One of Germany's foremost post-Second-World-War authors, Heinrich Böll was born in Cologne, Germany on December 21, 1917. He successfully resisted joining the Hitler Youth. He was apprentice in a bookshop, then studied German at the University of Cologne. Drafted into the Wehrmacht, he served in France, Romania, Hungary and the Soviet Union, and was wounded four times then captured by Americanss in April 1945. Two years later, at the age of 30, he became a full-time writer.
His first published work, a short story entitled "Der Zug war pünktlich" (The Train Was on Time), appeared in 1947. Many other novels, short stories, radio plays and essay collections followed, and in 1972 he received the Nobel Prize for Literature. He was the first German to receive this award since Thomas Mann in 1929. His work has been translated into more than 30 languages, and he is one of Germany's most read authors.
Böll was deeply rooted in his home town of Cologne, with its almost compulsory and oppressive Roman Catholicism and its rather rough and drastic sense of humour. In the immediate post-war period, he was preoccupied with memories of the War and the effect it had--materially and psychologically--on the lives of ordinary people. He has made them the heroes in his writing.
His villains are the authority figures in government, business, and in the Church, whom he castigates, sometimes humorously, sometimes acidly, for what he perceived as their conformism, lack of courage, self-satisfied attitude, and abuse of power.
He was deeply affected by the Nazi takeover of Cologne, as they essentially exiled him in his own town. Furthermore, the destruction of Cologne under Allied bombing raids scarred him irrevocably. The newly-rebuilt Cologne, prosperous once more, left him indifferent. His works have been dubbed "Trümmerliteratur"--rubble literature.
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