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  • W
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  • GERMANIC MIGRATIONS AND
  • Böll, Heinrich

    lang=EN-US style='font-size:10.5pt;font-family:"Meridien-Medium","serif"; color:black'>(19171985)

    novelist and Nobel Prize winner

    Heinrich Böll was one of West Germanys most

    popular and prolific authors. His short stories,

    novels, and lectures criticized German society

    280 Blücher, Gebhard Leberecht von

    from the Nazi period through the ECONOMIC MIRACLE

    and into the 1980s. He was a member of

    Group 47 along with others, such as GÜNTER

    GRASS. Bölls novels have a strong ethical perspective

    stemming from his personal philosophy

    of Christian Humanism and sympathy for the

    downtrodden. His central themes are the complicated

    responses of the German people to the

    Nazis and the war, the role of Catholicism in

    society, and the corrupting influence of the prosperity

    and consumerism of the postwar economy.

    He did not shun controversy. His criticisms

    of the Catholic Church included the papal

    encyclical Humanae Vitae. In politics he opposed

    the decision of the SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY to

    join the CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATS in the Grand

    Coalition in 1965. He denounced the materialistic

    attitudes of the German people and nuclear

    armament. His militant political activism irritated

    his contemporaries, but he was also an ally

    to dissidents in Eastern Europe, enabling the

    Russian novelist Alexander Solzhenitsyn to emigrate

    from the Soviet Union. In 1972 Böll was

    awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

    Born in Cologne to a father who was a humble

    joiner, Böll was apprenticed to a bookseller

    and completed only one semester at Cologne

    University. His parents were devout Catholics but

    liberal, which perhaps influenced his embrace of

    humanistic ideals early in life. He refused to join

    the HITLER YOUTH, but was drafted into the army

    in 1939, was wounded four times, and returned

    to Cologne after the war.

    Bölls early works focus on the impact of Nazi

    rule on ordinary people. His first novel, The Train

    Was on Time (1949), emphasized the stupidity of

    the war on the Russian front. In Adam, Where

    Wert Thou? (1951) he reacted to the horror of

    war with anger and condemnation in a story

    about the retreating German army. In the 1950s

    he wrote about the miseries of the postwar

    period in Acquainted with the Night (1953), The

    Unguarded House (1954), and The Bread of Early

    Years (1955). In The Valley of the Thundering Hoofs

    (1957) several young people find the enjoyment

    of the prosperity of their parents distasteful. One

    of his most famous novels, which climaxed his

    work in the 1950s, was Billiards at Half-Past Nine

    (1959), which provoked criticism from the

    church, the CDU, and others. It is a complicated

    novel, spanning three generations and the two

    world wars. It focuses on one family and probes

    the guilt of the Nazi past through reflections and

    flashbacks.

    His disillusionment with postwar Germany

    and disapproval of the postwar German state

    and the church again appears in Views of a Clown

    (1963) through the story of a frustrated performer

    who exposes the hypocrisy of his own

    family and of society. Group Portrait with Lady

    (1971), Bölls longest novel, is more complex

    and is structured like a biography based on

    accounts of the friends of the protagonist. The

    Lost Honor of Katharina Blum (1974) is an indictment

    of journalistic and judicial malpractice and

    escalating violence in society. Böll attacked the

    journalism of the Bildzeitung of the Axel

    Springer press empire and its coverage of the

    urban terrorism of the BAADER-MEINHOF GROUP.

    Compared to Ernest Hemingway, literary critics

    have described Bölls prose as concise, direct,

    and in a simple way unlike formal classical German

    literature, able to communicate both feeling

    and ideas. His extensive writings are often

    sentimental and idealistic, often polemical, but

    also are a critical commentary of West Germany

    since the war. The political content of his novels

    has been more often the subject of criticism,

    however, than his literary merits.

    were   GERMANC   Germany   Party   their   Prussians   army   state   government   became   they   during   Austrian   CHURCHES   French   political   Frederick   Nazis   Social   Hitler   after   against   economic   some   republican