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Heinrich Böll

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Title: Heinrich Böll  
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Subject: German literature, Anekdote zur Senkung der Arbeitsmoral, The Bread of Those Early Years (novel), PEN International, Ingeborg Bachmann
Collection: 1917 Births, 1985 Deaths, 20Th-Century German Novelists, 20Th-Century Novelists, Georg Büchner Prize Winners, German Male Novelists, German Male Short Story Writers, German Military Personnel of World War II, German Nobel Laureates, German Novelists, German Roman Catholics, German Short Story Writers, International Pen, Nobel Laureates in Literature, People from Cologne, People from the Rhine Province, Roman Catholic Writers, Trümmerliteratur, University of Cologne Alumni, World War II Prisoners of War Held by the United States, Writers from North Rhine-Westphalia
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Heinrich Böll

Heinrich Theodor Böll
Heinrich Böll, 1981
Born (1917-12-21)21 December 1917
Cologne, German Empire
Died 16 July 1985(1985-07-16) (aged 67)
Langenbroich, North Rhine-Westphalia, West Germany
Nationality German
Notable awards

Georg Büchner Prize

Nobel Prize in Literature


Heinrich Theodor Böll (German: ; 21 December 1917 – 16 July 1985) was one of Germany's foremost post-Nobel Prize for Literature in 1972.[1]


  • Biography 1
  • Awards, honours and appointments 2
  • Works 3
  • Media scandals 4
  • Influences 5
  • Analysis 6
  • Legacy and influence 7
  • Selected bibliography 8
    • Posthumous 8.1
    • Translations 8.2
  • See also 9
  • Notes 10
  • References 11
  • External links 12


Böll was born in Cologne, Germany, to a Catholic, pacifist family that later opposed the rise of Nazism. He refused to join the Hitler Youth during the 1930s.[2] He was apprenticed to a bookseller before studying German at the University of Cologne. In 1942 he married Annemarie Cech with whom he was ultimately to have three sons; she later acted as his collaborator on a number of different translations of English and American literature into German that he produced over the years. Conscripted into the Wehrmacht, he served in France, Romania, Hungary and the Soviet Union, and was wounded four times (as well as contracting typhoid fever) before being captured by Americans in April 1945 and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp.[3]

After the war he returned to Cologne and began working in his family's cabinet shop and, for one year, worked in a municipal statistical bureau, an experience which he did not enjoy and which he left in order to take the risk of becoming a writer instead.[4]

Böll became a full-time writer at the age of 30. His first novel, Der Zug war pünktlich (The Train Was on Time), was published in 1949. He was invited to the 1949 meeting of the Group 47 circle of German authors and his work was deemed to be the best presented in 1951.[5]

Many other novels, short stories, radio plays and essay collections followed.

Awards, honours and appointments

Böll was extremely successful and was lauded on a number of occasions. In 1953 he was awarded the Culture Prize of German Industry, the Southern German Radio Prize and the German Critics' Prize. In 1954 he received the prize of the Tribune de Paris. In 1955 he was given the French prize for the best foreign novel. In 1958 he gained the Eduard von der Heydt prize of the city of Wuppertal and the prize of the Bavarian Academy of Arts. In 1959 he was given the Great Art Prize of the State of North-Rhine-Westphalia, the Literature Prize of the city of Cologne, and was elected to the Academy of Science and the Arts in Mainz.

In 1960 he became a member of the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts and gained the Charles Veillon Prize.

In 1967 he was given the Concordat of July 1933 between the Vatican and the Nazis, signed by the future Pope Pius XII, which helped confer international legitimacy on the regime at an early stage in its development.[11]

Böll's liberal views on religion and social issues inspired the wrath of conservatives in Germany.[10][12] His 1972 article Soviel Liebe auf einmal (So much love at once) which accused the tabloid Bild of falsified journalism, was in turn retitled, at the time of publishing and against Böll's wishes, by Der Spiegel, and the imposed title was used as a pretext to accuse Böll of sympathy with terrorism.[13] This particular criticism was driven in large part by his repeated insistence upon the importance of due process and the correct and fair application of the law in the case of the Baader-Meinhof Gang.[14]

The conservative press even attacked Böll's 1972 Nobel prize award, arguing that it was awarded only to "liberals and left-wing radicals."[10]


Böll was deeply rooted in his hometown of Cologne, with its strong

Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by
Pierre Emmanuel
International President of PEN International
Succeeded by
V. S. Pritchett
  • Heinrich Böll official website
  • The Heinrich Böll Page
  • Nobel Prize: Böll, 1972
  • A. Leslie Wilson (Spring 1983). "Heinrich Boll, The Art of Fiction No. 74". Paris Review. 
  • Heinrich Böll Website by Dr. Lawrence Glatz

External links

  • Heinz Ludwig Arnold, ed. (1982). Heinrich Böll. Munich. 
  • Balzer, Bernd (1997). Das literarische Werk Heinrich Bölls. Kommentare und Interpretationen. Munich. 
  • Werner Bellmann, ed. (1995). Das Werk Heinrich Bölls. Bibliographie mit Studien zum Frühwerk. Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag. 
  • Werner Bellmann, ed. (2000). Heinrich Böll, Romane und Erzählungen. Interpretationen. Stuttgart: Reclam. 
  • Hanno Beth (Ed.): Heinrich Böll. Eine Einführung in das Gesamtwerk in Einzelinterpretationen. 2., überarbeitete und erweiterte Auflage. Königstein i.Ts. 1980.
  • Alfred Böll: Bilder einer deutschen Familie. Die Bölls. Gustav Lübbe, Bergisch Gladbach 1981.
  • Viktor Böll, Markus Schäfer and Jochen Schubert: Heinrich Böll. dtv, Munich, 2002 (dtv portrait).
  • Lucia Borghese: Invito alla lettura di Heinrich Böll. Mursia, Milan 1980.
  • Michael Butler (Ed.): The Narrative Fiction of Heinrich Böll. Social conscience and literary achievement. Cambridge 1994.
  • Conard, Robert C. (1992). Understanding Heinrich Böll. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press. 
  • Frank Finlay: On the Rationality of Poetry: Heinrich Böll‘s Aesthetic Thinking. Rodopi, Amsterdam/Atlanta 1996.
  • Erhard Friedrichsmeyer: Die satirische Kurzprosa Heinrich Bölls. Chapel Hill 1981.
  • Lawrence F. Glatz: Heinrich Böll als Moralist. Peter Lang, New York 1999.
  • Christine Hummel: Intertextualität im Werk Heinrich Bölls. Wissenschaftlicher Verlag, Trier 2002.
  • Manfred Jurgensen (Ed.): Böll. Untersuchungen zum Werk. Francke, Bern/Munich 1975.
  • Christian Linder: Heinrich Böll. Leben & Schreiben 1917–1985. Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Cologne 1986.
  • James H. Reid: Heinrich Böll. A German for His Time. Berg Publishers, Oxford/New York/Hamburg 1988. – German: Heinrich Böll. Ein Zeuge seiner Zeit. dtv, Munich 1991.
  • Klaus Schröter: Heinrich Böll. Rowohlt, Reinbek 1987 (Rowohlts Monographien).
  • Jochen Vogt: Heinrich Böll. 2. Auflage. Beck, Munich 1987.
  • Heinrich Vormweg: Der andere Deutsche. Heinrich Böll. Eine Biographie. Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Cologne 2002.


  1. ^ Conard 1992, p. xviii.
  2. ^ Michael H. KATER; Michael H Kater (30 April 2006). Hitler Youth. Harvard University Press. pp. 24–.  
  3. ^ Conard 1992, pp. xvi–xvii.
  4. ^ Steinhauer, Harry (1984). Deutsche Erzählungen. University of California Press. p. 423.  
  5. ^ Magill (ed), Frank N. (2013). The 20th Century A-GI: Dictionary of World Biography, Volume 7. Routledge. p. 349.  
  6. ^ Conrad, Robert C. (1992). Understanding Heinrich Böll. Univ of South Carolina Press. pp. 14–15.  
  7. ^ Nobel prize website
  8. ^ Conard 1992, p. 15.
  9. ^ Draugsvold (ed), Ottar G. (2000). Nobel Writers on Writing. McFarland. p. 121.  
  10. ^ a b c Frank N. Magill (2013) The 20th Century A-GI: Dictionary of World Biography, Volume 7, p.350
  11. ^ Und Sagte Kein Einziges Wort. Routledge. 2003.  
  12. ^ Frank Finlay (1996) On the Rationality of Poetry: Heinrich Böll's Aesthetic Thinking, p.8
  13. ^ Heinrich Böll: Werke , Volume 18: 1971-1974. Köln : Kiepenheuer und Witsch, 2003, ISBN 3-462-03260-7, pp.454-ff.
  14. ^ Cook, Bernard A. (2001). Europe Since 1945: An Encyclopedia, Volume 1. Taylor & Francis. p. 135.  
  15. ^ Conrad, Robert C. (1992). Understanding Heinrich Böll. Univ of South Carolina Press. p. 58.  
  16. ^ Sargeant, Maggie (2005). Kitsch & Kunst: Presentations of a Lost War. Peter Lang. pp. 171–2.  
  17. ^ Liukkonen, Petri. "Heinrich Böll". Books and Writers ( Finland:  
  18. ^ Peter Bruhn and Henry Glade:Heinrich Böll in der Sowjetunion, 1952–1979 Einführung in die sowjetische Böll-Rezeption und Bibliographie der in der UdSSR in russischer Sprache erschienenen Schriften von und über Heinrich Böll, Berlin 1980, ISBN 3-503-01617-1
  19. ^ Finlay, Frank (1996). On the Rationality of Poetry: Heinrich Böll's Aesthetic Thinking. Rodopi. pp. 179–184.  
  20. ^ „vom Glauben abgefallen“
  21. ^ Connolly, Kate. "Acclaimed German writer's archive lost in building collapse". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 July 2014. 
  22. ^ "The Residency". Heinrich Boll Cottage. Retrieved 24 July 2014. 


See also


  • (1985) Frauen vor Flusslandschaft (Women in a River Landscape)
  • (1986) The Stories of Heinrich Böll - U.S. release
  • (1992, written 1949/50) Der Engel schwieg (The Silent Angel)
  • (1995) Der blasse Hund - unpublished stories from 1937 & 1946–1952
  • (2002, written 1946–1947) Kreuz ohne Liebe
  • (2004, written 1938) Am Rande der Kirche
  • (2011) The Collected Stories - reissues of translations, U.S. release


  • (1949) Der Zug war pünktlich (The Train Was on Time)
  • (1950) Wanderer, kommst du nach Spa…
  • (1951) Die schwarzen Schafe (Black Sheep)
  • (1951) Nicht nur zur Weihnachtszeit (Christmas Not Just Once a Year)
  • (1951) Wo warst du, Adam? (And where were you, Adam?)
  • (1952) Die Waage der Baleks (The Balek Scales)
  • (1953) Und sagte kein einziges Wort (And Never Said a Word)
  • (1954) Haus ohne Hüter (House without Guardians ; Tomorrow and Yesterday)
  • (1955) Das Brot der frühen Jahre (The Bread of Those Early Years)
  • (1957) Irisches Tagebuch (Irish Journal)
  • (1957) Die Spurlosen (Missing Persons)
  • (1958) Doktor Murkes gesammeltes Schweigen (Murke's Collected Silences, 1963)
  • (1959) Billard um halb zehn (Billiards at Half-past Nine)
  • (1962) Ein Schluck Erde
  • (1963) Ansichten eines Clowns (The Clown)
  • (1963) Anekdote zur Senkung der Arbeitsmoral (Anecdote Concerning the Lowering of Productivity)
  • (1964) Entfernung von der Truppe (Absent Without Leave)
  • (1966) Ende einer Dienstfahrt (End of a Mission)
  • (1971) Gruppenbild mit Dame (Group Portrait with Lady)
  • (1974) Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum (The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum)
  • (1979) Du fährst zu oft nach Heidelberg und andere Erzählungen (You Go to Heidelberg Too Often) - short stories
  • (1979) Fürsorgliche Belagerung (The Safety Net)
  • (1981) Was soll aus dem Jungen bloß werden? Oder: Irgendwas mit Büchern (What's to Become of the Boy?) - autobiography of Böll's school years 1933–1937
  • (1982) Vermintes Gelände
  • (1982, written 1948) Das Vermächtnis (A Soldier's Legacy)
  • (1983) Die Verwundung und andere frühe Erzählungen (The Casualty) - unpublished stories from 1947–1952

Selected bibliography

His cottage in Ireland has been used as a residency for writers since 1992.[22]

Böll's memory lives on, among other places, at the Heinrich Böll Foundation. A special Heinrich Böll Archive was set up in the Cologne Library to house his personal papers, bought from his family, but much of the material was damaged, possibly irreparably, when the building collapsed in March 2009.[21]

Legacy and influence

Heinrich Böll died in 1985 at the age of 67.

In 1976, Böll publicly left the Catholic church, "without falling away from the faith".[20]

When Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was expelled from the Soviet Union, he first took refuge in Heinrich Böll's Eifel cottage. This was in part the result of Böll's visit to the Soviet Union in 1962 with a cultural delegation, the first of several trips he made to the country, during which he built friendships with several writers and connections with many producers of dissident literature. Böll had previously recommended Solzhenitsyn for the Nobel Prize for Literature, under the auspices of his position in the West German P.E.N. When Solzhenitsyn was awarded the prize in 1976, he quoted from Böll's works to the reception committee.[19]

He was the president of the then West German Hitler's rule. Böll was particularly successful in Eastern Europe, as he seemed to portray the dark side of capitalism in his books; his books were sold by the millions in the Soviet Union alone.[18]

He lived with his wife in Cologne and in the Eifel region. However, he also spent time on Achill Island off the west coast of Ireland. His cottage there is now used as a guesthouse for international and Irish artists. He recorded some of his experiences in Ireland in his book Irisches Tagebuch (Irish Journal); later on the people of Achill curated a festival in his honour. The Irish connection also influenced the translations into German by his wife Annemarie, which included works by Brendan Behan, J. M. Synge, G. B. Shaw, Flann O'Brien and Tomás Ó Criomhthain.[17]

His works have been dubbed Trümmerliteratur (the literature of the rubble). He was a leader of the German writers who tried to come to grips with the memory of World War II, the Nazis, and the Holocaust and the guilt that came with them. Because of his refusal to avoid writing about the complexities and problems of the past he was labelled by some with the role of 'Gewissen der Nation', in other words a catalyst and conduit for memorialisation and discussion in opposition to the tendency towards silence and taboo. This was a label that he himself was keen to jettison because he felt that it occluded a fair audit of those institutions which were truly responsible for what had happened.[16]


His villains are the figures of authority in government, business, and in the Church, whom he castigates, sometimes humorously, sometimes acidly, for what he perceived as their conformism, lack of courage, self-satisfied attitude and abuse of power. His simple style made him a favourite for German-language textbooks in Germany and abroad.

He was deeply affected by the Nazis' takeover of Cologne, as they essentially exiled him in his own town. Additionally, the destruction of Cologne as a result of the Allied bombing during World War II scarred him for life; he described the aftermath of the bombing in The Silent Angel. Architecturally, the newly-rebuilt Cologne, prosperous once more, left him indifferent. (Böll seemed to be a pupil of William Morris – he let it be known that he would have preferred Cologne Cathedral to have been left unfinished, with the 14th-century wooden crane at the top, as it had stood in 1848). Throughout his life, he remained in close contact with the citizens of Cologne, rich and poor. When he was in hospital, the nurses often complained about the "low-life" people who came to see their friend Heinrich Böll.

[15] The 1963 publication of

Media scandals

Despite the variety of themes and content in his work, there are certain recurring patterns: many of his novels and stories describe intimate and personal life struggling to sustain itself against the wider background of war, terrorism, political divisions, and profound economic and social transition. In a number of his books there are protagonists who are stubborn and eccentric individualists opposed to the mechanisms of the state or of public institutions.[9]

His work has been translated into more than 30 languages, and he remains one of Germany's most widely read authors. His best-known works are Billiards at Half-past Nine (1959), And Never Said a Word (1953), The Bread of Those Early Years (1955), The Clown (1963), Group Portrait with Lady (1971), The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum (1974), and The Safety Net (1979).


[8] Böll was President of

He was given a number of honorary awards up to his death, such as the membership of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1974, and the Ossietzky Medal of 1974 (the latter for his defence of and contribution to global human rights).

In 1972 he received the Nobel Prize for Literature "for his writing which through its combination of a broad perspective on his time and a sensitive skill in characterization has contributed to a renewal of German literature".[7]


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