I once met a German woman who, standing in a circle of seven or six people, ventured a sally that fell flat. We knew this because, having emitted an utterance, an utterance wholly incomprehensible, she followed with two small woofs of apologetic laughter and the explanation, "German humor, I guess."
For a long while thereafter, I presumed there was none such, that Germans had merely abstracted from other peoples the idea that humor was a desirable quality, and so assigned the title to some category of phenomenon that ought to have borne an entirely different label.
But on an evening that seemed set to be yet another in a long string of the sort of evenings where all efforts to put together the small traces of people's activities in the world into some order that looked amusing petered out before they got anywhere, I started into reading The Clown. I don't remember how that story went except that it was terribly bleak and awfully funny, and for the time I was reading let me abandon my struggles and have Böll achieve for me the task I had been bent on, that of gazing on the small, sad facts of human existence and making of them a little joke to entertain myself with, crafting a silver lining to a world mostly cloud.
It was at another cloudy time that I happened across The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum for 25 cents in the Salvation Army in Juneau. The subject was a little obscure to me. The book was issued in the year I was born, when, I think, it may still have been possible to know what "honor" was, whereas now it is an armchair notion that can be academically reconstructed but not intuitively understood. So I was not entirely sure what the book was talking about, but it was very consoling, funny but not the least bit lighthearted, and I shall not doubt the existence of German humor again.