Wednesdays are wunderbar – Heinrich Böll Giveaway

I’m so glad that I can give away six books by Heinrich Böll, my favourite German author. The giveaway has been kindly provided by Melville House Press.

We give away 6 novels to 3 winners, 2 novels each. Please tell us which novels you would like.

Here we go (the blurbs are all from the Melville House Böll Page):

The Train was on Time

Heinrich Böll’s taut and haunting first novel tells the story of twenty-four-year-old Private Andreas as he journeys on a troop train across the German countryside to the Eastern front. Trapped, he knows that Hitler has already lost the war … yet he is suddenly galvanized by the thought that he is on the way to his death.

As the train hurtles on, he riffs through prayers and memories, talks with other soldiers about what they’ve been through, and gazes desperately out the window at his country racing away. With mounting suspense, Andreas is gripped by one thought over all: Is there a way to defy his fate?

The Safety Net

Fritz Tolm has risen to the most powerful position in Germany.

With fame comes fear and vulnerability. Threats to his life are met with the all-pervasive “safety-net” of police protection and surveillance.

Trapped in a house they dare not leave, where every visitor is suspect and every object a potential bomb, Tolm and his family wait to discover when and how terrorism will overtake them.

Group Portrait with Lady

Cited by the Nobel Prize committee as the “crown” of Heinrich Böll’s work, the gripping story of Group Portrait With Lady unspools like a suspenseful documentary. Via a series of tense interviews, an unnamed narrator uncovers the story—past and present—of one of Böll’s most intriguing characters, the enigmatic Leni Pfeiffer, a struggling war widow.

At the center of her struggle is her effort to prevent the demolition of her Cologne apartment building, a fight in which she is joined by a motley group of neighbors. Along with her illegitimate son, Lev, she becomes the nexus of a countercultural group rebelling against Germany’s dehumanizing past under the Nazis … and what looks to be an equally dehumanizing future under capitalism.

Billards at Half-Past Nine

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.

The Clown

Acclaimed entertainer Hans Schnier collapses when his beloved Marie leaves him because he won’t marry her within the Catholic Church.

The desertion triggers a searing re-examination of his life — the loss of his sister during the war, the demands of his millionaire father, and the hypocrisies of hs mother, who first fought to “save” Germany from the Jews, then worked for “reconciliation” afterwards.

Heinrich Böll’s gripping consideration of how to overcome guilted and live up to idealism — how to find something to believe in — gives stirring evidence of why he was such an unwelcome presence in post-War German consciousness … and why he was such a necessary one.

Irish Journal

When Heinrich Böll traveled with his wife to Ireland in the early 1950′s, he was immediately enchanted by the landscape and the people. Reveling in respite from a Europe still recovering from war, he was captivated by what he saw as a friendly and classless society that took life at a more leisurely pace. He was delighted, for example, by the Irish saying that explained why the trains were always late: “When God made time he made plenty of it.” Böll would return again and again.

In this unique entry in his oeuvre, Böll documents his eccentric travels around the Emerald Isle, detailing its charm in a way that gives his own habit of studying character and paradox, not mention national identity, a beguiling twist. The result, here presented with an epilogue written years later with Böll’s observation of changes since his first visit, is a reflection on the essence of a place and its people that is, indeed, evergreen.


If you are interested in two or more of these books, tell me which ones you would like. The only condition is that you tell us about a favourite German book or author or – if you only get started – tell us what books you plan on discovering, which authors or books tempt you.

The giveaway is part of German Literature Month.

Also visit What to drink while reading Heinrich Böll on the Melville House Blog.

The giveaway is open internationally, the books will be shipped by the editor. The winners will be announced on Sunday 6 November 18.00 – European – (Zürich) time.