The voice of this novel was something new to me: it is written in the form of a report, apparently reserved and unbiased, which presents the slow but effective process of Katharina Blum's public humiliation by police and press.
It all begins with a murder (I'm not sure this may be considered a spoiler, because it comes in the first pages of the novel):
On Sunday evening at almost the same hour (to be precise, at about 7:04 P.M.) she rings the front door bell at the home of Walter Moeding, Crime Commissioner, who is at that moment engaged, for professional rather than private reasons, in disguising himself as a sheikh, and she declares to the startled Moeding that at about 12:15 noon that day she shot and killed Werner Tötges, reporter, in her apartment, and would the Commissioner kindly give instructions for her front door to be broken down and the reporter to be "removed"; for her part, she has spent the hours between 12:15 noon and 7:00 P.M. roaming around town in search of a remorse that she has failed to find.
It is an excerpt that speaks for the whole narration: its writer sticks to the facts, using a detached, informative tone, but underneath the dry language there is a lot of humor, the opinions are stated between the lines and the reader is left to his/her own devices to issue a conclusion.
Katharina, an intelligent and hard-working girl who comes from a disjointed family, is brought in the spotlight after her brief association with a man considered a bank robber. In the course of four days, her meticulously rebuilt life is shattered to pieces by police interrogations and defamatory articles in The News. With police, every detail of her life must be accounted for, petty secrets are brought up to light, her intimacy and honor are trampled.
The press makes everything appear in a different light, distorts the statements and facts, issues far-fetched suppositions, with no concern for the individual whose life they are destroying. Not only Katharina, but also those who stand by her are subjected to vilification in the newspaper. The reporters are not the solely responsible for this - there are also the influential people who stand in the shadow, deciding who must be protected and who must be thrown to the wolves.
There is no end to this kind of story, though. One isolated act of justice, condemned by law as is it, won't change a thing - press resembles the mythological Hydra: for each head cut off it grows two more, just as poisonous and deadly. The freedom of the press is a two sided blade.