Pretty much what it says on the tin. 18 short stories.
I can’t much vouch for where these stories exist within Böll’s work as the book itself is very short on details of that nature.
What I can say, though, is that they deal with a common theme in his books, which is that of the disillusion and discomfort experienced by Germans after World War II. None of his characters really want to directly confront the Hitler years, but all of them are unhappy or dissatisfied with how their lives have turned out.
The stories aren’t depressing, however. Instead they are passive, grey, apathetic. The writing brightens when a characters thinks of their childhood, and dulls again when it returns to the present time, which is generally the 1950s.
Hard to recommend, critique, examine. It’s best, with collections such as these, to know if they have been published in their original language as a collection, or if they are a grab-bag from his entire writing career. I don’t know the answer, and thus all I can really say is what I have said. I think Böll is a very strong writer in the novella size, but he does well here, particularly with The Laugher and Like a bad dream.
The Books, Read page contains a list of all of the books I have read this year.