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Billiards at Half-Past Nine

The Essential Heinrich Böll

Translated by Patrick Bowles With an afterword by Jessa Crispin

Heinrich Böll’s well-known opposition to fascism and war informs this moving story of a single day in the life of traumatized soldier Robert Faehmel, scion of a family of successful Cologne architects, as he struggles to return to ordinary life after the Second World War. An encounter with a war-time nemesis, now a power in the reconstruction of Germay, forces him to confront private memories and the wounds of Germany’s defeat in the two World Wars.

HEINRICH BÖLL was born in Cologne in 1917. Despite his background as a Catholic pacifist, Böll was conscripted and saw combat during the second World War. He was wounded four times before surrendering to American Soldiers. He published his first novel, The Train Was on Time, in 1949. His best-known novels include The Clown, Billiards at Half-Past Nine, and Group Portrait with Lady. Böll served as president of PEN and was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1972.

”Daringly and hypnotically written… an extended soliloquy on memory, recrimination and tenuous hope.” —Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal

”A man of deep feeling and intelligence, speaking in a strongly contemporary voice, he recorded in his early stories the way it felt to come home to a destroyed country.The tone was neither angry, ironic nor surreal. On the contrary, these stories gave us the slow-moving thoughtfulness of a narrator in pain, walking about on a lunar landscape, knowing he must make sense of things more quickly than he is able to do.” —Vivian Gornick, The New York Times

”The renewal of German literature, to which Heinrich Böll’s achievements witness, and of which they are a significant part, is not an experiment with form. Instead it is a rebirth out of annihilation, a resurrection, a culture which, ravaged by icy nights and condemned to extinction, sends up new shoots, blossoms, and matures to the joy and benefit of us all.” —The Nobel Prize Committee

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