh part (VII), the novel is told in the present tense from the perspective of the main characters Hermann Karnau and Helga Goebbels. The characters differ slightly in the way they are written, so Helga uses more childish colloquial language, while Hermann Karnau tells something more formal.

The part "VII" is an exception here, it changes to an omniscient first-person narrator. This part reports factually about the discovery of the “clay laboratory” in which Hermann Karnau and his colleagues worked. Thus, a clear cut is set, the reader understands through this bird's eye view that the finale of the novel begins.


Even if the book is written from a first-person perspective, the literary claims can always be clearly identified. The people report what is happening to them at that moment, but the text is remarkably well thought out and formulated. The arrangement of the narrative passages is also well thought out, so except for the paragraph you hardly notice that they exist, only after a few lines do you notice that the other person is telling again, a narrative style that is similar to the cinematic match cut .

The spelling is constantly slightly mystical and suggestive, things are seldom addressed correctly, mostly you have to think around a few corners to understand them. This indirect way is also supported by the fact that quotation marks are completely dispensed with in the work, so there is literal speech, but this is not framed by anything.

Historical background

The novel is set in Germany during the Second World War , even if it is never named that way in the novel. This becomes constantly clear from the cruelties involved in the everyday life of the main characters, especially Hermann Karnau's everyday life is characterized by violence, Helga's everyday life is rather characterized by fear. Against this historical background, Marcel Beyer mainly looks at one major aspect that was secretly omnipresent at the time: pseudosciences.

Pseudosciences in National Socialism

Hermann Karnau stands for all the scientists who lost all scruples under National Socialism and tried to prove their absurd theories. In the novel, for example, Karnau tries to create a voting card that is absurd, and not just by scientific standards. Various doctors and scientists tried something similar during the Nazi era. Like Karnau in the novel, they carried out experiments on concentration camp inmates [4] , which were not necessary to prove their theories [5] .


The novel was very well received by the press and is considered to be Beyer's literary breakthrough.

The FAZ reviewer praised the book in such a way:

It is masterful how Marcel Beyer manages it: To write a novel about a bizarre noise collector in the Third Reich and at the same time an incredibly topical book that is itself an accompanying noise of the present. [...] There is a brutal how behind the precise words. [...] Beyer's fiction, set in the Third Reich, reflects the present. [6]

Hellmuth Karasek said in his review for Der Spiegel :

The novel “flying foxes” takes its justification from its chosen (wonderfully found and invented) narrative perspective.


Iris Drögekamp edited the novel as an audio book for SWR in 2013. [7]

Ulli Lust worked with Beyer to convert the novel into a graphic novel . [8th]

Individual evidence

  1. Beyer, Marcel: flying foxes . 11th edition. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1996, ISBN 978-3-518-39126-6 , pp. 46, 234 (exemplary) .
  2. Joseph Goebbels, speech in the Berlin Sportpalast ["Do you want the total war"], February 18, 1943. In: 100 (0) key documents of German history in the 20th century. Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, February 18, 1943, accessed on November 20, 2017 .
  3. Magdalini, Tsiapali: The media in the novels flying foxes and spies by Marcel Beyer. In: ikee.lib.auth.gr. Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, April 2012, pp. 30–32 , accessed on November 25, 2017 (German, Greek).
  4. Schymura, Yvonne: Morden in the name of science. Crimes committed by Nazi doctors. In: www.spiegel.de. SPIEGEL ONLINE GmbH, March 9, 2016, accessed on November 20, 2017 .
  5. Mielke, Fred; Mitscherlich, Alexander (ed.): Medicine without humanity . Documents of the Nuremberg Doctors' Trial. 2nd Edition. S. Fischer Verlage, Frankfurt am Main; Hamburg 1962, ISBN 978-3-596-22003-8 , pp. 21.
  6. azz: Marcel Beyer: bats. Review: Fiction. In: faz.net. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, March 17, 2002, accessed on November 20, 2017 .
  7. Beyer, Marcel: Fkughunde. Contemporary history. In: Deutschlandfunk. Deutschlandradio, May 16, 2015, accessed on December 6, 2017 .
  8. ^ Weber, Marius: Graphic Novel: "Flying foxes", de Marcel Beyer and Ulli Lust. In: DLITE - German-Romanian literary blog. Goethe University, June 30, 2016, accessed December 6, 2017 .