German novelist. A radical Catholic and anti-Nazi, he attacked Germany's political past and the materialism of its contemporary society. His many publications include poems, short stories, and novels which satirized West German society, for example Billard um Halbzehn/Billiards at Half-Past Nine (1959) and Gruppenbild mit Dame/Group Portrait with Lady (1971). He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1972.
Early life and breakthrough Böll was born in Cologne. He fought throughout World War II and became a full-time writer in 1947, joining Gruppe 47, a band of young critical writers dedicated to rescuing German literature from post-war chaos. His reputation became established with Wo warst du, Adam?/Adam, Where Art Thou? (1951), a novel dealing with the final phase of German resistance in 1945.
Main worksBillard um Halbzehn marks a stylistic departure from the conventional novel, recounting within the space of 24 hours the key historical events and conflicts of the 20th century as reflected in the lives of three generations of a family of architects. An amusing, sharp attack on relentless authoritarianism and bureaucracy is found in Das Ende einer Dienstfahrt/End of a Mission (1966). All Böll's major focuses of concern, however, crystallize in the cleverly structured satirical novel Gruppenbild mit Dame, rich in incident and with a wealth of characters.
Late works In later years, Böll's growing alarm at the power of institutions and government over individuals moved him further to the left politically and this is clearly reflected in his literary work. For example, Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum/The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum (1974) is a denunciation of the methods of character assassination employed by sections of the press. Perhaps the most outstanding German novelist of his generation, he also wrote a play, Ein Schluck Erde (1962); essays, and articles.
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