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Böll, Heinrich

(German, 1917–85)

Böll spent six years in the German army (1939–45). When Germany began to suffer outbreaks of urban terrorism in the early 1970s in protest against the return of the right, the government took emergency powers which alarmed Böll, among others. When Ulrike Meinhof was arrested in 1974 he wrote his most famous book, The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum. Arrested for harbouring her lover, Lutwig Götten, a suspected terrorist, Katharina Blum is hunted down by packs of police and reporters. Götten is in fact a deserter from the army who fled with his regiment's cashbox. A ruthless reporter confronts Blum at her mother's deathbed and when she meets him later he suggests they have sex. She shoots him dead. Katharina Blum is finally guilty of a serious crime.

Begin with The Train was on Time (1947), the story of a soldier convinced he is about to die. He meets the sympathetic prostitute Olina, who draws his emotions to the surface by playing Bach. Like him, Olina wished to be a pianist. Schubert also draws tears from him. The music hints at another, more creative side to German culture and also suggests the place of art in human life. This theme is developed in The Clown (1988), which also severely criticizes the Catholic Church. In 1992 Böll's first work, The Silent Angel, was finally published. Böll won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1972.

Günter Grass, Graham Greene, Marguerite Duras. See GERMANY  AT

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionBooks & Authors: Award-Winning Fiction (A-Bo)