Böll, Heinrich 1917–1985
Böll, Heinrich 1917–1985
(Heinrich Theodor Böll)
PERSONAL: Born December 21, 1917, in Cologne, Germany; died of complications from arteriosclerosis, July 16, 1985, at his home in Huertgen Forest in the Eifel Mountains, near Bonn, Germany; son of Viktor (a master furniture maker) and Maria (Hermanns) Böll; married Annemarie Cech (a translator), 1942; children: Christoph (died, 1945), Raimund (died, 1982), Rene, Vincent. Education: Completed college preparatory school; attended the University of Cologne, 1939. Religion: Roman Catholic.
CAREER: Apprentice to a book dealer in Bonn, Germany, 1938; writer, 1947–85. Guest lecturer of poetics, University of Frankfurt, 1964. Military service: German Army, 1939–45; American prisoner of war, 1945.
AWARDS, HONORS: Prize from "Group 47," 1951, for short story "The Black Sheep"; Rene Schickele Prize, 1952; Cultural Prize of German Industry; Southern German Radio Prize and German Critics Prize, both 1953, both for radio play Moench and Raeuber; French Publishers Prize for best foreign novel, Tribune de Paris, 1954; Edward von der Heydt Prize from City of Wup-pertal, 1958; Grand Art Prize of North Rhine-Westphalia, 1959; Charles Veillon Prize, 1960; Literature Prize of City of Cologne, 1960; Premio d'Isola d'Elba, 1965; Premio Calabria, 1966; George Buechner Prize, German Academy for Language and Poetry, 1967; Nobel Prize for Literature, 1972, for contributions to "a renewal of German literature in the postwar era"; honorary doctorates from Trinity College, University of Dublin, University of Aston, University of Birmingham, and Brunel University, all 1973; Carl von Ossietzky Medal, International League of Human Rights, 1974; first Neil Gunn fellow, Scottish Arts Council, 1974; named honorary member of American Academy of Arts and Letters, and of American National Institute of Art and Literature, both 1974; named honorary citizen of City of Cologne, 1983; honorary title of professor conferred by North Rhine-Westphalia, 1983.
Der Zug war puenktlich (also see below; novella), F. Middelhauve (Opladen, Germany), 1949, reprinted, Deutscher Taschenbuch (Munich, Germany), 1973, translation by Richard Graves published as The Train Was on Time, Criterion Books (New York, NY), 1956, translation by Leila Vennewitz, Northwestern University Press (Evanston, IL), 1994.
Wanderer, kommst du nach Spa (also see below; short stories; includes "Damals in Odessa"), F. Middel-hauve, 1950, reprinted, Deutscher Taschenbuch (Munich, Germany), 1971, translation by Mervyn Savill published as Traveller, If You Come to Spa, Arco (New York, NY), 1956, bilingual edition translated and edited by Mervyn Savill and John Bednall, Max Hueber (Munich, Germany), 1956.
Wo warst du, Adam? (also see below; novel), F. Middlehauve, 1951, reprinted, Deutscher Taschenbuch (Munich, Germany), 1972, translation by Mervyn Savill published as Adam, Where Art Thou?, Criterion Books (New York, NY), 1955, new translation by Lelia Vennewitz published as And Where Were You, Adam?, Northwestern University Press (Evanston, IL), 1994.
Nicht nur zur Weihnachtszeit (also see below; satire), Frankfurter Verlags-Anstalt (Frankfurt, Germany), 1952, expanded edition with other satires published as Nichtnurzur Weihnachtszeit: Satiren, Deutscher Taschenbuch (Munich, Germany), 1966, new edition, Kiepenheuer & Witsch (Cologne, Germany), 1981.
Und sagte kein einziges Wort (also see below; novel), Kiepenheuer & Witsch (Cologne, Germany), 1953, reprinted with epilogue by Gerhard Joop, Ullstein (Frankfurt, Germany), 1972, translation by Richard Graves published as Acquainted with the Night, Holt (New York, NY), 1954, new translation by Le-lia Vennewitz published as And Never Said a Word, McGraw (New York, NY), 1978, reprinted, Northwestern University Press (Evanston, IL), 1994.
Haus ohne Hueter (also see below; novel), Kiepenheuer Witsch (Cologne, Germany), 1954, reprinted, 1974, translation by Mervyn Savill published as Tomorrow and Yesterday, Criterion Books (New York, NY), 1957, also published as The Unguarded House, Arco (New York, NY), 1957.
Das Brot der fruehen Jahre: Erzaehlung (also see below; novella), Kiepenheuer & Witsch (Cologne, Germany), 1955, reprinted, 1980, translation by Mervyn Savill published as The Bread of Our Early Years, Arco (New York, NY), 1957, new translation by Lelia Vennewitz published as The Bread of Those Early Years, McGraw (New York, NY), 1976.
So ward Abend und Morgen: Erzaehlungen (stories), Verlag der Arche (Zurich, Switzerland), 1955.
Unberechenbare Gaeste: Heitere Erzaehlungen (stories), Verlag der Arche, 1956.
Abenteuer eines Brotbeutels, und andere Geschichten (stories), edited by Richard Plant, Norton (New York, NY), 1957.
Im Tal der donnernden Hufe: Erzaehlung (also see below; novella), Insel-Verlag (Wiesbaden), 1957.
Doktor Murkes gesammeltes Schweigen, und andere Satiren (also see below; satires; includes Doktor Murkes gesammeltes Schweigen and Der Wegwer-fer), Kiepenheuer & Witsch (Cologne, Germany), 1958, reprinted, 1977.
Erzaehlungen (contains Der Zug war puenktlich and Wanderer, kommst du nach Spa), F. Middelhauve, 1958.
Billard um halbzehn (also see below; novel), Kiepenheuer & Witsch (Cologne, Germany), 1959, translation by Patrick Bowles published as Billiards at Half-Past Nine, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1961, McGraw (New York, NY), 1962, new translation by Lelia Vennewitz, Avon, 1975.
Der Bahnhof von Zimpren: Erzaehlungen (stories), Peter List (Munich, Germany), 1959.
Die Waage der Baleks, und andere Erzaehlungen (stories), Union Verlag (Berlin, Germany), 1959.
Der Mann mit den Messern: Erzaehlungen; mit einem autobiographischen Nachwort (stories with an autobiographical epilogue), Reclam (Stuttgart, Germany), 1959, reprinted, 1972.
Nicht nur zur Weihnachtszeit [and] Der Mann mit den Messern, edited by Dorothea Berger, American Book Company, 1959.
Als der Krieg ausbrach; als der Krieg zu Ende war (also see below), Insel, 1962, published as Als der Krieg ausbrach: Erzaehlungen, Deutscher Taschen-buch (Munich, Germany), 1966.
Ansichten eines Clowns (also see below; novel), Kiepenheuer & Witsch (Cologne, Germany), 1963, translation by Lelia Vennewitz published as The Clown, McGraw (New York, NY), 1965.
Heinrich Böll, 1947 bis 1951: Der Zug war puenktlich, Wo Warst du, Adam?, und sechsundzwanzig Erzaehlungen (also see below) F. Middlehauve, 1963.
Doktor Murkes gesammeltes Schweigen, and Other Stories, edited by Gertrude Seidmann, introduction by H.M. Waidson, Harrap, 1963.
Entfernung von der Truppe (also see below; novella), Kiepenheuer & Witsch (Cologne, Germany), 1964.
Fuenf Erzaehlungen (also see below; stories), De Roos, 1964.
Absent without Leave: Two Novellas (translations by Lelia Vennewitz of Entfernung von der Truppe and Als der Krieg ausbrach; als der Krieg zu Ende war under the titles Absent without Leave and Enter and Exit), McGraw (New York, NY), 1965.
Ende einer Dienstfahrt (also see below; novel), Kiepenheuer & Witsch (Cologne, Germany), 1966, translation by Lelia Vennewitz published as The End of a Mission, McGraw (New York, NY), 1967.
Eighteen Stories (translations by Lelia Vennewitz; contains translation of "Im Tal der donnernden Hufe: Erzaehlung" published as "In the Valley of the Thundering Hooves," of "Doktor Murkes gesammeltes Schweigen" published as "Murke's Collected Silences," and of "Der Wegwerfer" published as "The Thrower Away"), McGraw (New York, NY), 1966.
Absent without Leave, and Other Stories, translated by Lelia Vennewitz, Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1967.
Und sagte kein einziges Wort [and] Haus ohne Hueter [and] Das Brot der fruehen Jahre, Kiepenheuer & Witsch (Cologne, Germany), 1969.
Children Are Civilians Too (story translations by Lelia Vennewitz; contains translation of Wanderer, kommst du nach Spa, which includes "Damals in Odessa" published as "That Time We Were in Odessa," and selected stories from Heinrich Böll, 1947 bis 1951), McGraw (New York, NY), 1970.
Adam, and, The Train: Two Novels (translation by Lelia Vennewitz of Wo warst du, Adam? and Der Zug war puenktlich), McGraw (New York, NY), 1970.
Gruppenbild mit Dame (novel), Kiepenheuer & Witsch (Cologne, Germany), 1971, translation by Lelia Vennewitz published as Group Portrait with Lady, McGraw (New York, NY), 1973.
Die Essenholer, und andere Erzaehlungen (stories), Hirschgraben-Verlag (Frankfurt), 1971.
Fuenf Erzaehlungen (stories), Hyperion-Verlag (Freiburg), 1971.
Billard um halbzehn [and] Ansichten eines Clowns [and] Ende einer Dienstfahrt, Kiepenheuer & Witsch (Cologne, Germany), 1971.
Erzaehlungen, 1950–1970 (stories), Kiepenheuer & Witsch (Cologne, Germany), 1972.
Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum; oder, wie Gewalt enstehen und wohin sie fuehren kann (novel with epilogue), Kiepenheuer & Witsch (Cologne, Germany), 1974, translation by Lelia Vennewitz published as The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum: How Violence Develops and Where It Can Lead, McGraw (New York, NY), 1975, reprinted as The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum, Transaction Publishers (New Brunswick, NJ), 2000.
Mein trauriges Gesicht: Humoresken und Satiren, Phillip Reclam (Leipzig, Germany), 1974, 2nd edition, 1979.
Berichte zur Gesinnungslage der Nation (satire), Kiepenheuer & Witsch (Cologne, Germany), 1975.
Fuersorgliche Belagerung (novel), Kiepenheuer & Witsch (Cologne, Germany), 1979, translation by Lelia Vennewitz published as The Safety Net, Knopf (New York, NY), 1982.
Du faehrst zu oft nach Heidelberg (stories), Lamuv (Bornheim-Merten), 1979, published as Du faehrst zu oft nach Heidelberg und andere Erzaehlungen, Deutscher Taschenbuch (Munich, Germany), 1982.
Gesammelte Erzaehlungen (stories), Kiepenheuer & Witsch (Cologne, Germany), 1981.
Das Vermaechtnis (novel originally written in 1948), Lamuv (Gottingen, Germany), 1982, translation by Lelia Vennewitz published as A Soldier's Legacy, Knopf (New York, NY), 1985.
Die Verwundung und andere fruehe Erzaehlungen (stories from 1948–1952), Lamuv (Gottingen, Germany), 1983, translation by Lelia Vennewitz published as The Casualty, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1986.
Der Angriff: Erzaehlungen, 1947–1949 (stories), Kiepenheuer & Witsch (Cologne, Germany), 1983.
Die schwarzen Schafe: Erzaehlungen, 1950–1952 (stories), Kiepenheuer & Witsch (Cologne, Germany), 1983.
Veraenderungen in Staech: Erzaehlungen, 1962–1980 (stories), Kiepenheuer & Witsch (Cologne, Germany), 1984.
Frauen vor Flusslandschaft: Roman in Dialogen und Selbstgespraechen (novel), Kiepenheuer & Witsch (Cologne, Germany), 1985, translation by David McLintock published as Women in a River Landscape: A Novel in Dialogues and Soliloquies, Knopf (New York, NY), 1989.
The Stories of Heinrich Böll, translated by Lelia Venne-witz, Random House (New York, NY), 1986.
Der Engel Schwieg: Roman, Kiepenheuer & Witsch (Cologne, Germany), 1992, English translation by Breon Mitchell published as The Silent Angel, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1994.
The Mad Dog: Stories, translated by Breon Mitchell, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1997.
Die Spurlosen (also see below; radio play), Hans Bredow-Institut (Hamburg, Germany), 1957.
Bilanz [and] Klopfzeichen: Zwei Hoerspiele (also see below; radio plays; Bilanz first produced, 1957; translation of Klopfzeichen produced as The Knocking, British Broadcasting Corp., September, 1967), Reclam, 1961.
Ein Schluck Erde (stage play), Kiepenheuer & Witsch (Cologne, Germany), 1962.
Zum Tee bei Dr. Borsig: Hoerspiele (radio plays), Deutscher Taschenbuch (Munich, Germany), 1964.
Die Spurlosen: Drei Hoerspiele (radio plays), Insel-Verlag (Leipzig, Germany), 1966.
Vier Hoerspiele (radio plays), edited by G.P. Sonnex, Methuen, 1966.
Hausfriedensbruch: Hoerspiel [and] Aussatz: Schaus-piel (radio play and theatre play, respectively; Aussatz first produced at Aachen's City Theatre, October 17, 1970), Kiepenheuer & Witsch (Cologne, Germany), 1969.
(With Dorothee Soelle and Lucas Mariz Boehmer) Politische Meditationen zu Glueck und Vergeblichkeit (television plays), Luchterhand (Darmstadt, Germany), 1973.
Ein Tag wie sonst: Hoerspiele (radio plays), Deutscher Taschenbuch (Munich, Germany), 1980.
Irisches Tagebuch, Kiepenheuer & Witsch (Cologne, Germany), 1957, reprinted, 1972, translation by Lelia Vennewitz published as Irish Journal, McGraw (New York, NY), 1967, reprinted, Marlboro Press (Evanston, IL), 1998.
Brief an einen jungen Katholiken, Kiepenheuer & Witsch (Cologne, Germany), 1961.
Frankfurter Vorlesungen (lectures), Kiepenheuer & Witsch (Cologne, Germany), 1966.
Hierzulande: Aufsaetze (essays), Deutscher Taschen-buch (Munich, Germany), 1967.
Aufsaetze, Kritiken, Reden (essays, reviews, and speeches), Kiepenheuer & Witsch (Cologne, Germany), 1967.
Neue politische und literarische Schriften (also see below; essays on politics and literature), Kiepenheuer & Witsch (Cologne, Germany), 1973.
Schwierigkeiten mit der Bruederlichkeit: Politische Schriften (selections from Neue politische und literarische Schriften), Deutscher Taschenbuch (Munich, Germany), 1976.
Einmischung erwuenscht (selection of essays and speeches published 1971–1976), Kiepenheuer & Witsch (Cologne, Germany), 1977.
Missing Persons and Other Essays (selected essays, reviews, and speeches from 1952–1976), translated by Lelia Vennewitz, McGraw (New York, NY), 1977.
Spuren der Zeitgenossenschaft: Literarische Schriften (selection of literary essays and speeches from 1971–1976), Deutscher Taschenbuch (Munich, Germany), 1980.
Gefahren von falschen Bruedern: Politische Schriften (selection of political essays and speeches from 1971–1976), Deutscher Taschenbuch (Munich, Germany), 1980.
Was soll aus dem Jungen bloss werden? Oder Irgendwas mit Buechern (autobiography), Lamuv (Gottingen, Germany), 1981, translation by Lelia Vennewitz published as What's to Become of the Boy? Or Something to Do with Books, Knopf (New York, NY), 1984, published with notes and introduction by J.H. Reid, Manchester University (New York, NY), 1991.
Vermintes Gelaende: Essayistische Schriften 1977–1981 (essays), Kiepenheuer & Witsch (Cologne, Germany), 1982.
Bild, Bonn, Boenisch (political analysis), Lamuv (Gottingen, Germany), 1984.
"HEINRICH BÖLL WERKE" SERIES; OMNIBUS EDITIONS
Heinrich Böll Werke: Romane und Erzaehlungen 1947–1977 (contains all novels, novellas, and stories from 1947–1977), five volumes, edited by Bernd Balzer, Kiepenheuer & Witsch (Cologne, Germany), 1977.
Heinrich Böll Werke: Essayistische Schriften und Reden (contains all essays, reviews, and speeches through 1978), three volumes, edited by Bernd Balzer, Kiepenheuer & Witsch (Cologne, Germany), 1979.
Heinrich Böll Werke: Interviews (contains all interviews and conversations through 1978), edited by Bernd Balzer, Kiepenheuer & Witsch (Cologne, Germany), 1979.
Heinrich Böll Werke: Hoerspiele, Theaterstuecke, Drehbuecher, Gedichte (contains all plays for radio, theater, and film through 1978, and poems through 1972), edited by Bernd Balzer, Kiepenheuer & Witsch (Cologne, Germany), 1979.
Aus unseren Tagen, edited by Gisela Stein, Holt (New York, NY), 1960.
Erzaehlungen, Hoerspiele, Aufsaetze (short stories, radio plays, and essays), Kiepenheuer & Witsch (Cologne, Germany), 1961.
(With others) Der Rat der Welt-Unweisen, S. Mohn (Guetersloh), 1965.
(Contributor) Albrecht Beckel, Mensch, Gesellschaft, Kirche bei Heinrich Böll (contains "Interview mit mir selbst"), Verlag A. Fromm (Osnabruech, Germany), 1966.
Die Spurlosen, by Heinrich Böll [and] Philemon und Baukis, by Leopold Ahlsen, Odyssey Press, 1967.
Gespraech mit dem Zauberer (conversation with Alexander Adrion), Olten, 1968.
Mein trauriges Gesicht: Erzaehlungen und Aufsaetze (stories and essays), Verlag Progress (Moscow, Russia), 1968.
Geschichten aus zwoelf Jahren, Suhrkamp, 1969.
Böll fuer Zeitgenossen: Ein kulturgeschichtliches Lesebuch, edited by Ralph Ley, Harper (New York, NY), 1970.
Edition Text [und] Kritik (conversation with Heinz Ludwig Arnold), Richard Boorberg (Munich, Germany), 1971.
Gedichte (poetry), Literarisches Colloquium (Berlin, Germany), 1972.
Heinrich Böll: The Novel Prizewinner Reflects on His Career (sound recording; interview by Edwin Newman), Center for Cassette Studies (North Hollywood, CA), c. 1974.
Drei Tage im Maerz (conversations with Christian Linder), Kiepenheuer & Witsch (Cologne, Germany), 1975.
Der Lorbeer ist immer noch bitter: Literarische Schriflen, Deutscher Taschenbuch (Munich, Germany), 1976.
(With others) Die Erschiessung des Georg von Rauch, Wagenbuch (Berlin, Germany), 1976.
Querschnitte: Aus Interviews, Aufsaetzen und Reden, edited by Viktor Böll and Renate Matthaei, Kiepenheuer & Witsch (Cologne, Germany), 1977.
(Contributor) J. Davis, P. Broughton, and M. Wood, editors, Literature, Fiction, Poetry, Drama (contains translation by Denver Lindley of Nicht nur zur Weihnachtszeit published as Christmas Every Day), Scott Foresman, 1977.
Mein Lesebuch, Fischer-Taschenbuch (Frankfurt), 1978.
(Editor, with Freimut Duve and Klaus Staeck) Briefe zur Verteidigung der Republik (letters), Rowohlt (Reinbek bei Hamburg, Germany), 1977.
(Editor, with Freimut Duve and Klaus Staeck) Briefe zur Verteidigung der burgerlichen Freiheit (letters, continuation of Briefe zur Verteidigung der Republik), Rowohlt (Reinbek bei Hamburg, Germany), 1978.
Einmischung erwunscht: Schriften zur zeit (selected works), Kiepenheuer & Witsch (Cologne, Germany), 1977.
Eine deutsche Erinnerung (translation from the French by Annette Lallenmand of interview with Rene Wintzen), Kiepenheuer & Witsch (Cologne, Germany), 1979.
(Editor, with Freimut Duve and Klaus Staeck) Kampfen fur die Sanfte Republik: Ausblick auf die achtziger jahre, Rowohlt (Reinbek bei Hamburg, Germany), 1980.
(Editor, with Freimut Duve and Klaus Staeck) Zuviel Pazifismus?, Rowohlt (Reinbek bei Hamburg, Germany), 1981.
Warum haben wir aufeinander geschossen? (conversation with Lew Kopelew), Lamuv (Gottingen, Germany), 1981.
Gedichte mit Collagen von Klaus Staeck (poetry), Lamuv (Gottingen, Germany), 1975, revised edition with poems through 1980, Deutscher Taschenbuch (Munich, Germany), 1981.
Antikommunismus in Ost und West (conversations with Kopelew and Heinrich Vormeg), Bund-Verlag (Cologne, Germany), 1982.
Ueber Phantasie: Siegfried Lenz, Gespraeche mit Heinrich Böll, Guenter Grass, Walter Kempowski, Pavel Kohout (interview), Hoffmann & Campe, 1982.
Das Heinrich Böll Lesebuch, edited by Viktor Böll, Deutscher Taschenbuch (Munich, Germany), 1982.
(Editor, with Freimut Duve and Klaus Staeck) Verantwortlich fur Polen, Rowohlt (Reinbek bei Hamburg, Germany), 1982.
Ein-und Zusprueche: Schriften, Reden und Prosa 1981–1983 (essays, speeches, and prose), Kiepenheuer & Witsch (Cologne, Germany), 1984.
(Editor) Niemandsland, Lamuv (Bornheim-Merten, Germany), 1985.
Weil die Stadt so fremd geworden ist (conversation with Vormweg), Lamuv (Gottingen, Germany), 1985.
Briefe aus dem Rheinland: Schriften und Reden, 1960–1963 (letters), Deutscher Taschenbuch (Munich, Germany), 1985.
Die Faehigkeit zu trauern: Schriften und Reden, 1983–85, Lamuv (Gottingen, Germany), 1986.
Die Hoffnung is wie ein wildes Tier: der Briefwechsel zwischen Heinrich Böll und Ernst-Adolf Kunz, 1945–1953, edited by Herbert Hoven, Kiepenheuer & Witsch (Cologne, Germany), 1994.
Der Blass Hund: Erzahlungen, Kiepenheuer & Witsch (Cologne, Germany), 1995.
(Contributor) Thilo Koch, editor, Portrats zur deutsch-judischen Geistesgeschichte, DuMont (Cologne, Germany), 1997.
Jochen Schubert, editor, Briefe aus dem Krieg, 1939–1945 (letters), Kiepenheuer & Witsch (Cologne, Germany), 2001.
Also author of collected work, titled Novellen; Erzaehlungen; Heiter-satirische Prosa; Irisches Tagebuch, Aufsaetze, Buchclub Ex Libris. Also author of text for photography books, including several by Hargeshiemer. Also editor of several books. Contributor to other books, including anthologies. Also translator into German, with wife Annemarie Böll, of novels, stories, and plays, including works by J.D. Salinger, Bernard Malamud, George Bernard Shaw, and O. Henry.
ADAPTATIONS: The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum was adapted as a film and released by New World Pictures in 1975.
SIDELIGHTS: When German writer Heinrich Böll died on July 16, 1985, the world press frequently repeated the summation that he represented the conscience of his nation. This definition of Böll as a moralist was not a new formulation; it had originated, in fact, with literary critics who derided him as nothing more than a moral trumpeter. But even as the expression took on more positive meaning, Böll particularly disliked the epithet because this purely ethical assessment of his work, he thought, hindered appreciation of his art. Furthermore, Böll believed that a nation whose conscience was found primarily in its writers instead of in its politicians, its religious leaders, or its people was already a lost land.
Nonetheless, since the end of World War II when Böll's writings first began to appear, critics and ordinary readers alike had sensed in his language a powerful moral imperative. Whatever the genre—novel, story, satire, play, poem, or essay—the dominant force of the work was always the author's Christian ethics. Böll became one of the most important literary phenomena of the postwar era because his writings, regardless of their subject matter, clearly revealed where he stood as author. He was against war, militarism, and all hypocrisy in politics, religion, and human relations. He excoriated the opportunism of Nazis who became overnight democrats after 1945, and he refused to let Germans forget their recent past. He railed against the Catholic church, of which he was a member, for its cooperation in German rearmament and its role in the restoration of German capitalism. He pointed out repeatedly in the 1950s and 1960s the dangers of the Cold War. In the 1960s and 1970s, he supported Willy Brandt's Ostpolitik (a program to come to terms with West Germany's Communist neighbors); Böll campaigned for Brandt in the 1972 election—as did other writers like Guenter Grass and Siegfried Lenz. In the 1980s, his practical idealism led him to support the newly formed Green party, a pro-environmental, anti-nuclear group critical of capi-talist policies. He was consistently active in the peace movement throughout the postwar era and in the 1980s demonstrated against the deployment of Pershing II's and cruise missiles on German soil.
The Eastern bloc praised Böll for his anti-militarism and his anti-fascism and lauded him as a model proletarian writer. In all the Eastern European countries he was read and admired. He was a best-selling author in East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and especially in the Soviet Union, where sales of his books totaled roughly three million copies during his lifetime. In the West, Böll's death was reported on the first page of most major newspapers. The New York Times quoted the words of his Nobel Prize citation, praising him for his contribution "to the renewal of German literature." In France, Liberation gave three full pages to Böll's death, and Le Monde, comparing him to Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre, praised his morality as an artist, his respect for language, and his responsibility as a writer.
Christian Linder argues in his Boersenblatt article that to understand Böll one must understand his youth. Born in the middle of World War I, Böll claimed his earliest memory was of being held in his mother's arms and watching out the family's apartment window while Hindenburg's defeated army marched through Cologne in 1919. By 1923 the inflation caused by Germany's defeat had ravaged the German population worse than the war had done. Böll remembered his father, a master furniture maker, going to the bank to get money in a cart to pay the employees in the family workshop. The money had to be spent immediately because it would be without purchasing power the next day. Böll never forgot the misery brought to his family, friends, and neighbors by the inflation of the 1920s. The stock market crash of 1929 brought the depression and the unemployment of the 1930s, which caused even more suffering. The economic uncertainties of that period also helped fire the flames of hatred in the recently formed National Socialist Party, and Böll witnessed the first Nazi marches through the streets of Cologne and saw how Nazi terror made the once peaceful streets unsafe for ordinary citizens.
Böll's family, like everyone else he knew, lost what financial security they had and with it their faith in an economic-political system that had failed twice in a decade. The fear of social turmoil became part of the psyche of every German. Economic insecurity, the concern for the next meal and a place to stay became the daily worry of a generation. To survive these times when hard work and the occupational skills of Böll's father were not enough, the Bölls relied on family solidarity, mutual help, and religious faith for survival.
Although the setting for Böll's stories became Germany after World War II, the formative experiences of these earlier times essentially determined his oeuvre. The security of love, the values of food and drink, the luxury of a cigarette (things often taken for granted in an affluent world, especially in prosperous, modern West Germany) pervade his work. Never far from the surface of Böll's stories is his distrust of prosperity because he knew that wealth could disappear over night and that it was often the enemy of familial cohesiveness and the foe of social unity when it began to divide people into haves and have-nots.
In 1937, when Böll completed his secondary education, he went to Bonn to begin an apprenticeship to a book dealer. But his training was interrupted during the winter of 1938–1939 by induction into the labor service. After completion of this semimilitary obligation, he enrolled briefly as a student at the University of Cologne where he intended to study philology. But before he could really call himself a student, three months before the Second World War started, he was drafted into the army. In the course of the next six years, he served as an infantryman on the western front in France and on the eastern front in Russia and in other Eastern European countries as the German army retreated before the Russian forces. During these six years, Böll was wounded four times and reached the rank of corporal. Although it was customary for soldiers with his education to be officers, his hatred of the war and army life prevented him from cooperating with the military. At the risk of court martial and summary execution, he frequently forged papers to see his family or, after his marriage to Annemarie Cech in 1942, to visit his wife in the Rhineland. In April of 1945, Böll was taken prisoner by American troops and interred in Allied POW camps until September of 1945. After his release, he immediately returned to Cologne, which lay eighty percent in ruins, to begin his life as a writer. Having chosen his vocation at the age of seventeen, he had written novels and poems before the war; some of these early works remain in the Böll Archive in Cologne.
The conditions for Böll, as for many Germans, when he returned home were reminiscent of the struggles for food and shelter after World War I; now, however, the problems included not only earning money for rent but finding an apartment still standing, not only buying food but finding food at all, not only paying for heat but finding fuel of any kind. In these first years after the war, Böll's wife earned most of the family income as a teacher of English while he took only random jobs; even his reenrollment in the university was merely a strategy to obtain a legal ration card without employment so that he could dedicate the majority of his time to writing.
In these early years, Böll, like other postwar German writers, had to struggle with finding a new German literary language. Under the Nazis, German had become polluted by fascist ideology, and the German literary tradition that had served Böll's older contemporaries belonging to the generation of Thomas Mann no longer seemed valid in a post-Auschwitz age. Böll was fortunate in that he found his own style early, one appropriate for his ideas and suitable to the content of his stories. That style can be described as a kind of Hemingwayesque minimalism—simple words in simple sentences—conveying a plainness appropriate to the Germany of 1945, a time when the expression of truth, to be believable again, had to possess the certainty and simplicity of a mathematical statement, like two plus two equals four. The opening lines of any of the stories written before 1950 illustrate the style. "Damals in Odessa" ("That Time We Were in Odessa") starts with seven words: "In Odessa it was very cold then." The story concludes: "It was cold in Odessa, the weather was beautifully clear, and we boarded the plane; and as it rose, we knew suddenly that we would never return, never." Between the terse opening sentence and the final lines, the story tells of soldiers eating and drinking to forget their fears before going to die. In the history of German literature, Böll's sober language has the place accorded a Shaker chair in the history of American furniture.
In 1947 these first stories began to appear in various periodicals. They were collected in 1950 as Wanderer, kommst du nach Spa (Traveller, If You Come to Spa). In 1983 twenty-two more of these early stories were discovered in the Böll Archive in Cologne and published in the collection Die Verwundung und andere fruehe Erzaehlungen (The Casualty). Of these early stories the twenty-five in Traveller, If You Come to Spa can be found in Children Are Civilians Too, while those in Die Verwundung were later made available in English. The subject matter of these works is the war and the return of soldiers to a homeland morally impoverished and physically destroyed. Containing none of the heroism and gallantry of popular war literature written during the Weimar Republic, Böll's earliest narratives feature men who die without honor for an inhuman cause. Despite the stark realism of war, Böll did not dwell on battle scenes; he more often depicted the boredom of military life and fear of death. In these tales the only haven from despair is love, discovered in momentary encounters between soldiers and women on the periphery of the war.
Two novellas, Der Zug war puenktlich (The Train Was on Time) and Das Vermaechtnis (A Soldier's Legacy), and the episodic novel, Wo warst du, Adam? (And Where Were You, Adam?), represent Böll's longer treatment of the war. While they differ from one another in structure, they, like the shorter works, share a fatalism that death is bigger than life and proclaim a Christian optimism that heavenly consolation is greater than suffering. Thus the war narratives acknowledge that God is still in his heaven, although all is not right with the world.
Böll's epigraph for And Where Were You, Adam? (which he took from Antoine de Saint-Exupery's Flight to Arras) can stand as a motto for all his war stories from this period: "When I was younger, I took part in real adventures: establishing postal air routes across the Sahara and South America. But war is no true adventure; it is only a substitute for adventure. War is a disease just like typhus." In an essay collected in The Second World War in Fiction, Alan Bance claims that this apolitical perspective on the war was typical of German literature in the 1940s and 1950s. He even sees a kind of "realism" in this political vagueness because, as he says, "war is not conducive to clear thinking." In Böll's case the unanalytic response to the war (seeing international conflict as a natural illness) was compounded by his feeling of being a lucky survivor, for only one of four German men in his age group returned from battle. His sense of destiny forced Böll to deal subjectively rather than objectively with the suffering of the Hitler years.
This narrow perspective manifests itself in Böll's simplistic division of characters into two groups: victims and executioners, with the victims often being the Germans themselves. A dichotomous view of World War II is understandable and even accurate for someone who was himself an anti-fascist and a sufferer of twelve years of oppression. Still, the result of the dichotomy is that the war stories cannot reveal truly what the war was about because the limited categories of suffering innocents and brutal henchmen are too unrefined to do the job. This kind of dualism, as Walker Sokel calls it in his In Sachen Böll essay, is characteristic of Böll's work in this period but disappears from the later stories as they become more sophisticated in their characteriza-tions. Guenter Wirth's indictment, in Heinrich Böll, of the early war stories as "timeless irrationalism" is to the point because certainly war is not like typhus or any other sickness that has biological causes. War is not nature's making; it is made by people who have political and economic interests.
In the stories treating conditions following the war, satire became Böll's main weapon in his chastisement of Germany. Certain of these works, such as Nicht nur zur Weihnachtszeit (Christmas Every Day), "Doktor Murkes gesammeltes Schweigen" ("Murke's Collected Silences"), and "Der Wegwerfer" ("The Thrower Away"), have become classics of postwar German literature. A humorous, bizarre fantasy characterizes these satires of developing West German society. In Christmas Every Day a tyrannical old aunt demands daily holidays to avoid confronting the guilt of the Hitler years. In "Murke's Collected Silences" a Ph.D. in psychology, working for a radio station, tries to preserve his sanity by collecting on tape snips of dead air cut from cultural programs. In "The Thrower Away" a fanatical time-study expert makes a place for himself in the business world by systematically destroying junk mail, the surplus production of the advertising industry. Böll's success in this genre, the satirical short story, has led critics such as Erhard Friedrichsmeyer, James Henderson Reid, and Walter Jens to conclude that Böll's acutest artistic sense was his eye for satire. These stories have garnered high critical acclaim because they take to task the shortcomings of all Western democracies even though they are grounded in West German economic and political reality. One recognizes, too, that Böll's satire hits the mark equally as well in the Eastern bloc, where culture is an industry, production often leads to waste, and people avoid confronting the unpleasant past.
Böll's sense of satire was also the high point of many of his novels and raises them in some cases to great literature and in others saves them from the doldrums. For example, in Ansichten eines Clowns (The Clown), the scene of the penniless clown pantomiming his blindness during the visit of his millionaire industrialist father contains the essence of the novel's political content, and in Entfernung von der Truppe ("Absent without Leave"), the narrator's account of his latrine duty in World War II reveals his total alienation from society. In Ende einer Dienstfahrt (End of a Mission) Böll's choice of a pedantic, objective, understated tone confers on the novel the main feature of its readability; the dry reporting of the events of a trial of a father and son accused of burning an army jeep discloses how the courts and the press keep political protest under control. And Böll's last novel, Frauen vor Flusslandschaft: Roman in Dialogen und Selbstgespraechen, published just after his death in 1985, reaches its high point in a long interior monologue by a disenchanted intellectual whose job requires him to write speeches for a corrupt and stupid Christian Democratic minister. Here the monologue summarizes the novel's political intent by revealing the politician's incompetence and moral emptiness as well as the intellectual's sellout of his ideals.
Beginning with the novel Und sagte kein einziges Wort (And Never Said a Word), Böll developed a new method for dealing with contemporary reality. He began choosing themes, drawing characters, and selecting events tied directly to current developments in Germany. If you read chronologically, the books treat every significant phase in West German history from the nation's establishment in 1949 to the mid-1980s, including the period of hunger after the war, the restoration of capitalism, the process of rearmament, the achievement of prosperity, the terrorist responses to social and political inequities produced by the economic recovery, and the soul-searching of the 1980s. Treating all these aspects of West German history not as isolated phenomena of the postwar era, but in light of the Hitler years and German history since the turn of the century, Böll's canon not only helped to establish West German literature after the war but also provides a political and social understanding of German development in this century.
In Böll's work, ordinary people become objects of social forces, often victims of the decisions of others. In Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum; oder, wie Gewahlt enstehen und wohin sie fuehren kann (The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum: How Violence Develops and Where It Can Lead), which takes place during four days of Carnival in Cologne, Böll showed how an unpolitical, law-abiding young woman could be turned into a vengeful murderer by society's toleration of social injustice. The protagonist, Katharina, becomes a "dangerous" person because she finds herself a victim of character assassination perpetrated by those institutions most responsible for a just democratic society: the press, the police, the law.
The philosophical position implied in Böll's assumption that a person is a product of social forces may be called Marxist, except that it is thoroughly religious, lacks Marxist optimism, and never suggests social change through political organization. Social solutions are not found in Böll's work. Implied, however, is the belief that if people in power practiced more compassion in the execution of their offices, society would be more just. In general, a certain sadness about the human condition prevails in Böll's work, even though a mild optimism flourishes within narrow limits. His protagonists always make important decisions regarding their own lives. They are not completely passive; they do not yield to or accept injustice. Their decisions affirm their individual human dignity and assert a militant humanism. Although their actions may not effect significant social change but merely permit them to live with their consciences, their decisiveness symbolically opposes an unjust world and thereby suggests that social awareness and conscious opposition are the way to a better future. The story of Katharina Blum's vengeance neither recommends nor condones murder, but merely illustrates the simple truth that injustice, when tolerated, is often the cause of social violence.
When the Swedish Academy awarded Böll the Nobel Prize in 1972, it singled out the novel Gruppenbild mit Dame (Group Portrait with Lady) for special praise, calling that work the summation of Böll's oeuvre. Although the writer continued to publish novels, stories, poems, plays, and essays regularly after 1971, Group Portrait with Lady is still regarded as the work that most fully represents the whole of Böll's canon. The book recapitulates his major themes and provides their most masterful formulation.
Böll stated his intention for the novel in an Akzente interview with Dieter Wellershoff: "I tried to describe or to write the story of a German woman in her late forties who had taken upon herself the burden of history from 1922–1970." In this story of Leni Gruyten-Pfeiffer, her family, and friends, Böll challenged the norms of West German society with a model of radical socialism and religious humanism. The protagonist Leni synthesizes in her person seeming contradictions. Although she is a simple person, she confounds any attempt at simple explanation. She is a materialist who delights in the senses but also a mystic who penetrates the mystery of the Virgin Birth, an innocent in her heart and a tramp in the eyes of society, a communist by intuition and an embodiment of the fascist ideal of "the German girl." In her, her Russian lover Boris, and their son Lev, Böll created a holy family that proclaims an undogmatic Christian socialism as a gospel for modern times.
Around Leni are grouped more than 125 characters representing all classes of society and various nations: communists and capitalists, industrialists and proletarians, fascists and anti-fascists, Jews and Muslims, Turks and Germans, rich and poor, saints and sinners the whole spectrum of German society from 1922–1970. To hold the various levels of the story together and to keep Leni in the center of the novel, the work employs two narrative techniques. In the first half of the novel, an unnamed narrator scrupulously relates the events of Le-ni's life. This half of the book consists of the narrator's meticulous research on Leni and his comments on the accuracy and validity of his findings. Leni's story proceeds chronologically from her birth to March 2, 1945, the day in which a nine-hour Allied raid on Cologne effectively brought the war to an end for the people of that city. After this event, midway through the novel, the narrator relinquishes his role as narrator to assume a role as a member of Leni's circle of friends, and to become an actor in the events of the book. At this point various characters tell their life stories from the day of the terrible bombing to 1970. Since these people have contact with Leni their stories also reveal from various perspectives Leni's own life during this twenty-five year period. Again Böll found a structure that allowed him to come to terms with recent German history and postwar developments.
Group Portrait with Lady, is, in the minds of many critics, the summation of Böll's writing, because it crystal-izes the radical message that runs through all of his work since And Never Said a Word: Christianity and capitalism are incompatible with each other; their long standing marriage survives only because organized religion continually surrenders its humanistic values to the demands of economics and politics.
Some of Böll's works continued to be published for the first time in English after his death. For example, in 1994 the first novel Böll wrote, Der Engel Schwieg: Roman, was published for the first time in English as The Silent Angel. In fact, the novel was only published in Germany in 1992, forty years after it was originally rejected by German publishers. Donna Seaman, writing in Booklist, noted that few German readers would have wanted to read the book in the 1950s because it is so "staggering in its intensity and evocation of despair and shock" experienced by that country following World War II. The story focuses on Hans, a German soldier who struggles to survive following the war. Despite his homelessness, degradation, and delirium, he shows that he can still love. Seaman called the book's English publication "an occasion for renewing our appreciation for Böll's genius for setting scenes of tremendous emotional dimension and creating characters of great psychological vividness." A Publishers Weekly contributor noted, "All of Böll's mature themes are present in this lyrical, spare and somnambulistic tale."
A collection of ten short stories previously unavailable in English were published as The Mad Dog: Stories in 1997. Written between 1938 and 1949, the stories are also culled from segments of unfinished novels and other manuscripts by the author. Michael T. O'Pecko commented in Library Journal that "the stories cover territory familiar to readers of Böll's early works: the difficulty of maintaining one's moral integrity during war and its aftermath." In the story "Youth on Fire," readers are treated to perhaps Böll's earliest extant fiction work in a story about young people who face the personal and social evils rampant in 1936–1937 pre-war Germany. Despite their difficulties, the story's characters triumph personally in that they do not fall into despair, suicide, cynicism, or crime. A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that "These stories are rougher, less finished than Böll's previously published short fiction, but they are alive with raw emotion." Joseph Hynes, writing in Commonweal, noted: "I find fascinating these early traces of Böll's subsequent fullblown achievement; but the present tales and fragments are also a useful introduction to a major writer's blend of anger, love, and hope."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Böll, Heinrich, Wo warst du, Adam? (also see below; novel), F. Middlehauve, 1951, reprinted, Deutscher Taschenbuch (Munich, Germany), 1972, translation by Mervyn Savill published as Adam, Where Art Thou?, Criterion Books (New York, NY), 1955, new translation by Lelia Vennewitz published as And Where Were You, Adam?, Northwestern University Press (Evanston, IL), 1994.
Böll, Heinrich, Children Are Civilians Too (story translations by Lelia Vennewitz; contains translation of Wanderer, kommst du nach Spa, which includes "Damals in Odessa" published as "That Time We Were in Odessa," and selected stories from Heinrich Böll, 1947 bis 1951), McGraw (New York, NY), 1970.
Böll, Heinrich, Heinrich Böll, On His Death: Selected Obituaries and the Last Interview, translated by Patricia Crampton, Inter Nationes (Bonn, Germany), 1985.
Böll, Rene, Viktor Böll, Karl Heiner Busse, and Markus Schafer, editors, Heinrich Böll: Leben & Werk, Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung (Cologne, Germany), 1995.
Böll, Rene, Viktor Böll, Reinhold Neven DuMont, Klaus Staeck, and Robert C. Conard, Heinrich Böll, Twayne, 1981.
Böll, Viktor, editor, Böll und Koln, Emons (Cologne, Germany), 1990.
Friedrichsmeyer, Erhard, The Major Works of Heinrich Böll: A Critical Commentary, Monarch Press (New York, NY), 1974.
Hoven, Herbert, editor, Die Hoffnung is wie ein wildes Tier: der Briefwechsel zwischen Heinrich Böll und Ernst-Adolf Kunz, 1945–1953, Kiepenheuer & Witsch (Cologne, Germany), 1994.
Klein, Holger, John Flower, and Eric Homberger, editors, The Second World War in Fiction, Macmillan (London, England), 1984.
MacPherson, Enid, A Student's Guide to Böll, Heine-mann, 1972.
McHugh, John, editor and compiler, The Heinrich Böll Cottage on Achill Island, (published to mark the eightieth anniversary of Heinrich Böll's birth), Achill, 1998.
Rademacher, Gerhard, editor, Heinrich Böll: Auswahl-bibliographie zur Primar-und Sekundarliteratur, Bouvier (Bonn, Germany), 1989.
Reid, James Henderson, Heinrich Böll: Withdrawal and Re-Emergence, Wolff (London, England), 1973.
Schwartz, Wilhelm Johannes, Heinrich Böll, Teller of Tales: A Study of His Works and Characters, Ungar (New York, NY), 1969.
Booklist, June 1, 1994, Donna Seaman, review of The Silent Angel, p. 1770; August, 1997, Donna Seaman, review of The Mad Dog: Stories, p. 1875.
Commonweal, November 7, 1997, Joseph Hynes, review of The Mad Dog: Stories, p. 28.
Germanic Review, summer, 1978; summer, 1984.
German Life and Letters, July, 1959.
German Quarterly, March, 1960; Volume 45, 1972; Volume 50, 1977.
Library Journal, August, 1997, Michael T. O'Pecko, review of The Mad Dog: Stories, p. 137.
Modern Fiction Studies, autumn, 1975.
New York Review of Books, February 11, 1965; December 29, 1966; September 14, 1967; March 26, 1970; November 5, 1970; May 31, 1973; March 18, 1982.
Publishers Weekly, March 7, 1994, review of Irish Journal, p. 65; April 18, 1994, review of The Silent Angel, p. 44.
World Literature Today, summer, 1965; autumn, 1977; summer, 1979; spring, 1980; spring, 1985; spring, 1986.
Boston Globe, July 17, 1985.
Chicago Tribune, July 17, 1985.
Le Monde (international edition), July 18-24, 1985.
New York Times, July 17, 1985.
Times (London, England), July 17, 1985.
Toronto Star, July 17, 1985.
Washington Post, July 17, 1985.