Böll, Heinrich (21 December 1917 - 16 July 1985)
Heinrich Böll (21 December 1917 - 16 July 1985)
Reinhard K. Zachau
University of the South
This entry was expanded by Zachau from his Böll entry in DLB 69: Contemporary German Fiction Writers, First Series. See also the Böll entry in DLB Yearbook: 1985.
BOOKS: Der Zug war pünktlich: Erzählung (Opladen: Middelhauve, 1949); translated by Richard Graves as The Train Was on Time (London: Arco, 1956; New York: Criterion Books, 1956);
Wanderer kommst du nach Spa …: Erzählungen (Opladen: Middlehauve, 1950); translated by Mervyn Savill as Traveller, If You Come to Spa …(London: Arco, 1956);
Die schwarzen Schafe: Erzählung (Opladen: Middelhauve, 1951);
Wo warst du, Adam? Roman (Opladen: Middelhauve, 1951); translated by Savill as Adam, Where Art Thou? (New York: Criterion Books, 1955); translated by Leila Vennewitz as “And Where Were You, Adam?” in Adam and The Train: Two Novels (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1970);
Nicht nur zur Weihnachtszeit: Eine humoristische Erzählung (Frankfurt am Main: Frankfurter Verlagsanstalt, 1952); published with Der Mann mit den Messern, edited by Dorothea Berger (New York: American Book Co., 1959);
Und sagte kein einziges Wort: Roman (Cologne & Berlin: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1953); translated by Graves as Acquainted with the Night (New York: Holt, 1954); translated by Vennewitz as And Never Said a Word (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1978);
Haus ohne Hüter: Roman (Cologne & Berlin: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1954); translated by Savill as The Unguarded House (London: Arco, 1957); translation republished as Tomorrow and Yesterday (New York: Criterion Books, 1957);
Das Brot der frühen Jahre: Erzählung (Cologne & Berlin: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1955); translated by Savill as The Bread of Our Early Years (London: Arco, 1957); translated by Vennewitz as The Bread of Those Early Years (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1976);
So ward Abend und Morgen: Erzählungen (Zurich: Arche, 1955);
Unberechenbare Gäste: Heitere Erzählungen (Zurich: Arche, 1956);
Irisches Tagebuch (Cologne & Berlin: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1957); translated by Vennewitz as Irish Journal (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1967; London: Secker & Warburg, 1983);
Im Tal der donnernden Hufe: Erzählung (Wiesbaden: Insel, 1957); edited by James Alldridge (London: Heinemann Educational, 1970);
Abenteuer eines Brotbeutels, und andere Geschichten, edited by Richard Plant (New York: Norton, 1957);
Die Spurlosen: Hörspiel (Hamburg: Hans-Bredow-Institut, 1957); published with Leopold Ahlsen, Philemonund Baukis, edited by Anna Otten (New York: Odyssey, 1967);
Doktor Murkes gesammeltes Schweigen und andere Satiren (Cologne & Berlin: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1958); edited by Gertrud Seidmann (London: Harrap, 1963);
Der Wegwerfer: Erzählung (Alfeld-Gronau: Hannoversche Papierfabriken, 1958);
Im Ruhrgebiet, text by Böll, illustrations by Karl Hargesheimer (Frankfurt am Main: Büchergilde Gutenberg, 1958);
Die ungezählte Geliebte (Zollikofen: Privately printed, 1958);
Erzählungen (Opladen: Middelhauve, 1958)—includes Der Zug war pünktlich and Wanderer Kommst du nach Spa…;
Die Waage der Baleks und andere Erzählungen (Berlin: Union, 1959);
Billard um halb zehn: Roman (Cologne & Berlin: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1959); translated by Patrick Bowles as Billiards at Half-past Nine (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1961; New York: McGraw-Hill, 1962);
Der Mann mit den Messern: Erzählungen (Stuttgart: Reclam, 1959); published with Nicht nur zur Weihnachtszeit, edited by Berger (New York: American Book Co., 1959);
Der Bahnhof von Zimpren: Erzählungen (Munich: List, 1959);
Aus unseren Tagen, edited by Gisela Stein (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1960);
Menschen am Rhein, text by Böll, illustrations by Hargesheimer (Frankfurt am Main: Büchergilde Gutenberg, 1960);
Brief an einen jungen Katholiken (Cologne & Berlin: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1961);
Bilanz; Klopfzeichen; Zwei Hörspiek (Stuttgart: Reclam, 1961);
Erzählungen, Hörspiek, Aufsätze (Cologne & Berlin: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1961);
Als der Krieg ausbrach; Als der Krieg zu Ende war: Zwei Erzählungen (Frankfurt am Main: Insel, 1962); translated by Vennewitz as “Enter and Exit,” in Absent without Leave: Two Novellas (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1965); translation republished in Absent without Leave and Other Stories (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1967);
Ein Schluck Erde: Drama (Cologne & Berlin: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1962);
Assisi (Munich: Knorr & Hirth, 1962);
Ansichten eines Clowns: Roman (Cologne & Berlin: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1963); translated by Vennewitz as The Clown (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1965);
Hierzulande: Aufsätze (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch, 1963);
1947 bis 1951: Erzählungen (Cologne & Opladen: Middelhauve, 1963); selections translated by Vennewitz as Children Are Civilians, Too (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1970; London: Secker & Warburg, 1973);
Die Essenholer und andere Erzählungen, edited by Fritz Bachmann (Frankfurt am Main: Hirschgraben-Verlag, 1963);
Zum Tee bei Dr. Borsig: Hørspiele (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch, 1964);
Entfernung von der Truppe: Erzählung (Cologne & Berlin: Kiepenheuer k Witsch, 1964); translated by Vennewitz as “Absent without Leave,” in Absent without Leave: Two Novellas (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1965); translation republished in Absent without Leave and Other Stories (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1967);
Der Rat des Weltunweisen: Roman (Gütersloh: Mohn, 1965);
Frankfurter Vorksungen (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1966);
Ende einer Dknstfahrt: Erzählung (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1966); translated by Vennewitz as End of a Mission (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1967); translation republished as The End of a Mission (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1968);
Die Spurlosen: DreiHørspiele (Leipzig: Insel, 1966);
18 Stories, translated by Vennewitz (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1966);
Aufsätze, Kritiken, Reden (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1967);
Georg Büchners Gegenw’rtigkeit: Eine Rede (Berlin: Friede-nauer Presse, 1967);
Hausfrkdensbruch: Hb’rspiel; Aussatz: Schauspiel (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1969);
Leben im Zustand des Frevels: Ansprache zur Verleihung des Kölner Literaturpreises (Berlin: Berliner Hand-presse, 1969);
Geschichten aus zwo’lf Jahren (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1969);
Böll fur Zeitgenossen: Ein kulturgeschichtliches Lesebuch, edited by Ralph Ley (New York: Harper & Row, 1970);
Gruppenbild mit Dame: Roman (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1971); translated by Vennewitz as Group Portrait with Lady (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1973);
Erzählungen, 1950-1970 (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1972);
Gedkhte (Berlin: Literarisches Colloquium, 1972);
Versuch über dk Vernunft der Poesk: Nobelvorksung (Stockholm: Norstedt & Söner, 1973);
Neue politische und likrarische Schriften (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1973);
Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum oder wie Gewalt entstehen und wohin sie fuhren kann: Erza’hlung (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1974); translated by Vennewitz as The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum: How Violence Develops and Where It Can Lead (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1975);
Drei Tage im März: Ein Gespräch, by Böll and Christian Linder (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1975);
Berichte zur Gesinnungslage der Nation (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1975);
Gedichte: Mit Collagen von Klaus Staeck (Cologne: Labbe & Muta, 1975);
Wie kritisch darf engagierte Kunst sien? (Munich: Presseauss-chuß Demokratische Initiative, 1976);
Einmischung erwünscht: Schriften zur Zeit (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1977);
Missing Persons and Other Essays, translated by Vennewitz (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1977; London: Secker & Warburg, 1977);
Querschnitte: aus Interviews, Aufsätzen und Reden, edited by Viktor Böll and Renate Matthaei (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1977);
Werke: Romane und Erzählungen, 5 volumes, edited by Bernd Balzer (Cologne: Middelhauve/Kiepen-heuer & Witsch, 1977);
Werke: Essayistische Schriften und Reden, 3 volumes, edited by Balzer (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1977-1979);
Werke: Hörspiek, Theaterstücke, Drehbücher, Gedichte, edited by Balzer (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1978);
Werke: Interviews, edited by Balzer (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1978);
Mein Lesebuch (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer, 1978);
Eine deutsche Erinnerung: Interview mit René Wintien (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1979);
Du fährst zu oft nach Heidelberg und andere Erzählungen (Bornheim-Merten: Lamuv, 1979);
Fürsorgliche Belagerung: Roman (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1979); translated by Vennewitz as The Safety Net (Franklin Center, Pa.: Franklin Library, 1981; London: Secker & Warburg, 1982);
Ein Tag wie sonst: Hörspiele (Munich: Deutsch Taschen-buch, 1980);
Was soll aus dem Jungen bloß werden? Oder: Irgendwas mit Büchern (Bornheim-Merten: Lamuv, 1981); translated by Vennewitz as What’s to Become of the Boy? or, Something to Do With Books (New York: Knopf, 1984);
Warum haben wir aufeinander geschossen? by Böll and Lev Kopelev (Bornheim-Merten: Lamuv, 1981);
Der Autor ist immer noch versteckt, by Böll and Jürgen Wall-mann (Hauzenberg: Pongratz, 1981);
Vermintes Gelände: Essayistische Schriften 1977-1981 (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1982);
Verantwortlich für Polen? (Reinbek: Rowohlt, 1982);
Das Vermächtnis: Kurzroman (Bornheim-Merten: Lamuv, 1982); translated by Vennewitz as A Soldier’s legacy (New York: Knopf, 1985; London: Secker & Warburg, 1985);
Antikommunismus in Ost und West (Cologne: Bund-Verlag, 1982);
Die Verwundung und andere frühe Erzählungen (Bornheim-Merten: Lamuv, 1983); translated by Vennewitz as The Casualty (London: Chatto & Windus, 1986; New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1987);
Der Angriff’(Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1983);
Bild, Bonn, Boenisch (Bornheim-Merten: Lamuv, 1984);
Katholisch und rebellisch: Ein Wegweiser durch, die andere Kirche (Reinbek: Rowohlt, 1984);
Veränderungen in Staech: Erzählungen 1962-1980 (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1984);
Weil die Stadt so fremd geworden ist (Bornheim-Merten: Lamuv, 1985);
Heinrich Böll, on His Death (Bonn: Inter Nationes, 1985);
Frauen vor Flußlandschaft: Roman in Dialogen und Selbst-gesprächen (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1985); translated by David McLintock as Women in a River Landscape: A Novel in Dialogues and Soliloquies (New York: Knopf, 1988);
Die Juden von Drove (Berlin: Rütten & Loening, 1985);
Die Fähigkeit zu trauern. Reden und Schriften 1983-1985 (Bornheim-Merten: Lamuv, 1986);
The Stories of Heinrich Böll, translated by Vennewitz (New York: Knopf, 1986);
Feindbild und Frieden: Schriften und Reden, 1982-1983 (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch, 1987);
Rom auf den ersten Blick: Landschaften, Städte, Reisen (Bornheim-Merten: Lamuv, 1987);
Der Engel schwieg: Roman (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1992); translated by Breon Mitchell as The Silent Angel (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1994; London: Deutsch, 1994);
Der General stand auf einem Hügel: Erzählungen aus dem Krieg (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1995);
Der blasse Hund: Erzählungen (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1995); translated by Mitchell as The Mad Dog: Stories (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997);
Versuch über die Vernunft der Poesie, edited by Jochen Schubert (Berlin: Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, 1999);
Kreuz ohne liebe (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 2003).
Editions and Collections: 18 Stories, translated by Leila Vennewitz (Franklin Center, Pa.: Franklin Library, 1982);
Erzählungen, 1937-1983, 4 volumes, edited by Viktor Böll and Karl Heiner Busse (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1997);
Brief aus dem Krieg 1939-1945, 2 volumes, edited by Jochen Schubert (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 2001).
TRANSLATIONS: Patrick White, Zur Ruhe kam der Baum des Menschen nie, translated by Böll and Annemarie Böll (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1957);
Bernard Malamud, Der Gehilfe, translated by Böll and Annemarie Böll (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1960);
John Millington Synge, Ein wahrer Held, translated by Böll and Annemarie Böll (Berlin: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1960);
J. D. Salinger, Der Fanger im Roggen (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1962);
Salinger, Franny und Zooey, translated by Böll and Annemarie Böll (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1963);
George Bernard Shaw, Caesar und Cleopatra, translated by Böll and Annemarie Böll (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1965).
When in the summer of 1972 Heinrich Böll received the news that he had been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, he responded with the surprised question “Was, ich, und nicht Günter Grass?” (What, I, and not Günter Grass?). This response summarizes Böll’s self-assessment of his place in West German postwar literature, sometimes referred to as “Grass-Böll literature,” and it reflects Böll’s competition with Grass, who is often regarded by critics as the better of the two. Böll’s sales figures, however, reveal a different view. With thirty-one million books in print, having been translated into forty-five languages, he was the most popular post-World War II German writer. His unpretentious form and style helped him to become a chronologist of the first forty years of the Federal Republic of Germany. When a poll was conducted in the 1970s to name the ten most influential people in West Germany, Böll was mentioned in fourth place, after the politicians Helmut Schmidt, Willy Brandt, and Franz Joseph Strauß, as the man who “represents our conscience.” Böll had become an important public figure in Germany—much against his will. The fascination he inspired both in Germany and abroad originated not only from his books but also from his personality. Many Germans believed that if they understood the essence of the man and what he stood for, they would be able to comprehend the political atmosphere of the Federal Republic better. Especially in the days of turmoil between 1969 and 1975, which to a large degree defined the “old” Federal Republic, where everybody followed political events with intense interest as a result of the dreadful recent political past, Böll helped shape that image, both with his books and with his public appearances.
Heinrich Theodor Böll was born in Cologne on 21 December 1917, the sixth child of Victor Böll and his second wife, Marie, neé Hermanns, during the worst famine year of World War I. Böll had two brothers and three sisters. His mother was an energetic, domineering woman from a long line of Catholic farmers and brewers. His father’s family, as he wrote in “Über mich selbst” (About Myself, included in Erzählungen, Hørspiele, Aufsätie, 1961), “kamen vor Jahrhunderten von den britischen Inseln, Katholiken, die der Staatsreligion Henrich VIII. die Emigration vorzogen” (came centuries ago from the British Isles, Catholics, who preferred emigration to the state religion of Henry VIII). Victor Böll had come to Cologne from Essen in 1896, at the age of twenty-six, to advance socially and, together with an associate, to start his own business as carpenter and wood sculptor; he deliberately chose the southern city of Cologne, with its many Gothic churches. Victor Böll was a sensitive, nervous man, an artist who liked to tell stories to his sons. He created the kind of sculptures that were needed in the churches of the second German empire, which he supported enthusiastically. However, during the war, Victor Böll’s enthusiasm for Kaiser Wilhelm II shifted to a cynical view of “der kaiserliche Narr” (the royal fool). Böll clearly inherited his anti-Prussian attitude from his father, who had always lived in the anti-Protestant Rhineland.
Böll’s first childhood memory was of the returning and defeated Hindenburg army. His early years were happy ones for Böll’s family, however. They had first lived in an apartment but soon acquired their own home in Cologne-Raderberg, Kreuznacher Straße 49. Some critics see Böll’s writings as an attempt to reconstruct the happiness of childhood experiences, lost in the modern technological world. Böll’s parents were liberal and understanding and never forced the children to join the Catholic Church, because of their own negative experiences in it. They also allowed Böll and his siblings to play with the socialists in their neighborhood, as he recalled in ’raderberg, Raderthal” (included in Werke: Essayistiche Schriften und Reden, volume 2, 1977): “sie wären nie auf den Gedanken gekommen, zu tun, was die Professoren, Prokuristen, Architekten, Bank-direktoren taten: die verboten ihren Kindern, mit den ‘Roten’ zu spielen” (they never thought to do what the professors, attorneys, architects, and bank directors did: forbid their children to play with the “Reds”). But this idyll was interrupted when Böll went to a Catholic elementary school in 1924 while most of his friends went to public school; Böll later attended the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gymnasium, which made him more aware of existing social distinctions. He could not understand why the “Reds” could not go with him.
In October 1930 Böll’s father lost his business as a result of the world financial crisis of 1929. The family had to sell the house and their possessions; they were never assured of being able to pay their monthly apartment rent. This experience brought Böll even closer to his parents: he realized “daß meine Eltern völlig hilflos waren gegenüber diesen Umständen” (how my parents were totally helpless in the face of these conditions). In the following years the Bölls had to move several times and were forced to rent out rooms of their apartments to stay ahead of the money collectors. The family was sliding out of the entbürgerlicht (middle class) but were not really establishing themselves in a lower class. These experiences led Böll to describe himself sometimes as proletarian but later to use the term kleinbürger-Ikh (lower middle class). The term, usually seen as negative, has a more positive connotation in his work, for example in his essay “Zur Verteidigung der Wasch-küchen” (1959, In Defense of The Wash-House, included in Erzählungen, Hörspiek, Aufsätze).
Soon everyone got involved in the advance of the Nazis. Young Böll was in bed with the flu when Adolf Hitler became chancellor in 1933, and he remembered his mother saying: “That means war.” During his last years at the gymnasium, Böll saw how the Nazis brought the unemployment caused by the 1929 depression under control: “wieder einige jahre später waren die Arbeitslosen untergebracht, sie wurden Polizisten, Soldaten, Henker, Rüstungsarbeiter—der Rest zog in die Konzentrationslager” (the unemployed were given work as policemen, soldiers, executioners, and armament workers—and the rest went to concentration camps). His parents supported secret meetings of the now-illegal Catholic Youth in their apartment. The school, however, tried to remain neutral. Böll’s main interest became literature: Leon Bloy, Georges Bernanos, Charles Dickens, Honoré de Balzac, and the German classic dramatists Heinrich von Kleist and Friedrich Hebbel later became his models. In Klaus Schröter’s 1982 biography, Böll’s brother recalls Böll’s withdrawal into reading to the point of neglecting his studies and having to repeat a grade.
After graduating from the gymnasium in 1937, Böll worked for a bookstore in Bonn, where he catalogued collections of old books for a salary of ten marks a month. The job brought him into his first contact with banned books such as the works of Sigmund Freud and Karl Marx. He soon quit the job, considered becoming a librarian, began writing, and worked as a tutor, but essentially could not decide what to do. Every activity in those days, Böll later said in an interview with René Wintzen (1979), was overshadowed by the prospect of the war that everyone knew was coming, perhaps as early as 1938, but definitely by 1939.
In order to be admitted to a university, Böll first had to complete the compulsory labor service to which all Abiturienten (high-school graduates) were called. This labor service was the first Nazi organization with which he was associated, since he had avoided the Hitler Youth. In the winter of 1938-1939 he was called to work in Hesse, where he dug irrigation ditches and worked in the forest. After completion of his service, he enrolled at the University of Cologne to study German and classical philology and literature. Shortly after matriculation, in early 1939, he was called into military service for an eight-week training course, and when the war broke out in September, he had to continue his service until the end of the war in 1945. After his training as an infantryman, he served in France, Poland, and then again in France, where his right hand was injured when the train on which he was traveling struck a mine. In 1942 Böll married his girlfriend, Annemarie Cech, with whom he exchanged at least one letter a day, but he wrote nothing else in those six years. He was not ready to describe the war.
Also in 1942 his parents’ apartment at Kreuznacher Straße 49 was destroyed in an air raid, and the family was evacuated to Ahrweiler, where his mother died during another air raid. The family was then evacuated to the rural Bergisches Land. Eventually, Böll was sent to the Eastern Front in the Crimea, where he was wounded in the leg. Shortly afterward, he was struck in the head by a shell fragment and was sent to a hospital in Odessa. The front, however, was rapidly approaching that city. Quickly released from the hospital, Böll was transferred to Jassy in Rumania, where eight days later he was seriously wounded in the back. He managed to stay in a hospital in Hungary until August 1944. By this time, he was trying to evade combat by faking illnesses and later by desertion. But in the confusion of the final war days, he was able to join the army again so that he could be taken prisoner by the Americans and thus could obtain a proper release from the army. He was captured on 9 April 1945 and was imprisoned in France and Belgium until the fall.
In November 1945 Böll, his wife, and other members of the family returned to Cologne. His first son, Christoph, who had been born earlier that year, died that winter. Cologne was an almost totally destroyed city in which only three hundred buildings were without damage; there was no transportation, no water, and no electricity. Böll helped with the reconstruction of the house in Bayenthal where his father lived, but he stayed away from public-works projects to express his reservations about the new system of government. He hoped this new system would become socialist but realized that the currency reform of 1948 destroyed this idea by introducing an economic system that favored the old ruling class in their retention of property. He enrolled at the University of Cologne in 1945, pro forma. He never really intended to study; he simply needed a ration card. Böll first worked in the family carpentry shop, but he soon found temporary employment with the statistical office of the city of Cologne. However, financially he was dependent on his wife’s income as a middle-school teacher. During this time he wrote industriously, and in 1947 he published two short stories, “Die Botschaft” (Breaking the News) and “Kumpel mit dem langen Haar” (My Pal with the Long Hair), in the periodical Karussell.
Böll’s stories also began to appear in 1947 in papers such as the Rheinischer Merkur and in Alfred Andersch’s Der Ruf; they were published in 1950 in the volume Wanderer kommst du nach Spa... (translated as Traveller, If You Come to Spa..., 1956). These stories can be separated into two groups: war stories and stories dealing with the immediate postwar era. The war stories are told from the perspective of a first-person narrator, typically an unnamed German soldier who expresses Böll’s own experiences and desire for a better world. His dreams are the normal dreams of an unpolitical Bürger (member of the German middle class): good books in a quiet home, family life, a wife, music, and art. The most significant element is the fatal outcome; the hero often does not survive. The mood of these stories is best characterized by a sentence from “Die Botschaft,” in which the narrator has to report a soldier’s death to the man’s wife: “Da wußte ich, daß der Krieg niemals zu Ende sein würde, niemals, solange noch irgendwo eine Wunde blutete, die er geschlagen hat” (There I knew that the war would never be finished, never as long as somewhere a wound was bleeding that had been caused by the war). One of Böll’s concerns in these stories was the honest representation of man’s behavior in a war situation: completely falling apart under stress. He uses the term “ridiculous warrior.” For that reason Böll was opposed to the influence on postwar German literature of Ernest Hemingway’s ideas of male heroic superiority.
Many of the tales in the first collection deal with the postwar period. Typically, they describe returning veterans who do not participate in the Wirtschaftswunder (reconstruction period) after the currency reform of 1948. These recovering soldiers are looking for their private niche in the new society. One man works for a statistical office and counts people crossing a bridge; but he never counts his girlfriend, in order to maintain her humanity. It is an individual form of resistance—a theme that became Böll’s central message in the next decades.
The stories did not provide enough income to support Böll’s wife and sons (Raimund was born in 1947, René in 1948, and Vincent in 1950), and even the publication of two novels did not change Böll’s financial situation significantly. His first publisher, Middelhauve, was mainly a publisher of science books and thus not interested in promoting literature. Middelhauve published Böll’s first longer story, Der Zug war pünktlich (translated as The Train Was on Time, 1956), in 1949. A soldier, Andreas, boards an army train in the West (probably Cologne) to join a unit in the Ukraine. The story recounts his journey through Dresden, Kraków, and finally Lemberg, where two other soldiers take him to an expensive restaurant and to a bordello. There he meets the Polish resistance fighter Olina, for whom he develops a platonic love. Andreas, Olina, and the two other soldiers decide to flee in a general’s car, and all four get killed by partisans.
The tension and atmosphere of the story is created by Andreas’s premonition at the beginning of the trip that he “would never see Germany again.” He knows he will die near Lemberg, because his mind goes blank when he thinks of the next town, Story. This unrealistic element of “fate” is important for Böll’s style and gives it a special quality. The reader is convinced of Andreas’s ability to see the future and thus anticipates his death. The novella takes on biblical dimensions: Andreas is seen as Jesus at the Last Supper and as having a Mary-Magdalene type of relationship with Olina, to whom he is a brother, not a lover. He persuades Olina to give up her political undercover war, which he considers immoral and insignificant. In the same way, Andreas is apolitical in his relationship to Nazi Germany, which was perhaps typical for the times.
Der Zug war pünktlich, with its religious and mystical treatment of the war, shows Böll’s own limited understanding during this period (1945-1950) of the social aspects and causes of the war. The formal achievement of the novella, however, and its humanistic or antifascist spirit, drew praise. Gert Kalow calls it a Geniewurf (cast of genius), and Theodore Ziolkowski writes: “Never again has Böll written a story of such close perfection and inevitability... It is an artistic tour de force.” Böll’s success can also be seen in the fact that in 1949 he was invited for the first time to read at a meeting of the Gruppe 47, the major German literary circle of the 1950s and 1960s.
Der Zug war pünktlich was followed in 1951 by Böll’s most famous war novel, Wo wanst du, Adam? (translated as Adam, Where Art Thou? 1955). The novel is divided into episodic chapters, in which minor characters later become main characters. Except for this aspect, the episodes are not connected and can be seen as independent short stories. This individual quality is especially true of the chapters about the life and death of Lieutenant Greek and the building of the bridge at Berczaby. The episode about a woman named Ilona is an early treatment of concentration camps in German fiction. When Ilona sings the Litany of the Saints, the Nazi commander Filskeit realizes the amorality of the camps, and the beauty of music overcomes the horror of the SS. The main theme of the volume is the idea of the senselessness of man’s existence: as the death of protagonist Feinhals in front of his parents’ home shows, there is no escape from the senselessness of the war. Wo wanst du, Adam? was praised by Richard Plant as succeeding in “conjuring up the agonies of WWII” as critics began using the word “compassionate” for Böll’s fiction.
After publication of Wo wanst du, Adam? Gruppe 47 again invited Böll to one of their meetings. He read his humorous story “Die Schwarzen Schafe” (1951, The Black Sheep), for which the group awarded him a prize of 1, 000 marks and the invitation to become a permanent member. Without Gruppe 47, Böll would not have become as popular, especially in the 1950s. But the reputation of the group was enhanced reciprocally by the presence of Böll, who eventually became its most prestigious member.
Although Der Zug war pünktlkh and Wo wanst du, Adam? were for many years Böll’s only two published novels dealing with World War II, it was known that a third manuscript existed, which Böll had always tried to disclaim. Finally, his son Rene Böll published this book in 1982 under the title Das Vermächtnis (translated as A Soldier’s Legacy, 1985). Like Der Zug war punktlkh, it takes place in 1943. The book starts out in France and is told by a soldier, Wenk, who falls in love with a French girl. But soon his commander, Schelling, takes the girl away from him. Schelling is trying to find out why his soldiers’ food ration is illegally kept away from them and discovers that Captain Schnecker is partly responsible for it. Schnecker kills Schelling; thus, the compassionate people die while the heartless ones survive the war, eventually to play a leading role in postwar society.
With the 1952 story “Die Waage der Baleks” (The Balek Scale, first published in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 13 June 1953), Böll introduced the overriding concern in his writing: the criticism of postwar materialism. With this story, Böll’s most popular, he approaches his subject historically, by setting it in a provincial Austrian town around 1900. It is a story of capitalist exploitation and a failed proletarian revolt, narrated in the classical style of Johann Peter Hebel or Kleist. Cesare Cases’s Marxist interpretation of “Die Waage der Baleks” as social criticism hit a raw nerve for some readers at first. “Die Waage der Baleks” is now considered one of Böll’s most important stories and the first in which he examined and condemned the economic conditions of society.
With the novel Und sagte kein einziges Wort (And Said Not a Single Word, 1953; translated as Acquainted with the Night, 1954), Böll changed to the publisher Kiepenheuer and Witsch and achieved an immediate breakthrough: this work is still one of his best-known books and made him financially independent. Poverty makes protagonist Fred Bogner sick and drives him away from the one room he shared with his wife and children. He drifts around the city and meets his wife, Käte, in cheap hotels on weekends. She is ready to separate from him, but in the final scene Fred recognizes his wife on the street and without her being aware of his presence, she touches his heart (“deren Anblick mein Herz berührte”). The novel is told in alternating first-person narratives by Fred and Käte. Fred is a drinker, has beaten his children, and is beginning to question the authority of the church. He is not ambitious and feels self-pity for being left out of society. He becomes antagonistic and wants no part of the new society (mirroring elements of Böll’s own biography). The social criticism is explicit; the author especially criticizes the bigoted landlady, Frau Franke, who does not want to give the family another room, maintaining she needs it as a reception room for Catholic aid committees. There is also corruption in the church: the church officials fail to criticize the pharmaceutical industry for advertising contraceptives because the bishop’s cousin is the chairman of the association of druggists. In the end, the pharmacy becomes the personification of modern-day society: cleanliness, contraception, and useless consumption. Neither Fred nor his wife goes along with these ideas, and the self-righteous Fred defends his own way of life. Eventually, he reconciles with Käte, who is expecting another child.
Und sagte kein einziges Wort demonstrates Böll’s meticulously realistic style, which describes the world that surrounds the alienated Fred. Most critics agree that Und sagte kein einziges Wort is a preparatory stage to Böll’s more political works, and they especially deplore its peaceful ending, which, according to Günter Wirth, contradicts the unsettling hostility Fred had shown to society. The novel is a good example to support Böll’s claim that he was only interested in love and religion. Böll’s novel is regarded more as a report than as fiction and is praised as the beginning of a literary renaissance in Western Germany.
In Haus ohne Hüter (1954; translated as The Unguarded House, 1957), Böll deliberately uses modern cinematic techniques. The story is told in consecutive chapters by two boys, Martin Bach and Heinrich Brielach. It is not a children’s book, but the children’s perspective adds an element of alienation, allowing readers to see the adult world in a different light. Both boys have lost their fathers in the war. Martin’s mother, Nella, retreats into a dreamworld after the death of her husband, the poet Rai. A former friend, Albert Muchow, becomes Martin’s “uncle” but cannot help him much. Heinrich, on the other hand, has to earn a living for his family on the black market while still attending school. His mother worked in a bakery and later moves in with the baker, the way she had with several other “uncles” before. Two themes stand out: the contrast of the poor and rich in postwar society and the relationship to the Nazi past. The Brielachs are stigmatized for their poverty and afraid to move their belongings in front of their scrutinizing neighbors. Martin, on the other hand, can live in luxury with his wealthy grandmother.
The novel gains momentum at the end when Gäseler, the murderer of Martin’s father, is introduced. During the war, Gaseler had sent Rai on a reconnaissance mission, knowing that the poet was ill-equipped for it and probably would not survive. Since the war, Gaseler has become a conformist representative of the new capitalist system: vain and opportunistic, not unlike the devil in Nella’s fantasies. In Gaseler’s presence she can only feel “Sie langweilen nich” (cold, uncanny boredom). When she asks Gaseler to tell her about the war, he reveals himself as a representative of the new times: “Ich denke nicht oft daran. Ich versuche, es zu vergessen, und es gelingt mir... Man muß den Krieg vergessen” (I don’t think about it any more. I try to forget it, and I can... People have to forget the war). But he has not forgotten the names of his Nazi heroes; only the death images have been erased from his mind. Nella replies, “Ohrfeigen an Leute verteilen, die den Krieg vergessen haben” (A slap in the face for all the people who have forgotten the war), and walks away without looking back. Hatred does not seem adequate to punish these Nazi conformers: they would not even understand it. Like Nella, Böll believed the Germans wanted to forget—the war, the Jews, the entire Nazi past—and had illusions about their popularity in the world.
Das Brot der frühen Jahre (1955; translated as The Bread of Our Early Years, 1957) covers the time span from about eight o’clock in the morning to about eight o’clock in the evening of a single day in the narrator’s life in 1954 or 1955. Walter goes to the train station to meet Hedwig, who is the daughter of a friend of his father and who is coming to the city to study at the university. Walter has previously found her a room and is to take her there and go back to work. But when he sees Hedwig, his life changes:
Ich sah nur diesen grellgrünen Mantel, sah dieses Gesicht, und ich hatte plötzlich Angst, jene Angst, die Entdecker empfinden, wenn sie das neue Land betreten haben … Dieses Gesicht ging tief in mich hinein … es war, als würde ich durchbohrt ohne zu bluten.
(I saw only her dazzling green coat, her face, and I suddenly became fearful with that fear which explorers have when they enter upon a new land … Her face went deep into me … It was as if I had been pierced without bleeding.)
From that moment, Walter is a new person. He does not return to his old job, withdraws all his savings from the bank, breaks his engagement to his boss’s daughter, and decides to live with Hedwig, without the sacrament of the church.
Böll continued the theme of love in the short story “So ward Abend und Morgen” (And It Became Night and Day, first published in Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, 24 December 1954). The relationship between man and woman is symbolized in a mythical sense as a cry of the man for company in his lonely life. The protagonist’s wife has stopped talking to him; but on a Christmas evening he makes her say “no” twice and “yes” once—which saves his life. Böll’s treatment of the relationship between the sexes also figured in a longer narrative, “Im Tal der Donnernden Hufe” (In the Valley of the Thundering Hooves, first published in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 17 March 1954), about the sexual problems of two Catholic boys, Paul and Griff. An atheist girl, Mirzova, helps Paul overcome his anxiety by exposing her breasts. As a result, however, the girl has to leave town for a few years to avoid being labeled a prostitute by the narrow-minded townspeople. The story is constructed using traditional symbolism such as the pistol as a phallic object.
In the mid 1950s the Federal Republic under Chancellor Konrad Adenauer became stronger and chose a political course that Böll did not support. The turning point was the rearmament campaign. Until that time, he had been a supporter of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). As a result of these developments, Böll “escaped” to Ireland for a few weeks in 1955. Later, when asked by Wintzen whether Ireland was his second home, Böll said that there was no such thing as a second homeland. Böll was a “Kölner” (a person from Cologne). His idea of “home” was centered in Cologne, as shown in his use of dialect; he could not represent Prussia or the eastern part of Germany. His definition of what is “German” concentrated on the use of language: he considered himself a German because he wrote in German.
Böll made a second trip to Ireland in 1956. His Irisches Tagebuch (1957; translated as Irish Journal, 1967) resulting from those trips is not a conventional travelogue. Rather, Böll gives travel impressions to show moral and historic realities and facts about Ireland and Germany. Despite his “flight,” he continues his criticism of German society in a more subtle form in this book.
One of the reasons for Böll’s retreat to Ireland had been the attacks on some of the satirical short stories he published in the 1950s, particularly Nicht nur zur WeihmM.htsa.eit (1952; Not Only at Christmastime), which mocks the middle-class tendency to overcelebrate Christmas and use it as escape from reality. The mother of a family has saved Christmas decorations from before the war and protests whenever anybody tries to take the Christmas tree down. So the family celebrates Christmas every day of the year, at first in person, later with stand-in actors for the totally demoralized family members. Böll was attacked by the church as being inhuman and without love. He responded that he had not intended to denounce Christmas but rather the commercial aspects of it.
The title story of Doktor Murkes gesammeltes Schweigen und andere Satiren (1958; Doctor Murke’s Collected Silences and Other Satires, first published in Frankfurter Hefte), is referred to by Cases as one of the finest works of European literature since World War II, and Walter Jens claims Böll’s work culminates in this book. The “philosopher” Bur-Malottke wants to change the word God on a radio tape of one of his notorious talks to “jenes höhere Wesen, das wir verehren” (the higher being whom we revere); the word God gets cut out of the tape and spliced into another program, where an atheist’s questions are now answered by BurMalottke’s “God.” What is left is cut-out “silence,” and the journalist Murke takes the pieces home in a box. Murke shows the absurdity of the situation when he lets Bur-Malottke repeat the phrase “jenes höhere Wesen, das wir verehren” twenty-seven times. Murke hates the philosopher’s opportunism. Böll wanted to show how poisoned was an intellectual climate that left religion out of the economic and political restoration of the 1950s; God got “cut” out of social considerations.
Böll’s novel Bilhrd um halb zehn (1959; translated as Billiards at Half-past Nine, 1961) is a family chronicle. But unlike Thomas Mann’s novel Buddenbrooks (1901), which shows the downfall of a family, Böll shows the prosperity and rise of a middle-class family, the Fahmels, through whose perspective the novel presents fifty years of German history from 1907 to 1958. The novel, however, actually covers only a single day in 1958, the eightieth birthday of Heinrich Fähmel. Böll’s symbolism divides people into two categories: “das Sakrament des Büffels” (the sacrament of the buffalo), comprising all militarists, Nazis, and the power-hungry, and “das Sakrament des Lamms” (the sacrament of the lamb), made up of the persecuted and émigrés, the sensitive people. Böll himself criticized this symbolism later as being too simplistic to comprehend the horrors and intricacies of German history. The formal juxtaposition also drew a lot of criticism. Some reviewers claimed that the experimental French nouveau roman (new novel) and the psychological novel were mutually exclusive forms and that Böll failed by trying to combine the two. Böll worked out this novel in a meticulous, almost mathematical way, by using a colored chart divided into three levels: the present, the reflective or memory level, and the level of motifs. But the resulting novel is too confusing; the lamb-buffalo symbolism does not convince. The St. Anton Abbey, however, stands out as the one effective symbol that ties the three generations together: the grandfather built it; the son blew it up; and the grandson does not know whether he wants to reconstruct or demolish it. Johanna Fähmel’s attempt to shoot a high government official with a Nazi past fails to enhance the level of tension in the novel. Jens summarized the views of many critics when he observed that the novel form was too long for Böll, and that he should have stayed with the short story, which he could manage more easily. Billard um halb zehn is still one of Böll’s best-known works, and it convinced critics that Böll could contribute “significant fiction.” The most common praise for Böll’s moderately experimental narrative technique was that he still retained more interest in story than in stylistic experimentation.
In the following years Böll’s disenchantment with the course of German politics continued, especially with the role Catholicism played in it. In 1961, in one of his sharpest essays, “Hast Du was, dann bist Du was” (You Are What You Have, published in Labyrinth), he attacked Cologne’s Cardinal Frings for what he considered Frings’s hypocritical views, expressed in a pastoral letter in which Frings linked the idea of property for the general public (Volksaktien) with the principles of the Christian church; Böll commented caustically, “Die Heiligsprechung des Habenichts von Assisi war wohl ein Irrtum” (The canonization of the have-not Francis of Assisi probably was a mistake). Böll also attacked Chancellor Adenauer for too eagerly forgetting Germany’s Nazi past and for his encouragement of the accumulation of property. In those years Böll also criticized the change by the Social Democratic Party (SPD) to a more capitalist ideology, as reflected in their Godesberg Program of 1959. As an advocate of socialism and even Marxism, Böll wanted two basic sociopolitical concepts expressed in the German party system, unlike the political system in the United States, in which both parties advocate capitalism. In his writings, Böll tried to change the course of the SPD.
In the early 1960s Böll, together with the artist HAP Grieshaber and others, founded the Christian socialist periodical Labyrinth. Here he published his first
play, Ein Schluck Erde (1962, A Piece of Earth), which depicts an old man who would like to combine Christianity and communism. Also in 1962, Böll completed the essay “Karl Marx,” which praises the philosopher and presents him as a secular saint, as well as a study of St. Francis, titled Assisi). Both became models for Böll’s further development. In an interview with Marcel Reich-Ranicki in 1967, Böll confessed his communist sympathies and wished communism as many years of power as capitalism had already had. He said that if he had not grown up in fascist Germany he would have certainly been a Communist by 1936. Böll also regretted that more Germans had not had the opportunity to become Communists in the 1930s, thereby purifying the political atmosphere. In spite of these statements, however, Böll is not a revolutionary writer.
Böll’s 1961 work Brief an einen jungen Katholiken (Letter to a Young Catholic) makes clear that his development toward socialism was related to his disenchantment with the Catholic Church. In it he expresses his disapproval of what he considered the merger of church and government in the Federal Republic at that time. The Brief an einen jungen Katholiken started a process that ended with Böll’s officially leaving the church in 1977 (in Germany, that meant he simply stopped paying “church taxes”).
In 1962 Böll was invited on his first official trip to the Soviet Union, in connection with the new GermanSoviet Cultural Exchange Program, a journey he resented at that time because he was busy working on a new book. This book, which became Ansichten eines Clowns (1963; translated as The Clown, 1965), is one of his most controversial novels. Hans Schnier, at twenty-seven, has left his wealthy parents’ home to become a professional clown. The novel, which also became a play, takes place on one evening in Schnier’s Bonn apartment after he has had a stage accident. Schnier feels sorry for himself since his girlfriend, Marie, left him to marry a Berufskatholik (administrator of the Catholic Church). Through several phone calls to relatives and friends, Hans discovers that Marie is now on her honeymoon trip, which will include a visit to the Pope. He decides to await her return by singing religious songs at the train station while wearing his clown costume. Hans advocates a form of marriage in which the church plays no role; only the mutual consent of the two partners matters. He has become a professional clown who, like a medieval court jester, criticizes society.
The entire novel shows Hans’s isolated position: he can only live with one person, Marie, and she leaves him. Because of his artistic nature, Hans views the living and the dead differently than most people do. His sister Henriette, who died in World War II, is alive in his mind, while her “murderer,” his mother, is dead for him, because she adjusts herself eagerly to the new social conditions and wants to forget. J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye (1951) was one model for Ansichten eines Clowns; Böll and his wife had just translated Salinger’s novel into German in 1962. Holden Caulfield’s character and his relationship to his sister clearly had an influence on Böll.
Ansichten eines Clowns was widely criticized for its anti-Catholic bias. Schröter admits that after reading this book he lost interest in Böll’s work for a long time. According to Manfred Durzak, the novel was an aesthetic dead end for Böll, who had reached his satirical limits. Hans-Joachim Bernhard was of the opinion that the aesthetic balance was disrupted by Böll’s subjectivity. But Frank Trommler saw in Ansichten eines Clowns a new phase in post-World War II German literary history, characterized by blunt political reasoning instead of formal artistic expression. Several reviewers rejected the book since Böll seemed no longer interested in prose experiments. They generally felt that by establishing himself as a writer more concerned with philosophical issues, with Weltanschauung than with narrative structure, Böll was moving away from Western traditions. The book displeased those critics who were used to innovative, intellectualized fiction. By 1975, however, academic scholarship took a kinder view of Ansichten eines Clowns, and Böll’s novel became regarded more as a continuation of Billard um, halb zehn, an imitation of the French nouveau roman. Ansichten eines Clowns turned out to be an important book for Böll’s reputation since it divided the critics into two groups: those who saw a break in Böll’s continuity and those who considered it his best and most straightforward book.
Subsequently, Böll became more interested in direct political writings. The Frankfurter Vorlesungen (1966, Frankfurt Lectures), given at the University of Frankfurt after a longer stay in Dugort, Ireland, where Böll had bought a home, is an example of this genre. Böll considered immigrating to Ireland, especially after the church attacks on Ansichten eines Clowns. The Frankfurter Vorlesungen present Böll’s belief that home, love for the Heimat (homeland), memory, and language constitute the human being. The recent German rejection of provinciality is seen as negative, since more works of art have been created in remote places such as Dublin or Prague. Böll’s intent is to analyze the “Abfall der Gesellschaft” (garbage of society) and to take the place of a political opposition that—according to Böll—no longer exists in West Germany. The Grand Coalition of the CDU and the SPD from 1965 to 1969 only confirmed Böll’s political fears.
In the short novel Entfernung von der Truppe (1964; translated as “Absent without Leave,” 1965), the author’s detachment from German political life is noticeable. The narrator states that with his “desertion,” a rejection of society, his life as a human being began. Despite its bleak plot, the story is told in a loose, humorous way, revealing the author’s familiarity with the work of Laurence Sterne. Böll did not like to use the same form twice, but this work developed an experimental structure that is not completely successful.
Ende einer Dienstfahrt (1966; translated as End of a Mission, 1967) is really a novel about art and how to incorporate art into society. In its description of the military as a senseless machine, it is reminiscent of Wo warst du, Adam? It is presented in the Kleistean style (which Böll admired). The book describes a trial against the carpenters Gruhl, a father and son, who burned the son’s army jeep as an act of antimilitary protest. The case is an embarrassment to the authorities, who want to play it down by keeping the press out and by giving the case to a mild judge. The Gruhls finally receive only six weeks’ imprisonment. As he explains in “einführung in ‘dienstfahrt’” (included in Aufsätze, Kritiken, Reden, 1967), Böll wants readers to understand his novella as a way of using art as a means to protest current trends in politics and society, a tendency that is romantic and can be traced to the dadaistic experiments of the 1920s:
Um diese Zeit auch dachte ich besonders über die Tatsache nach, daß die komplette Nettigkeit der Gesellschaft der Kunst gegenüber ja nichts anderes als eine Art Gummizelle ist. Gleichzeitig las ich über die Provos in Amsterdam, las über Happenings, und die Erkenntnis, daß alle Kunst von dieser so fassunglosen wie unfaßbaren Gesellschaft ernst genommen wird, brachte mich auf die Idee, daß Kunst, also auch Happenings, eine, vielleicht die letzte Möglichkeit sei, die Gummizelle durch eine Zeitzünderbombe zu sprengen oder den Irrenhausdirektor durch eine vergiftete Praline außer Gefecht zu setzen; ich entschied mich zu einer Kombination von vergifteter Praline und Zeitzünderbombe.
(I thought how the complete niceness of society toward art is nothing more than a kind of padded cell. At the same time, I was reading about the provos in Amsterdam and their antiestablishment Happenings. I recognized that all art is taken seriously by this bewildering and incomprehensible society. This recognition brought me to the idea that art, that is, a Happening, is perhaps the last chance to break out of this padded cell; it can become a time bomb or the way to take the director of this madhouse out of action with a poisoned chocolate sweet. I decided on a combination of poisoned chocolates and a time bomb.)
Most critics did not see the political time bomb, and did not want to see it. One reason is that art in the 1960s had removed itself from politics. The critics, as recorders of acceptable literary trends, could not see Böll’s new and revolutionary element in the story. But art as a political “happening” became a program for the student revolts of the late 1960s. Böll wanted to show that the ruling class understood the danger of the Gruhls’ political action and decided to cover it up. He also wanted to show the sympathy of the village people, who all understand and support the action. Jochen Vogt might be correct in asserting that this congenial understanding constitutes too much of a sense of idealized Heimat, as Böll had set out to write about in his Frankfurter Vorlesungen; it excludes readers from a different background.
In “Epilog zu Stifters Nachsommer” (1970, Epilogue to Stifter’s Indian Summer; included in Erzählungen, 1950-1970, 1972), Böll imitates the language and plots of novelist Adalbert Stifter, who had been one of his nineteenth-century models. Böll, however, destroys the nineteenth-century middle-class world and shows in his story how that entire society was based on lies and deception. The story is an interesting variation on Böll’s topic of language and morals.
During the following years Böll worked primarily on his next and longest novel, Gruppenbild mit Dame (translated as Group Portrait with Lady, 1973), which was published in 1971. But while doing this Erinnerungsarbeit (remembrance work), he also traveled more, and in August 1968 he happened to be in Czechoslovakia during the Soviet invasion. This situation provided an opportunity for him to protest Soviet policies, which in turn increased his political credibility with the Right. He considered the election of Brandt as chancellor in 1969 as an opportunity to overcome what he saw as the German authoritarian government that Adenauer’s CDU had perpetuated; he welcomed the defeat of the CDU and former chancellor Kurt Georg Kiesinger, who was also a former member of the Nazi Party. In 1971 Böll was elected as the first German president of the International PEN Club and officially visited the New York PEN offices. Hans Werner Richter, the founder of the Gruppe 47, commented that ”Böll can do things that we others cannot even dream of.”
When Gruppenbild mit Dame appeared, the publishers called the book Böll’s “most comprehensive, encompassing work,” a “summation of his previous life and work.” The heroine, Leni Pfeiffer, along with various other tenants, fights to save her apartment in a house her relatives want to tear down. Leni is a mixture of the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene, another one of Böll’s attempts to mix his realism with Christian mythology. She is a “pure” soul, without any interest in the consumer- and achievement-driven society; she is helpful, sensual, possessing a natural instinct for the right thing to do, a “subversive madonna.” She, together with her son, Lev, and the rest of her family-including her father and her brother, who were murdered by the Nazis because they refused to support the fascist war machine—introduces Böll’s principle of Leistungsverweigerung (a rejection of the work ethic), a subversive concept attacking the dehumanization of life under capitalism. Because of their belief in Leistungsverweigerung, Lev and his mother become the center of a counterculture within the city—groups Böll believed are absolutely necessary as the only possibility to protect mankind from fascism and technology.
The novel struck a responsive chord when it appeared, during the years of student protests when people sought to create a Utopia. Just as the students were attacked, Leni’s behavior is criticized as unhealthy and destructive by her relatives, who see capitalistic profiteering as healthy and normal. The novel, however, offers another view, introduced by an inquiring journalist who collects information about Leni from the people around her and thereby discovers that she was the lover of a Russian prisoner of war during World War II. This excursion into the German past is honest, even though it is not always logically presented; Leni’s friends and colleagues tell the journalist their reactions to her affair and the birth of her illegitimate son, Lev. The purity of the couple is contrasted with the petty reactions of her colleagues and friends. Although Boris, the wartime lover, remains indistinct as a character, Böll’s intention to use Leni as a woman “die ganze Last dieser Geschichte … auf sich genommen hat” (who carried the burden of German history) is clear. The reader is invited to reflect on his or her own behavior during those years. Böll depicts what Karl Korn calls the “archaeology of Cologne’s society,” especially of the lower classes. Joachim Kaiser and other critics saw Böll’s work as an experiment between “aesthetic and nonfictional reality” and as Utopian construct of a better world through literature. If one follows those arguments, Böll is not immersed in the Romantic tradition, as is often assumed, but rather in Friedrich Schiller’s tradition of classical education. Leni would then be a deliberate construct of an aesthetic human being well suited to solve West Germany’s problems of the early 1970s.
Most of the criticism of the book concerns the structure. Rainer Nägele calls Gruppenbild mit Dame “a much more rambling novel than anything Böll had written previously.” Böll never had a master plan for his books but rather developed them out of characters and minor details. Ziolkowski, however, calls the structure a “secular beatification” similar to medieval descriptions of saints. Reactions to Gruppenbild mit Dame are indicative of the criticism surrounding Böll from 1972 to 1974: conservatives used what they perceived as structural failures in his work to deduce his flawed logic. They were particularly annoyed by the Swedish Academy’s decision to honor Böll (and the liberal trend in German political thinking) with the Nobel Prize; however, in view of the reputation of the prize, they did not dare to openly attack Böll’s Gesinnung (ideology). The American reception of Gruppenbild mit Dame demonstrates the difficult standing Böll has had in the United States. The Newsweek reviewer (13 May 1973) wrote that he would rather read Grass but feels he ought to read Böll anyway out of “a guilty feeling” because Böll represented the accepted moral and political position of the time. And a critic for Time magazine (30 October 1972) implied that Böll received the Nobel Prize more for his “idealistic tendency” than for his literary qualities.
Böll’s failure in the United States cannot be totally explained, especially since he is the most popular German author in Europe. An examination of secondary sources about Böll’s work suggests that positive readings came only from those critics familiar with the socio-economic conditions of Germany, while others using more text-centered methods failed to understand the writer’s message. The interdependence of critical methods and fictional text seems to preclude a positive reading of the foreign-language text, and it is apparent that a strictly text-centered reading does not capture its essence for an American audience.
Böll had often been a nominee for the Nobel Prize in Literature; but, had Gruppenbild mit Dame not appeared in 1971, Böll probably would not have received the 1972 award. Gruppenbild mit Dame is generally recognized as the single work that best represents the artistic summation of Böll’s literary career. Leni is one of Germany’s most remarkable literary personalities, with her generosity, compassion, and integrity, which gave Böll an effective vehicle to criticize the hypocrisy, commercialism, opportunism, and racism of postwar Germany. The work attempts both a reconciliation with the past and a condemnation of the pursuit of affluence in present-day Germany, while presenting a notion of a more compassionate society. In its Nobel nomination, the Swedish Academy singled out Gruppenbild mit Dame as Böll’s “most grandly conceived work,” one that addresses Germany’s history with a critical and a constructive perspective.
After receiving the Nobel Prize (as the first German writer after Mann and Hermann Hesse to be so honored), Böll became an even more important public figure than before, praised by the Left as the “moral conscience of his age” and attacked from the Right as a writer without any real aesthetic value. Detractors claimed that the best writers never received the Nobel Prize. Böll responded that, as a German, he could not afford not to accept the Nobel Prize, since Germany had not had many good people whom the world could admire.
After the CDU viciously attacked Brandt’s politics of negotiating treaties with Communist countries, his Ostpolitik, Böll got involved in Brandt’s reelection campaign in 1972. When Böll realized the tendency of his adversaries to deliberately misunderstand his literary intentions, he decided to get involved more directly in the political arena—which, in hindsight, he saw as a mistake. By doing so Böll came down to the level of his political opponents, who usually were not trained in analyzing literature. In 1972 Böll published “Will Ulrike Meinhof Gnade oder fries Geleit?” a famous article in Der Spiegel defending Ulrike Meinhof and the terrorist Baader-Meinhof group against the guilty verdict prematurely anticipated by the tabloid Bild Zeitung. Böll looks at Meinhof as he had regarded his fictional character Leni: with a feeling that everybody in this society has the right to due process. Böll spoke against the slander in Bild Zeitung and maintained that Meinhof would find no mercy in a political climate in which former Nazis were being released without a trial—a correct description of the political practice at the time.
However, Böll’s comparison of West German legal practices with those of the Nazis struck a raw nerve in most conservatives. In reaction to this article, the papers controlled by West German press mogul Axel Springer published a letter written by Prime Minister Filbinger of the State of Baden-Württemberg and others asking for Böll’s resignation as president of the International PEN Club. On 1 June 1972 Böll’s house was searched by the police, and on 7 June, in a debate in the West German Federal Parliament in Bonn, “fellow travelers” such as Böll were declared more dangerous than the Baader-Meinhofs themselves. The vicious reaction to the Meinhof article was Böll’s first real experience with the political arena, if one considers earlier expressions of conservative indignation over Böll’s novels as literary reactions. Böll was so antagonized by the conservative reaction to his plea for mercy that he decided never to comment about this matter again.
Böll’s literary response to these events was his book Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum oder wie Gewalt entstehen und wohin sieführen kann (1974; translated as The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum: How Violence Develops and Where It Can Lead, 1975), which initially appeared in July 1974 in Der Spiegel. It was the first work of fiction ever published by the periodical. The first edition of the book, published in August of 1974, sold one hundred thousand copies in a few weeks and two hundred thousand by the end of the year, which far surpassed the sales of his earlier books. The paperback edition sold more than one million copies and was translated into eighteen languages.
The heroine is Katharina, a housekeeper and a conformist, born in 1947, who has achieved some wealth. She loses her “honor” through the mudslinging of the periodical Zeitung: Böll wrote, “Sollten sich bei der Schilderung gewisser journalistischer Praktiken Ähnlichkeiten mit den Praktiken der ‘Bild’-Zeitung ergeben haben, so sind diese Ähnlichkeiten weder beabsichtigt noch zufällig, sondern unvermeidlich” (If in describing certain journalistic practices there should be similarities with those of the Bild-Zeitung, these similarities are neither intentional nor accidental but unavoidable). The Zeitung finds out that Katharina fell in love with an army deserter and bank robber, kept him in her apartment overnight, and let him escape the following morning. Without any justification, the Zeitung dubs him a terrorist and Katharina his accomplice. Details about her love life are made up and published. Katharina is so enraged that she decides to kill the journalist Tätges, who is responsible. The story is based on Böll’s belief that “daß Sprache, Liebe, Gebundenheit den Menschen zum Menschen machen” (language, love, and home constitute man), as he stated in the Frankfurter Vorlesungen. The book portrays other citizens as equally appalled by the Zeitung and ready for revenge against the slanderous press, which Böll describes as “öffentliche Gewalt” (public violence). This violence manifests itself in language when Kommissar Beizmenne asks Katharina “Hat er dich denn gefickt?” (Did he fuck you?) and she responds, “Nein, ich würde es nicht so nennen” (I would not say it that way). Katharina herself reveals the violence of language when Tötges approaches her with the words, “Ich schlage vor, daß wir jetzt bumsen” (I suggest that we have sex now), and she thinks “Gut, jetzt bumst’s” (Bang, that’s fine), and takes the pistol to shoot him (a pun on the German word bumsen, “bang” or “have sex”).
Reviews of this book were generally more thorough than of Gruppenbild mit Dame and in their wide range show the high level German political culture had attained by the 1970s. One of the most quoted conservative opinions was that of Hans Habe, who in Welt am Sonntag (18 August 1974) of Bild Zeitung’s Springer publishing house criticized Böll’s use of language and the stylistic awkwardness of the book as evidence of the writer’s personal flaws; the novel, he said, exposes Böll’s “seine Unfähigkeit zu lieben, … die Schwäche seiner Logik und die Maßlosigkeit seines Urteils” (inability to love, … the weakness of his logic and his immaturity to judge). In America, Habe wrote in his review defending Bild Zeitung’s practices, somebody with Tötges’s ability would have received the Pulitzer Prize for his investigative reporting; in Germany, someone with these abilities gets killed. In comparing American investigative journalism to Tötges’s activities he alludes to the provinciality of the Federal Republic, which, according to Habe, was largely the product of writers and intellectuals like Böll. The New Yorker (19 May 1975), on the other hand, characterized the institutional conflicts in Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum as a manifestation of the psyche of the German people, asserting that the people and the institutions in the story are unmistakably German and that Böll’s understanding of these German conditions makes the book worthwhile.
Mark W. Rectanus discussed the reasons for the problematic reception of Böll’s work after Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum in the United States. Rectanus felt that Germany was to a large extent still perceived in the United States within the context of the World War II experience and that no one understood Germany’s current social problems. None of the reviewers of Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum attempted to relate the book to an analysis of political, social, or economic institutions, or to the necessary analysis of the role of the media in the Federal Republic; instead they focused on the love story. But Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum was able to engage the political Left in a discussion to define their own position, as no other German writer could at that time.
Böll’s support for the weak and the helpless continued. In his function as International PEN president, he played host to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn after the latter was exiled from the Soviet Union in 1974, and later to Wolf Biermann and Lev Kopelev, who were exiled from East Germany and the Soviet Union, respectively. Despite his support for Soviet dissidents, Böll continued to be one of the most popular German writers in the Soviet Union, probably even more popular than in West Germany.
In 1977, when German industrialist Hanns-Martin Schleyer was kidnapped and murdered by terrorists, and when several imprisoned terrorists committed suicide in the Stammheim prison, Böll was once again accused by conservatives of promoting terrorism. They criticized his 1975 satire Berwhte zur Gesinnungslage der Nation (Reports on the Attitudinal State of the Nation), which attacks West German bureaucracy because of its supervision of so-called radicals. They also found fault with Böll’s story “Du fährst zu oft nach Heidelberg” (You Go to Heidelberg Too Often, first published in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 17 September 1977), an indictment of Berufsverbote the law that kept suspected Communists out of government jobs.
In his novel Fürsorgliche Belagerung (1979; translated as The Safety Net, 1981), Böll summarizes his pessimistic experiences of the 1970s. The newspaper editor Fritz Tolm, a sensitive person, is ready to withdraw into private life because his house and family are constantly protected by police against a possible terrorist attack. In its recording of facts, the structure of the novel is similar to that of Billard um halb zehn but has its drawbacks as well. The story allows the reader to see the protection system from all sides—the family, the guards, and the terrorists. Family life has been destroyed through the complete safety net; there is no privacy for the protected. The critics agree that the novel fails, partly because Böll tries to use the family as a refuge, but this refuge has been destroyed by the safety measures.
Böll’s involvement in political issues continued. He declared that Germany was the country he wanted to live in; it was worth improving. He participated in the 1981 Bonn peace demonstration. In 1983 Böll was recommended for an honorary citizenship in the city of Cologne. At first, the local CDU was opposed, not to recognizing Böll as a great writer but to honoring him as a social critic. In his acceptance speech, Böll discussed the common mistake of separating the two aspects and claimed that essays, reviews, and lectures are also literature. He said that they could not be separated from novels and short stories because they had been written with the same kind of moral consciousness, a combination unusual in German literature. Böll called his becoming the public moral conscience a sign of the corruption of German society: he felt that parliament and press should constitute the public moral conscience, not a single writer.
Böll’s health had always been problematic. Diabetes and a liver disorder necessitated several hospital stays. His smoking habit worsened his circulatory problems. On 16 July 1985 he died at his son’s estate in Langenbroich/Eiffel, one day after he had been released from the hospital. His last novel was finished before his death and published in August 1985 in an edition of one hundred thousand copies—another success added to his long list of best-sellers. It is a book about Bonn and its women, as the title suggests: Frauen vor Fluβlandschaft (translated as Women in a River Landscape, 1988). Although this book was not intended as a roman à clef, it is easy to recognize certain politicians on the Bonn scene.
Böll’s contribution to postwar German literature was significant. At a time when the political system was discredited to a point that most Germans, including writers, were ready to withdraw into a world of introspection, he set an example of an engagé writer. His Catholicism assisted him in his credibility as well as the fact that, although he was a regional writer for the lower Rhinelands, he was coincidentally writing in Cologne, the spiritual center of West German political power. His writing was at its best when he anticipated a political crisis; it became superior when he himself was drawn into the turmoil of a political power play. His ability to maintain his roots, his religion, and his moral character during his political involvement made him a model for the postwar West German writer.
Heinrich Böll set an example with his fervent political engagement for the reconstruction of a modest West German sense of identity. He redefined West Germans’ upbringing and their Heimat as a modest place where civil engagement indeed makes a difference. The importance of Böll’s influence became clear in Frank Schirrmacher’s deliberate misunderstanding of Böll’s intentions: Schirrmacher credits Böll with masterminding the German liberal conscience that had developed over the previous twenty-five years. Vogt refutes Schirrmacher’s claim by stating that Böll’s premise for writing originated in his experience of National Socialism, which younger people such as Schirrmacher lacked. Unlike the younger Schirrmacher, Böll had been directly affected by the Nazis; his redefinition of German nationhood would necessarily have to consider the Nazi past. Indeed, Böll’s legacy to Germany’s liberal political culture can be found in the Green Party’s ecological redefinition of Germany as well as in the SPD’s opposition to Germany’s new international military role. Böll’s most productive writing period coincided with the establishment of the social-liberal coalition in West Germany and with most Germans’ desire to change their country’s course to an essentially liberal position. Just as scholars are beginning to reexamine the values of the old Federal Republic, so too Böll’s work will have to be reexamined.
Die Hoffnung ist wie ein wildes Tier: Der Briefwechsel zwischen Heinrich Böll und Ernst-Adolf Kunz 1945-1953, edited by Herbert Hoven (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1994).
Horst Bienek, Werkstattgespräche mit Schriftstellern (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch, 1965), pp. 168-184;
“Interview mit mir selbst,” in Albrecht Beckel, Mensch, Gesellschaft, Kirche bei Heinrich Böll (Osnabrück: Fromm, 1966), pp. 7-12;
Im Gespräch: Heinrich Böll mit Heinz Ludwig Arnold (Munich: edition text + kritik/Richard Boorberg, 1971);
“Heinrich Böll and Dieter Wellershoff: Gruppenbild mit Dame: Ein Tonbandinterview,” in Die subversive Madonna: Ein Schlüssel zum Werk Heinrich Bölls, edited by Renate Matthaei (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1975), pp. 141-156;
“Ich tendiere nur zu dem scheinbar Unpolitischen: Gespräche mit Heinrich Böll,” in Manfred Durzak, Gespräche über den Roman (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1976), pp. 128-153.
Ferdinand Melius, ed., Der Schriftsteller Heinrich Böll: Ein biographisch-bibliographischer Abriβ (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1959);
Werner Lengning, ed., Der Schriftsteller Heinrich Böll: Ein biographisch-bibliographischer Abriβ (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch, 1968);
Werner Martin, Heinrich Böll: Eine Bibliographie seiner Werke (Hildesheim: Olms, 1975);
Viktor Böll and Manfred Lange, “Auswahlbibliographie,” in Heinrich Böll, edited by Heinz Ludwig Arnold (Munich: edition text + kritik, 1982), pp. 143-154.
Klaus Schröter, Heinrich Böll: In Selbstzeugnissen und Bilddokumenten (Reinbek: Rowohlt, 1982);
Heinrich Vormweg, Der andere Deutsche: Heinrich Böll; eine Biographie (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 2000).
Charlotte Armster, “Katharina Blum: Violence and the Exploitation of Sexuality,” Women in German Yearbook: Feminist Studies and German Culture, 4 (1988): 83-95;
Hans-Joachim Bernhard, Die Romane Heinrich Bölls: Gesellschaftskritik und Gemeinschaftsutopie (Berlin: Rütten & Loenig, 1970);
Hanno Beth, ed., Eine Einführung in das Gesamtwerk in Einzelinterpretationen (Kronberg: Scriptor, 1975);
Alfred Böll, Bilder einer deutschen Familie: Die Bölls (Bergisch-Gladbach: Lübbe, 1981);
Viktor Böll and Yvonne Jürgensen, Heinrich Böll als Filmautor: Rezensionsmaterial aus dem Literaturarchiv der Stadtbücherei Köln (Cologne: City of Cologne, 1982);
Keith Bullivant, “Heinrich Böll—A Tribute,” German Life &Letters, 39 (1986): 245-251;
Robert A. Burns, The Theme of Non-Conformism in the Works of Heinrich Böll (Coventry: University of Warwick, 1973);
Michael Butler, ed., The Narrative Fiction of Heinrich Böll: Social Conscience and Literary Achievement (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994);
Cesare Cases, “‘Die Waage der Baleks’ dreimal gelesen,” in Marcel Reich-Ranicki, In Sachen Böll (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1971), pp. 224-232;
Robert C. Conard, Heinrich Böll (Boston: Twayne, 1978);
Mark E. Cory, “Some Observations on the Role of Violence in the Late Prose of Heinrich Böll,” University of Dayton Review, 19 (1988-1989): 43-53;
Margareta Neovius Deschner, “Heinrich Böll’s Utopian Feminism,” University of Dayton Review, 2 (1985): 119-125;
Manfred Durzak, Der deutsche Roman der Gegenwart (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1971), pp. 19-107;
Frank Finlay, On the Rationality of Poetry: Heinrich Böll’s Aesthetic Thinking (Amsterdam & Atlanta: Rodopi, 1996);
Erhard Friedrichsmeyer, Notes on the Major Works of Heinrich Böll (New York: Monarch, 1975);
Frank Grützbach, ed., Heinrich Böll: Freies Geleit für Ulrike Meinhof Ein Artikel und seine Folgen (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1972);
Heinrich Böll und die DDR, eine Dokumentation (Berlin: HeinrichBöllStiftung, 1997);
Heinrich Herlyn, Heinrich Böll als utopischer Schriftsteller: Untersuchungen zum erzählerischen Werk (Frankfurt: Lang, 1996);
Herlyn, Heinrich Böll und Herbert Marcuse: Literatur als Utopie (Lambertheim: Kübler, 1979);
Christine Gabriele Hoffman, Heinrich Böll (Hamburg: Dressler, 1977);
Joseph Hynes, “The Catcher on the Rhine: Heinrich Böll, 1917-1985,” Novel: A Forum on Fiction, 3 (1990): 265-281;
Walter Jens, Deutsche Literatur der Gegenwart: Themen, Stile, Tendenzen (Munich: Piper, 1962);
Heinrich Jürgenbehring, Liebe, Religion und Institution: Ethische und religiöse Themen bei Heinrich Böll (Mainz: Matthias Grünewald, 1994);
Manfred Jurgensen, ed., Böll: Untersuchungen zum Werk (Bern: Francke, 1975);
Joachim Kaiser, Erlebte Literatur: Vom ’Doktor Faustus’ zum Fettfleck’ (Munich & Zurich: Piper, 1988);
Kaiser, “Leiden und Größe Heinrich Bölls. Zum Tod des bedeutenden Schriftstellers,” Süddeutsche Zeitung, 17 July 1985;
Ingo Lehnick, Der Erzähler Heinrich Böll: Änderungen seiner narrativen Strategie und ihre Hintergründe (Frankfurt: Lang, 1997);
Christian Linder, Heinrich Böll (Reinbek: Rowohlt, 1978);
Enid MacPherson, A Student’s Guide to Böll (London: Heinemann, 1972);
Materialien zur Interpretation von Heinrich Bölls “Fürsorgliche Belagerung” (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1982);
Moray McGowan, “Pale Mother, Pale Daughter? Some Reflections on Böll’s Leni Gruyten and Katharina Blum,” German Life & Letters, 3 (1984): 218-228;
Aleidine Kramer Moeller, The Woman as Survivor: The Evolution of the Female Figure in the Works of Heinrich Böll (Frankfurt: Lang, 1991);
Rainer Nägele, Heinrich Böll: Einführung in das Werk und in die Forschung (Frankfurt am Main: Athenäum Fischer, 1976);
Gerd Rademacher, ed., Heinrich Böll als Lyriker. Eine Einführung in Aufsätzen, Rezensionen und Gedichtproben (Frankfurt: Lang, 1985);
Mark W. Rectanus, “The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum: The Reception of a German Best-Seller in the USA,” German Quarterly, 59 (1986): 252-269;
Marcel Reich-Ranicki, In Sachen Böll: Ansichten und Einsichten (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch, 1971);
Reich-Ranicki, Mehr als ein Dichter: Über Heinrich Böll (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1986);
James Henderson Reid, Heinrich Böll: A German for His Time (Oxford: Wolff, 1988);
Reid, Heinrich Böll: Withdrawal and Re-Emergence (London: Wolff, 1973);
Wilhelm J. Schwarz, Der Erzähler Heinrich Böll (Bern: Francke, 1973); translated by Alexander Henderson and Elizabeth Henderson as Heinrich Böll: Teller of Tales (New York: Ungar, 1968);
Bernhard Sowinski, Heinrich Böll: Kurzgeschichten (Munich: Oldenbourg, 1988);
J. P. Stern, “An Honourable Man,” in Zu Heinrich Böll, edited by Anna Maria Dell’Agli (Stuttgart: Klett, 1984), pp. 101-105;
Hermann Stresau, Heinrich Böll (Berlin: Colloquium, 1964);
Jochen Vogt, Heinrich Böll (Munich: C. H. Beck/edition text + kritik, 1978);
Günter Wirth, Heinrich Böll: Essayistische Studie über religiöse und gesellschaftliche Motive im Prosawerk des Dicters (Berlin: Union, 1967);
Reinhard K. Zachau, Heinrich Böll: Forty Years of Criticism (Columbia, S.C.: Camden House, 1994);
Theodore Ziolkowski, “Typologie und ’Einfache Form’ in Gruppenbild mit Dame,” in Die subversive Madonna: Ein Schlüssel um Werk Bölls, edited by Renate Matthaei (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1975), pp. 123-140.
The holdings of the former Bö-llArchive of Kiepenheuer and Witsch and those of the Boston University Library were transferred to the Archives of the City of Cologne on 29 April 1983, when Heinrich Böll was awarded honorary citizenship of the city; they are administered by his nephew Viktor Böll (Literaturarchiv der Stadtbücherei: Köln, Zentralbibliothek, Josef-Hanbrich-Hof, 5000 Köln 1). The former Kiepenheuer and Witsch collection includes all of Böll’s printed texts; the manuscripts and letters are in private possession. The former Boston University Library collection is described by Robert C. Conard in the University of Dayton Review, 10, no. 2 (Fall 1973): 11-14.