In 1972, Heinrich Boell became the first German to win the
Nobel Prize for literature since Thomas Mann in 1929. Born in
Cologne, in 1917, Boell was reared in a liberal Catholic, pacifist
family. Drafted into the Wehrmacht, he served on the Russian and
French fronts and was wounded four times before he found himself in
an American prison camp. After the war he enrolled at the
University of Cologne, but dropped out to write about his
shattering experiences as a soldier. His first novel, The Train
Was on Time, was published in 1949, and he went on to become
one of the most prolific and important of post-war German writers.
His best-known novels include Billiards at Half-Past Nine
(1959), The Clown (1963), Group Portrait with Lady
(1971), and The Safety Net (1979). In 1981 he published a
memoir, What's to Become of the Boy? or: Something to Do with
Books. Boell served for several years as the president of
International P.E.N. and was a leading defender of the intellectual
freedom of writers throughout the world. He died in June 1985.
Translator Leila Vennewitz was a distinguished translator of many German authors including Uwe Johnson, Hermann Hesse, Uwe Timm, Alexander Kluge, and Alfred Andersch.
"Boell has feelingly symbolized a guilty Germany doing pennace for its sins through suffering and death."--TIme