Heinrich Böll

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Böll, Heinrich


Born Dec. 21,1917, in Cologne. German writer (Federal Republic of Germany).

The son of a wood-carver, Boll worked as a carpenter and in a bookstore. From 1939 to 1945 he was a soldier in Hitler’s army. After returning from an American prison camp he studied philology at the University of Cologne, and he now lives in Cologne. Boll’s work began to appear in print in 1947. His first important works were the novella The Train Was on Time (1949), the collection of short stories Traveller, If You Come to Spa . . . (1950), and the novel Adam, Where Art Thou? (1951; Russian translation, 1962). In Boll’s novels Acquainted With the Night (1953; Russian translation, 1958), The Unguarded House (1954; Russian translation, 1959), Billiards at Half Past Nine (1959; Russian translation, 1961), and The Clown (1963; Russian translation, 1964; dramatized at the Mossovet Theater in 1968) and in his novellas The Bread of Our Early Years (1955; Russian translation, 1958), Absent Without Leave (1964; Russian translation, 1965), and End of a Mission (1966; Russian translation, 1966), he expresses a disgust toward fascism, German militarism, bourgeois money-grubbing, false petit bourgeois morality, and religious hypocrisy. In his books Boll raises sharp moral questions which grow out of a critical comprehension of contemporary society. Within the traditions of the realistic classics of the world (especially those of F. M. Dostoevsky, to whom Boll devoted a television script entitled Dostoevsky and St. Petersburg [1967–68]), Boll masterfully conveys the inner life of his heroes and the contradictory movement of their thoughts and feelings.

In his journalistic work Boll asserts the need for social and moral activity in art and the civic responsibility of the artist, pointing out that the decisive criterion in all types of literary creative work must be the “conscience of the writer as a social person.” Böll’s books have been translated into Russian, Ukrainian, Georgian, Latvian, and Estonian. He has visited the USSR several times.


Erzählungen: Hörspiele Aufsätze. Cologne-Berlin, 1961.
Frankfurter Verlesungen. Cologne-Berlin, 1966.
Aufsätze, Kritiken, Reden. Berlin-Cologne, 1967.


Rozhnovskii, S. G. Bëll’. Moscow, 1965.
Motyleva, T. Zarubezhnyi roman segodnia. Moscow, 1966.
Orlova, R., and L. Kopelev. “Pisatel’ i sovest’.” Novyi mir, 1967, no. 12.
Rodnianskaia, I. “MirGenrikha Bëllia.” Voprosy literatury, 1966, no. 10.
Der Schriftsteller H. Boll: Ein biographisch-bibliographischer Abriss, 4th ed. Cologne-Berlin, [1965].
In Sachen Boll. Cologne-Berlin, 1968.


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The two new library projects benefited from the support of the Ministry of Culture, the Council of Ile-de-France Region, the Canadian and French Embassies, the Open Society Institute, Heinrich Boell Foundation, Anna Lindh Foundation, Regional Office of UNESCO and Premiere Urgence.