Böll, Heinrich (Theodor)
BÖLL, Heinrich (Theodor)
Nationality: German. Born: Cologne, 21 December 1917. Education: Gymnasium, Cologne; University of Cologne. Military Service: Served in the German army, 1939-45; prisoner of war, 1945. Family: Married Annemarie Cech in 1942; three sons. Career: Joiner in his father's shop, then apprentice in the book trade before the war; full-time writer from 1947; coeditor, Labyrinth, 1960-61, and L, from 1976; president, PEN International, 1971-74. Awards: Bundesverband der Deutschen Industrie grant; Gruppe 47 prize, 1951; Rene Schickele prize, 1952; Tribune de Paris prize, 1953; Prix du Meilleur Roman Étranger, 1955; Heydt prize, 1958; Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts award, 1958; Nordrhein-Westfalen prize, 1959; Veillon prize, 1960; Cologne prize, 1961; Elba prize, 1965; Büchner prize, 1967; Nobel prize for literature, 1972; Scottish Arts Counsil fellowship, 1973. Honorary degrees: D.Sc., Aston University, Birmingham, 1973; O. Tech.: Brunel University, Uxbridge, Middlesex, 1973; Litt.D.: Trinity College, Dublin, 1973. Died: 16 July 1985.
Der Zug war pünktlich (novella). 1949; as The Train Was on Time, 1956, 1973.
Wanderer, kommst du nach Spa…. 1950; as Traveller, If You Come to Spa, 1956.
Unberechenbare Gäste: Heitere Erzählungen. 1956.
Doktor Murkes gesammeltes Schweigen und andere Satiren. 1958.
Die Waage der Baleks und andere Erzählungen. 1958.
Eighteen Stories. 1966.
Wo warst du, Adam? (novella). 1951; as Adam, Where Art Thou?, 1955; as And Where Were You Adam?, 1973.
Als der Krieg ausbrach, Als der Krieg zu Ende war. 1962; as Absent Without Leave (2 novellas). 1965.
Absent Without Leave and Other Stories. 1965.
Children Are Civilians Too. 1970.
Der Mann mit den Messern: Erzählungen (selection). 1972.
Gesammelte Erzählungen. 2 vols., 1981.
Die Verwundung und andere frühe Erzählungen. 1983; as The Casualty, 1986.
Der Angriff: Erzählungen 1947-1949. 1983.
Veränderungen in Staeck: Erzählungen 1962-1980. 1984.
Mein trauriges Gesicht: Erzählungen. 1984.
Das Vermächtnis (novella). 1982; as A Soldier's Legacy, 1985.
The Stories (selection; bilingual edition). 1986.
Der Engel schwieg (novella). 1992.
The Silent Angel. 1995.
The Mad Dog: Stories. 1997.
Die schwarzen Schafe. 1951.
Nicht nur zur Weihnachtszeit. 1952.
Und sagte kein einziges Wort. 1953; as Acquainted with the Night, 1954; as And Never Said a Word, 1978.
Haus ohne Hüter. 1954; as Tomorrow and Yesterday, 1957; as The Unguarded House, 1957.
Das Brot der frühen Jahre. 1955; as The Bread of Our Early Years, 1957; as The Bread of Those Early Years, 1976.
So ward Abend und Morgen. 1955.
Im Tal der donnernden Hufe. 1957.
Der Mann mit den Messern. 1958.
Der Bahnhof von Zimpren. 1959.
Billard um Halbzehn. 1959; as Billiards at Half-Past Nine, 1961.
Ansichten eines Clowns. 1963; as The Clown, 1965.
Entfernung von der Truppe. 1964.
Ende einer Dienstfahrt. 1966; as The End of a Mission, 1967.
Geschichten aus zwölf Jahren. 1969.
Gruppenbild mit Dame. 1971; as Group Portrait with Lady, 1973.
Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum. 1974; as The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum, 1975.
Berichte zur Gesinnungslage der Nation. 1975.
Fürsorgliche Belagerung. 1979; as The Safety Net, 1982.
Dufährst zu oft nach Heidelberg. 1979.
Frauen vor Flusslandschaft: Roman in Dialogen und Selbstgesprächen. 1985; as Women in a River Landscape: A Novel in Dialogues and Soliloques, 1988.
Die Brücke von Berczaba (broadcast 1952). In Zauberei auf dem Sender und andere Hörspiele, 1962.
Der Heilige und der Räuber (broadcast 1953). In Hörspielbuch des Nordwestdeutschen und Süddeutschen Rundfunks 4, 1953; as Mönch und Räuber, in Erzählungen, Hörspiele, Aufsätze, 196l.
Ein Tag wie sonst (broadcast 1953). 1980.
Zum Tee bei Dr. Borsig (broadcast 1955). In Erzählungen, Hörspiele, Aufsätze, 1961.
Eine Stunde Aufenthalt (broadcast 1957). In Erzählungen, Hörspiele, Aufsätze, 1961.
Die Spurlosen (broadcast 1957). 1957.
Bilanz (broadcast 1957). 1961. With Klopfzeichen, 1961.
Klopfzeichen (broadcast 1960). With Bilanz, 1961.
Ein Schluck Erde (produced 196l). 1962.
Zum Tee bei Dr. Borsig (includes Mönch und Räuber, Eine Stunde Aufenthalt, Bilanz, Die Spurlosen, Klopfzeichen, Sprechanlage, Konzert für vier Stimmen). 1964.
Hausfriedensbruch (broadcast 1969). 1969.
Aussatz (produced 1970). With Hausfriedensbruch, 1969.
Die Brücke von Berczaba, 1952; Ein Tag wie sonst, 1953; Der Heilige und der Räuber, 1953; Zum Tee bei Dr. Borsig, 1955; Anita und das Existenzminimum, 1955, revised version, as Ich habe nichts gegen Tiere, 1958; Die Spurlosen, 1957; Bilanz, 1957; Eine Stunde Aufenthalt, 1957; Die Stunde der Wahrheit, 1958; Klopfzeichen, 1960; Hausfriedensbruch, 1969.
Irisches Tagebuch. 1957; as Irish Journal, 1967.
Im Ruhrgebiet, photographs by Karl Hargesheimer. 1958.
Unter Krahnenbäumen, photographs by Karl Hargesheimer. 1958.
Menschen am Rhein, photographs by Karl Hargesheimer. 1960.
Brief an einen jungen Katholiken. 1961.
Erzählungen, Hörspiele, Aufsätze. 1961.
Frankfurter Vorlesungen. 1966.
Aufsätze, Kritiken, Reden 1952-1967. 1967.
Leben im Zustand des Frevels. 1969.
Neue politische und literarische Schriften. 1973.
Nobel Prize for Literature (lecture). 1973.
Politische Meditationen zu Glück und Vergeblichkeit, with DorotheeSölle. 1973.
Drei Tage in März, with Christian Linder. 1975.
Der Fall Staeck; oder, Wie politisch darf die Kunst sein?, with others. 1975.
Der Lorbeer ist immer noch bitter: Literarische Schriften. 1976.
Briefe zur Verteidigung der Republik, with Freimut Duve and Klaus Staeck. 1977.
Einmischung erwünscht: Schriften zur Zeit. 1977.
Werke, edited by Bernd Balzer. 10 vols., 1977-78.
Missing Persons and Other Essays. 1977.
Querschnitte: Aus Interviews, Aufsätzen, und Reden, edited by Viktor Böll and Renate Matthaei. 1977.
Gefahren von falschen Brüdern: Politische Schriften. 1980.
Warum haben wir aufeinander geschossen?, with Lew Kopelew. 1981.
Rendezvous mit Margaret. Liebesgeschichten. 1981.
Was soll aus dem jungen bloss werden? (memoir). 1981; as What's to Become of the Boy?, or, Something to Do with Books, 1984.
Der Autor ist immer noch versteckt. 1981.
Vermintes Gelände. 1982.
Antikommunismus in Ost und West. 1982.
Ich hau dem Mädche mix jedonn, ich han et bloss ens kräje. Texte, Bilder, Dokumente zur Verteihung des Ehrenbürgerrechts der Stadt Köln, 29 April 1983. 1983.
Ein-und Zusprüche: Schriften, Reden und Prosa 1981-83. 1984.
Weil die Stadt so fremd geworden ist. 1985.
Die Fähigkeit zu trauern: Schriften und Reden 1983-1985. 1986.
Denken mit Böll. 1986.
Rom auf den ersten Blick. Landschaften, Städte, Reisen. 1987.
Editor, with Erich Kock, Unfertig ist der Mensch. 1967.
Editor, with Freimut Duve and Klaus Staeck, Verantwortlich für Polen? 1982.
Translator, with Annemarie Böll:
Kein Name bei den Leuten [No Name in the Street], by KayCicellis. 1953.
Ein unordentlicher Mensch, by Adriaan Morriën. 1955.
Tod einer Stadt [Death of a Town], by Kay Cicellis. 1956.
Weihnachtsabend in San Cristobal [The Saintmaker's ChristmasEve], by Paul Horgan. 1956.
Zur Ruhe kam der Baum des Menschen nie [The Tree of Man], by Patrick White. 1957.
Der Teufel in der Wüste [The Devil in the Desert], by PaulHorgan. 1958.
Die Geisel [The Hostage], by Brendan Behan. 1958.
Der Mann von Morgen fruh [The Quare Fellow], by BrendanBehan. 1958.
Ein Wahrer Held [The Playboy of the Western World], by J. M. Synge. 1960.
Die Boot fahren nicht mehr aus [The Islandman], by TomásO'Crohan. 1960.
Eine Rose zur Weihnachtszeit [One Red Rose for Christmas], by Paul Horgan. 1960.
Der Gehilfe [The Assistant], by Bernard Malamud. 1960.
Kurz vor dem Krieg gegen die Eskimos, by J.D. Salinger. 1961.
Das Zauberfass [The Magic Barrel], by Bernard Malamud. 1962.
Der Fänger im Roggen [The Catcher in the Rye], by J. D. Salinger. 1962.
Ein Gutshaus in Irland [The Big House], by Brendan Behan. Published in Stücke, 1962.
Franny und Zooey, by J.D. Salinger. 1963.
Die Insel der Pferde [The Island of Horses], by Eilís Dillon. 1964.
Hebt den Dachbalken hoch, Zimmerleute; Seymour wird vorgestellt[Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters; Seymour: An Introduction], by J.D. Salinger. 1965.
Caesar und Cleopatra, by G.B. Shaw. 1965.
Der Spanner [The Scarperer], by Brendan Behan. 1966.
Die Insel des grossen John [The Coriander], by Eilís Dillon. 1966.
Das harte Leben [The Hard Life], by Flann O'Brien. 1966.
Neun Erzählungen [Nine Stories], by J.D. Salinger. 1966.
Die schwarzen Füchse [A Family of Foxes], by Eilís Dillon. 1967.
Die Springflut [The Sea Wall], by Eilís Dillon. 1969.
Seehunde SOS [The Seals], by Eilís Dillon. 1970.
Erwachen in Mississippi [Coming of Age in Mississippi], by AnneMoody. 1970.
Candida, Der Kaiser von Amerika, Mensch und Übermensch[Candida, The King of America, Man and Superman], by G.B. Shaw. 1970.
Handbuch des Revolutionärs, by G.B. Shaw. 1972.*
Böll in America 1954-1970 by Ray Lewis White, 1979.
Böll, Teller of Tales: A Study of His Works and Characters by Wilhelm Johannes Schwartz, 1969; A Student's Guide to Böll by Enid Macpherson, 1972; Böll: Withdrawal and Re-Emergence, 1973, Böll: A German for His Time, 1986, both by J.H. Reid; The Major Works of Böll: A Critical Commentary by Erhard Friedrichsmeyer, 1974; The Writer and Society: Studies in the Fiction of Günter Grass and Böll by Charlotte W. Ghurye, 1976; The Imagery in Böll's Novels by Thor Prodaniuk, 1979; Böll by Robert C. Conard, 1981; Böll by Klaus Schröter, 1982; Böll: On His Death: Selected Obituaries and the Last Interview translated by Patricia Crampton, 1985; Böll and the Challange of Literature by Michael Butler, 1988; Heinrich Böll by Robert C. Conrad, 1994; On the Rationality of Poetry: Heinrich Böll's Aesthetic Thinking by Frank Finlay, 1996.* * *
Heinrich Böll's short fiction comes predominantly from the early part of his literary career when, immediately after World War II, he was trying to scrape a living as a journalist, writing newspaper reports and columns, short fiction, and his first short novel, Der Engel schwieg, published in Germany only posthumously in 1992. If coffee and cigarettes figure prominently in his early writing, he was recording a period after the German defeat during which both were expensive luxuries.
The predominantly Catholic southern "zone" of the country was administered by the United States, and the Cold War with the U.S.S.R. was beginning. In 1947 the political journal Der Ruf, founded by Alfred Andersch and Hans Werner Richter, was suppressed by the U.S. administration for subversive, procommunist tendencies, and the publication of another, similar journal, Der Skorpion, was also prevented. Andersch and Richter turned to literature and in 1947 founded a nonpolitical literary group interested in exploring left-wing values. Writers were invited to attend annual conferences and to read specimens of their work, with a prize awarded each year to the best contribution. Böll was first invited in 1951, by which time the group, known as the "Gruppe 47," had begun to become influential. He was awarded the prize. It was also at that time that his first volume of short fiction was published, Wanderer kommst du nach Spa … (Traveller, If You Come to Spa).
Böll uses a first-person narrator in all but three of the 25 stories to highlight the plight of the individual against the sometimes implied background of a futile, vicious war and a bureaucracy that reduces people to statistics. In "On the Bridge" the narrator, injured during the war, has the job of counting the pedestrians crossing a new bridge. He daily refuses to count one woman with whom he is obsessed, to save her from relegation to the "future perfect" tense, as a statistic to be "multiplied, divided, and made a percentage of." The narrator compares his silently counting mouth to the mechanism of a clock, which dehumanizes himself as well as those who cross the bridge, just as he dehumanizes the bureaucrats by referring to them as an anonymous "they." His job seems pointless, and he has no idea of what happens to the figures he gives to his superiors, and what purpose their calculations serve, but at least for the narrator there is the daily significance of seeing the woman. She is only set apart from the dehumanized statistical mass because he endows her with human attributes, "long, brown hair, and slender feet."
There are other images of life: the horse-drawn wagons that are allowed only limited access to the bridge, and no access at all during the rush hour when they must give way to the mechanized and seemingly driverless cars that the narrator's "mate" has to count. The metaphor implies that progress leads to an ultimately impersonal goal. By being allowed to count the horse wagons the narrator can afford time to go and watch the woman work, but to be allowed to count the wagons the narrator must achieve promotion, and to achieve promotion he must provide "them" with accurate daily figures. In order to resist "their" ends, and retain a rudimentary human relationship, the narrator must therefore cooperate with their dehumanizing aims. The narrator only manages himself to remain human through subversion: he falsifies the daily figure, allowing its size to depend on his mood, his generosity, his humanity.
The validity of the parable is independent of Böll's own views, although we might guess what they were. In fact we know that he was projecting his own views from the Irish Journal he published. He found Ireland enchanting precisely because it was so unconcerned with mechanization. It had a railway but, as there was no route map, the number of stations yet to be reached could be discovered only by counting the number of cigarette cartons still in the guard's van, because one was thrown out at each platform. The lightheartedness of the Journal emphasizes the contrast between the sense of community Böll encountered in Ireland, where even the bureaucrats were friendly, and Germany's preoccupation with the "economic miracle" (Wirtschaftswunder) and the loneliness of his earlier characters.
Böll's attitudes are made even clearer in the story "Stranger, Bear Word to the Spartans We …, " a vicious satire of Nazi ideology. The title comes from a translation by Schiller of the inscription to the Spartan heroes of Thermopylae that starts, "Wanderer, kommst du nach Sparta." The reference was immediately obvious in 1951. Joseph Goebbels's propaganda ministry had incessantly compared the heroic stand of Leonidas against the Persians at Thermopylae with the German efforts to hold back the Russians. Böll makes his viciously satirical comment in the story with elegant economy. Since there was no room left on the blackboard when the narrator had had to write out the line as a handwriting exercise, he had simply shortened "Sparta" to "Spa," implicitly identifying the life-destroying burning German city in which the story is set with the life-restoring health resort.
The narrator knows that he will shortly join the large number of recently dead as nothing but a name on the bulk-bought war memorial, but he lacks the courage and patriotism of Leonidas, as he cannot think of a cause for which he would die. There is also a visual contract, pictures celebrating German militarism set against the Parthenon frieze. The Nazi education system had mutilated the country's classical heritage just as the Schiller translation had been mutilated, and as the narrator himself was—by the end of the story he has lost two arms and a leg.
All of Böll's short fiction works over the same underlying theme, the threat to the individual of some impersonal, all-encom-passing authority, sometimes exemplified by the Nazi party and, in Böll's later work, by the Catholic Church. Böll is also concerned with hypocrisy, guilt, and the absurdity of war with such side effects as rationing and poverty. He wrote about them in a simple, engaging, everyday way, without obvious art or obtrusive literary language, so putting himself in the position from which, launched by the growing status of the "Gruppe 47," he could take up his fight for the cause of human rights. His career was also that of a polemicist, campaigning for freedom of speech and against injustice and hypocrisy. It was his stance on these issues, deriving most clearly from the early short fiction, that prompted Heinrich Vormweg to write in his obituary:
Heinrich Böll's death affects not only his family, not only his friends and readers, but the life of every man and above all the lives of those who continue to be dependent on advocacy, protection, and help.
See the essay on "Murke's Collected Silences."