German writer, born December 21st, 1917 in Cologne. Died July 16th, 1985 near Bonn. Awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1972.

The following is an autobiography Heinrich Böll wrote for the Nobel Prize documentation:
I was born December 21, 1917 in Cologne, on the Rhine, the son of the sculptor and cabinet-maker, Viktor Böll, and his wife, Maria, née Hermanns. Between 1924 and 1928 I attended elementary school in Köln Raderthal, and from 1928 to 1937, the state-run Kaiser-Wilhelm classical secondary school in Cologne. In spring 1937 I began as an apprentice bookseller (publishers, retail trade, antiquarian) for the Matth. Lempertz company in Bonn. I left this apprenticeship in spring 1938, started my first attempts to write, gave private lessons, read a great deal. During autumn 1938 I was conscripted into the national labour service, and released in spring 1939 after completing a six-month term of compulsory service. Because the completion of labour service was a precondition for permission to study at the university, I was able to begin my studies of Germanistics and Classical Philology during the summer term of 1939. Late in the summer of 1939 I was conscripted into the German Army shortly before the outbreak of the war. I took part in the Second World War; in autumn 1940, briefly in France, from 1941 to 1942 (after a severe case of typhus), in the replacement units in Germany, from early 1942 until summer 1943, along the English Channel coast in France, between summer 1943 and autumn 1944, in the Soviet Union, Romania and Hungary, from spring 1945 on, for a few weeks in western Germany, where I was taken prisoner by the Americans, and interned until October 1945 in a camp in France, and then for a few weeks in October/November 1945, in an English camp in Belgium.

As early as December 1945, I accompanied my wife and a few relatives in their return from evacuation in the countryside to Cologne, where over the years we settled down in a destroyed house. I started to write again, while simultaneously working on repairing the destroyed house, I started my studies again - merely formally, because proof of occupation was necessary to obtain a food rationing card. From 1946 to 1949 I published short stories, and in 1949 my first book, a novella, called "Der Zug war pünktlich", was published. After a first invitation to a meeting of the "Gruppe 47" in 1951, I met many German postwar writers with whom I afterwards became friends. I owe particular thanks, and hereby give them, to Hans Werner Richter, Alfred Andersch and many others that I cannot name in detail. Even if there occurred brief or permanent controversies during, or after, these meetings, the Gruppe 47 liberated many German authoresses and authors out of their isolation in a destroyed and fragmented postwar Germany. In 1942 I married Annemarie Cech, who has been irreplaceable, not only as my wife and companion, and not only as fellow experiencer and fellow sufferer in the fascist drama during the Nazi reign in Germany, but also for her critical awareness for language.

Our first child, Christoph, died in October 1945. Our sons Raimund, René and Vincent were born in 1947, 1948 and 1950 in the rubble of Cologne and grew up there.

Between 1950 and 1951 I worked as a temporary employee in the Cologne Bureau of Statistics. From summer 1951 on I have lived as a freelance writer with a fixed postal address in Cologne, but with a continually shifting place of work.

In the years after the war, Böll belonged to the Trümmerliteratur movement. His first novel "Der Zug war pünktlich" (The Train Was on Time) appeared in 1949. In 1950 he published a collection of short stories titles "Wanderer, kommst du nach Spa" (Traveller, If You Come to Spa). "Adam, wo warst du" (Adam, Where Art Thou?) followed in 1951. "In his early novels Böll depicted the despair of soldiers' lives, the oppressive cruelties he witnessed in his youth and in military service." They "were written in understated style and focused on the brutalities of the Nazi era and army life." (1)

In 1953 he had his first commercial success with the novel "Und sagte kein einziges Wort" (And Never Said a Word) about the breakdown of a returned soldier's marriage.

He joined the Gruppe 47 and his scope widened to the whole of modern German society. In the following years he published several works, among them "Haus ohne Hüter" (The Unguarded House) in 1954 and "Das Brot der frühen Jahre" (The Bread of Our Early Years) in 1955.

"Billiard um halb zehn" (Billiards at Half-Past Nine) appeared in 1959. It traces the history of a family of Cologne architects from the Kaiserreich through Weimar Republic and Nazi times into the "Wirtschaftswunder" West Germany.

In 1963 followed "Ansichten eines Clowns" (The Clown), which later got picturized as well, and in 1966 "Ende einer Dienstfahrt" (End of a Mission). He was awarded the Georg-Büchner-Preis in 1967. He published "Gruppenbild mit Dame" (Group Portrait with Lady) in 1971. It reconstructs the history of woman named Leni Pfeiffer through interviews and (authentic) documents. This book also got picturized.

In 1972 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Heinrich Böll then got into trouble with the yellow press because of his unpopular stance towards the German authorities' handling of the RAF terrorists, namely insisting on a fair trial for Ulrike Meinhof. This experience got reflected in "Die verlorene Ehre der Katarina Blum" (The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum) from 1974, an attack against yellow journalism. It was adapted into screen already in 1975 by Volker Schlöndorff.

Also in 1974 he hosted the Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who had been exiled from the Soviet Union, and got awarded the Carl von Ossietzky Medal by the International League for Human Rights. At the beginning of the eighties he took part in the peace movement, for example speaking at demonstrations against the NATO's dual-track decision to deploy additional nuclear forces in Germany.

After long sickness, he died in his house in Langenbroich/Eiffel in 1985. Posthumously his last work "Frauen vor Flusslandschaft" (Women in a River Landscape) was published. In 1996 the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung was founded by several organizations related to the Green party. A full list of his works can be found at (1).

Heinrich Böll was the voice of a national conscience in Germany.


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