Life and work of Heinrich Böll - a chronicle

Heinrich Böll was one of the most important writers of the post-war period. In a chronicle with pictures and documents of the time, we recall his life, writings and interventions.

Much of what was for Nobel Prize winner Heinrich Böll one of the conditions under which he wrote and lived has changed fundamentally since his death in 1985. But what gives Böll's work continuity beyond the time-related aspects and at the same time is at the centre of his narrative and essayistic work is his claim to autonomy, to a free, individually founded partiality that eludes pre-formed lines of thought. For Böll, freedom began in the mind. With the following texts and testimonials, we recall a great artist and intellectual who has preserved his own topicality with his novels, stories and political objections.

Heinrich Böll: The chapters of his life

1. School years under National Socialism (1917 to 1939)

2. During the Second World War (1939 - 1945)

3. The post-war period (1945 to 1951)

4. The first successes (1952 to 1958)

5. The critic of German Catholicism (1959 to 1966)

6. The "state of emergency" of democracy (1967 to 1972)

7. The discussion of terrorism (1973 to 1979)

8. Interference desired (1980 to 1985)

9. The death of an instance


Chapter 1: School years under National Socialism (1917 to 1939)

1917 Heinrich Böll is born in Cologne on 21 December as the 6th child of the master carpenter and wood sculptor Viktor Böll and his wife Maria.

1921 The family moves from the southern part of Cologne's old town to the rural district of Köln-Raderberg.

1924-1928 Attends primary school in Cologne-Raderthal.

1928-1937 Attends the state humanistic Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gymnasium in Cologne

1929 In the course of the great world economic crisis, a small cooperative bank for craftsmen, for which Viktor Böll had acquired share certificates, went bankrupt. The house in Raderberg had to be sold. The family moves back to the southern part of Cologne (Ubierring)

1937 Heinrich Böll passes his school-leaving exams in March and begins an apprenticeship at the Math. Lempertz bookstore in Bonn, which he breaks off a short time later.

1938 In November Heinrich Böll is drafted into the labour service.

1939 In April Böll enrols at the university. In autumn he receives the notice of call-up for military service.

To read more: Texts and testimonies from the years 1917 to 1939

Personal memories of Heinrich Böll:

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Chapter 2: During the Second World War (1939 to 1945)

1939 (August) - 1940 (May) Training camp Osnabrück.

1940 Occupation soldier in Poland and France.

1941 guard soldier in Germany.

1942 (May) -1943 (October) Occupation soldier in France

1943 (October) - 1944 (July) Soldier in Russia and Hungary

1944 - 1945 Until his arrest in April 1945, he worked and lived in various places in Germany.

Texts and testimonies on the years 1939 to 1945:

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Chapter 3: The post-war period (1945 - 1951)

1945 birth and death of son Christoph; move to Cologne

1947 Birth of the son Raimund. The first publication is the story "Aus der Vorzeit", published on 3 May in the Rheinischen Merkur.

1948 Birth of the son René.

1949 First publishing contract and first book publication: The train was on time.

1950 Birth of the son Vincent. Böll works as a temporary employee for the City of Cologne during the 1950 census; he is assigned to the building and housing census (June 1950 - April 1951).

The Friedrich Middelhauve Verlag publishes a volume of short stories: "Wanderer, do you come to Spa...".

1951 First invitation to a conference of the "Gruppe 47" led by Hans Werner Richter in Bad Dürkheim. Böll receives the group's prize for the satirical story "Die schwarzen Schafe".

The novel "Wo warst du, Adam?" is published as his last publication by Friedrich Middelhauve Verlag.

Texts and testimonies on the years 1945 to 1951:

Personal memories of Heinrich Böll:

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Chapter 4: The first successes (1952 - 1958)

1952 Heinrich Böll changes to the publishing house Kiepenheuer & Witsch.

1952 The story "Not only at Christmas time" is published.

1953 Kiepenheuer's first novel to appear is "Und sagte kein einziges Wort".

1954 The family moves into their own house in Cologne-Müngersdorf. The novel "Haus ohne Hüter" is published; first trip to Ireland.

1955 "The Bread of the Early Years" is published.

1956 Böll appears publicly for the first time as speaker on the occasion of the "Week of Brotherhood".

1957 The "Irish Diary", whose individual parts had been pre-printed since 1954, is published as an anthology.

1958 "Dr. Murkes collected silence" and other satires are published

Texts and testimonies on the years 1952 to 1958:

Personal memories of Heinrich Böll:

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Chapter 5: The Critic of German Catholicism (1959 - 1966)

1959 The novel "Billard um halb zehn" is published.

1961 The newly founded Deutsche Taschenbuch Verlag (dtv) in Munich publishes Böll's "Irish Diary" as No. 1. In autumn the publishing house Kiepenheuer & Witsch delivers the anthology "Erzählungen, Hörspiele, Aufsätze".

1962 Der Insel-Verlag publishes the two stories "Als der Krieg ausbrach" and "Als der Krieg zu Ende war war war war war".

1963 The novel "Views of a Clown" is published.

1964 The story "Distance from the troop" is published.

1966 The story "End of a business trip" is published by Kiepenheuer and Witsch.

Texts and testimonies from 1959 to 1966:

Personal memories of Heinrich Böll:

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Chapter 6: The "state of emergency" of democracy (1967 - 1972)

1967 Böll is awarded the Georg Büchner Prize of the German Academy for Poetry and Language.

1969 At the founding meeting of the Association of German Writers (VS) Böll gives his speech on the end of modesty.

1970 Böll is elected President of the PEN Centre of the Federal Republic of Germany. At the 1st writers' congress of the VS Heinrich Böll, in the presence of Willy Brandt, speaks about the unity of the loners.

1971 The novel "Gruppenbild mit Dame" is published. Böll becomes president of the International PEN.

1972 Heinrich Böll is awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Texts and testimonies on the years 1967 to 1972:

Personal memoirs of Heinrich Böll:

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Chapter 7: The discussion of terrorism (1973 - 1979)

1973 New political and literary writings.

1974 Alexander Solzhenitsyn is deported to the Federal Republic and finds his first refuge in Böll's house in the Eifel. The story "Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum oder: Wie Gewalt entstehen und wohin sie führen kann" is published.

1975 "Reports on the state of mind of the nation".

1976 Annemarie and Heinrich Böll leave the Catholic Church. Together with Günter Grass and Carola Stern he publishes the magazine "L`76".

1977 "Interference desired. Writings and speeches at this time."

1978 For the episodic film "Germany in Autumn" Böll writes a scene in which he satirically depicts the behaviour of the media.

1979 The novel "Fürsorgliche Belagerung" is published.

Texts and testimonies on the years 1973 to 1979:

Personal memories of Heinrich Böll:

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Chapter 8: Interference desired (1980 - 1985)

1981 "What is to become of the boy? Or, "Something with books."
First large peace demonstration in Bonn, with Böll as speaker.

1982 The story "The Legacy", written in 1949, is published by Lamuv Verlag. "Vermined terrain - essayistic speeches and writings 1977-1981". The family gives up the apartment in Hülchrather Straße and moves to Merten near Cologne. Death of the son Raimund.

1983 The story "Die Verwundung" and other early unpublished post-war texts are published by Lamuv Verlag.

1984 "Ein- und Zusprsprüche - gesammelt Reden und Essays der Jahre 1981-1983". Böll publishes a book about the career of the then Federal German government spokesman Peter Boenisch in Lamuv Verlag, entitled "Bild, Bonn, Boenisch". The city of Cologne acquires the Heinrich Böll archive.

1985 Heinrich Böll dies on 16 July in his house in the Eifel village of Langenbroich.

Texts and testimonies on the years 1980 to 1985:

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Chapter 9: Death of an instance

Posthumously, the novel Frauen vor Flusslandschaft (Women in front of a river landscape), completed a few weeks before Böll's death, is published. In dialogues and soliloquies of the novel characters, Böll develops a resigned and radical view of the Bonn Republic.

Texts and testimonies:

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Copyright of the excerpts from his narrative work: Verlag Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Cologne Status: 15.7.05 ©

Photo: Rene Böll, J. H. Darchinger and others.
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