Authors: Heinrich Böll

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

German novelist and short-story writer

Author Works

Long Fiction:

Der Zug war pünktlich, 1949 (The Train Was on Time, 1956)

Der Engel Schwieg, wr. 1950, pb. 1992 (The Silent Angel, 1994)

Wo warst du, Adam?, 1951 (Adam, Where Art Thou?, 1955)

Nicht nur zur Weihnachtszeit, 1952

Und sagte kein einziges Wort, 1953 (Acquainted with the Night, 1954)

Haus ohne Hüter, 1954 (Tomorrow and Yesterday, 1957)

Das Brot der frühen Jahre, 1955 (The Bread of Our Early Years, 1957)

Billard um halbzehn, 1959 (Billiards at Half-Past Nine, 1961)

Ansichten eines Clowns, 1963 (The Clown, 1965)

Ende einer Dienstfahrt, 1966 (End of a Mission, 1967)

Gruppenbild mit Dame, 1971 (Group Portrait with Lady, 1973)

Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum: Oder, Wie Gewalt entstehen und wohin sie führen kann, 1974 (The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum: Or, How Violence Develops and Where It Can Lead, 1975)

Fürsorgliche Belagerung, 1979 (The Safety Net, 1982)

Der Vermächtnis, 1982 (A Soldier’s Legacy, 1985)

Frauen vor Flusslandschaft, 1985 (Women in a River Landscape, 1988)

Short Fiction:

Wanderer, kommst du nach Spa . . . , 1950 (Traveller, If You Come to Spa, 1956)

So ward Abend und Morgen, 1955

Unberechenbare Gäste, 1956

Doktor Murkes gesammeltes Schweigen und andere Satiren, 1958

Der Fahnhof von Zimpren, 1959

Erzählungen, Hörspiele, Aufsätze, 1961

Entfernung von der Truppe, 1964 (Absent Without Leave, 1965)

Eighteen Stories, 1966

Children Are Civilians Too, 1970

Die Verwundung und andere frühe Erzählungen, 1983 (The Casualty, 1986)

Veränderungen in Staech: Erzählungen, 1962-1980, 1984

The Stories of Heinrich Böll, 1986


Ein Schluck Erde, pb. 1962

Aussatz, pb. 1970


Deutschland im Herbst, 1978


Gedichte, 1972

Gedichte mit Collagen von Klaus Staeck, 1980


Irisches Tagebuch, 1957 (Irish Journal, 1967)

Brief an einen jungen Katholiken, 1961

Frankfurter Vorlesungen, 1966

Hierzulande, 1967

Aufsätze, Kritiken, Reden, 1967

Neue politische und literarische Schriften, 1973

Schwierigkeiten mit der Brüderlichkeit, 1976

Einmischung erwünscht, 1977

Missing Persons, and Other Essays, 1977

Spuren der Zeitgenossenschaft, 1980

Gefahren von falschen Brüdern, 1980

Was soll aus dem Jungen bloss werden? Oder, Irgendwas mit Büchern, 1981 (What’s to Become of the Boy? Or, Something to Do with Books, 1984)

Vermintes Gelände, 1982

Bild, Bonn, Boenisch, 1984


Heinrich Böll Werke, 1977-1979


Heinrich Theodor Böll (buhl) was one of the most significant German writers of the postwar era. He was born in Cologne on December 21, 1917, to Victor and Marie Hermanns Böll, the eighth of eight children. He was educated in Catholic elementary and secondary schools.{$I[AN]9810001384}{$I[A]Böll, Heinrich}{$I[geo]GERMANY;Böll, Heinrich}{$I[tim]1917;Böll, Heinrich}

Heinrich Böll

(©The Nobel Foundation)

The years of Böll’s youth coincided with some of the grimmest years in modern German history–the inflated economy of the mid-1920’s, the Great Depression of the early 1930’s, the rise to power of the Nazis, and the early years of the Third Reich. Victor Böll lost his business in the Great Depression. The family’s subsequent loss of middle-class status without clearly identifying with the working class caused an identity crisis that remained with Heinrich Böll and influenced his writing.

In 1937 Böll completed his secondary education and became an apprentice to a book dealer in Bonn. He was required to perform compulsory labor service during 1938 and 1939, after which he enrolled at the University of Cologne to study German and classical philology and literature. In 1939 he was drafted into the German Army, and he served as an infantryman until taken prisoner by the Americans in 1945.

Böll returned to his native Cologne in November, 1945, together with his wife, Annemarie Cech, whom he had married in 1942. Their first son, Christoph, died shortly after birth during the harsh winter of 1945. Upon his return to Cologne, Böll began to write short stories. In an interview during the early 1960’s, he admitted that he had always wanted to be a writer. He said that he wrote perhaps six novels before the war. All were either burned or lost during the war.

The first publication of Böll’s writings, two short stories, occurred in 1947, in the periodical Karussell. These, together with other short stories published in various periodicals and newspapers, appeared together in 1950 in Traveller, If You Come to Spa. With the 1953 publication of the novel Acquainted with the Night, Böll achieved financial independence.

From 1949 until his death in 1985, a steady stream of literary product flowed from his pen. Early in his career he was recognized as the most successful postwar German author. His popularity in the West was matched, and perhaps even surpassed, by his popularity in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Böll criticized the materialism of postwar West German society not only in his fictional works but also in numerous essays and as a political activist. He opposed German rearmament in the 1950’s, criticized the Social Democratic Party for its official abandonment of Marxist ideology in 1959, campaigned for Willy Brandt in 1969, defended the terrorist Baader-Meinhof gang in 1972, publicly left the Catholic Church in 1976, and participated in a peace demonstration in Bonn in 1981. The Left hailed him as the “conscience of the nation”; the Right condemned him as a literary hack.

Recognition of Böll’s literary genius came early in his career and was sustained throughout. Many international honors were bestowed upon him during his lifetime, including the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1972. He died in 1985 at his home in the Eifel Mountains near Bonn.

Böll’s short stories and novels are characterized by a condemnation of militarism and war, a criticism of postwar materialism, and frequent allusions to the moral failure of Christianity and the erosion of the traditional family unit. Many critics believe that the central theme running through all Böll’s writings is his belief that true Christianity is the natural foe of capitalism. In his war stories, Böll portrayed war as an absurdity, a waste of time as well as lives. His stories about postwar Germany criticize a society in which returning veterans are unable to find their niche, while former Nazis prosper from the postwar economic boom. Throughout, the institutionalized Catholic Church is portrayed as hypocritical and corrupt.

BibliographyConard, Robert C. Heinrich Böll. Boston: Twayne, 1981. Written before Böll’s death and thus incomplete in a number of respects, this book is nevertheless one of the best introductions to and studies of Böll’s work readily available to the general reader. Includes chronologies and helpful bibliographies, though many of the sources listed are in German.Conard, Robert C. Understanding Heinrich Böll. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1992. Provides a general introduction to Böll’s life and work, with chapter 4 focusing on his major novels, including Billiards at Half-Past Nine, The Clown, Group Portrait with Lady, and The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum.Crampton, Patricia, trans. Heinrich Böll, on His Death: Selected Obituaries and the Last Interview. Bonn: Inter Nationes, 1985. Brief volume presents a collection of short elegiac essays as well as Böll’s last interview. Offers many perceptive and impressionistic insights into both the man and the writer. Includes about a dozen photographs of Böll in his last years.Ludden, Teresa. “Birth and the Mother in Materialist Feminist Philosophy and Contemporary German Texts.” Women 17, no. 3 (Winter, 2006): 341-354. Provides a critical analysis of the treatment of childbirth in works by Böll and two other novelists, with particular emphasis on the birth scenes in Group Portrait with Lady, Günter Grass’s Die Blechtrommel (1959; The Tin Drum, 1961), and Patrick Süskind’s Das Parfüm: Die Geschichte eines Mörders (1985; Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, 1986).Macpherson, Enid. A Student’s Guide to Böll. London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1972. Brief introductory work is intended for students of German literature. In addition to devoting chapters to the novels and short stories, discusses Böll’s critical writings and lectures for the light they shed on his narrative practice.Reed, Donna K. The Novel and the Nazi Past. New York: Peter Lang, 1985. A somewhat pedantic book concerned with the literature of Vergangenheitsbewältigung (coming to terms with the past), a jawbreaker that has resurfaced after the dissolution of the former German Democratic Republic. Thomas Mann and Günter Grass are discussed in addition to Böll, more specifically his novel Billiards at Half-Past Nine, as central to his political thought. Includes a bibliography on Nazism and the postwar period.Reid, J. H. Heinrich Böll: A German for His Time. New York: Berg, 1988. Quoting Böll’s remark that writers must be understood as products of their time, Reid examines Böll as just that, tracing the political and social currents that shaped his work. Perceptive and evenhanded, this study is less concerned with belles lettres than with ideologies and political history. The short stories find mention and commentary chiefly as expression of Böll’s ideas. An excellent bibliography, largely in German, reflects the book’s main concern.Reid, J. H. “Private and Public Filters: Memories of War in Heinrich Böll’s Fiction and Nonfiction.” In European Memories of the Second World War, edited by Helmut Peitsch, Charles Burdett, and Claire Gorrara. New York: Berghahn Books, 1999. A study of Böll’s work is included in this examination of how German, French, and Italian literature reflects Europeans’ changing memories of World War II.Zachau, Reinhard K. The Narrative Fiction of Heinrich Böll. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997. Presents a study of Böll’s work in its social context in the second German Republic. Includes several essays on Böll’s major works, focusing on their literary traditions as well as on the link in his work between moral/aesthetic issues and sociopolitical issues.
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