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.

65 thoughts on “Wednesdays are wunderbar – Heinrich Böll Giveaway

  1. I’ve always been fond of “Chess Story” by Stefan Zweig. Oddly enough I never read any other book by him, so this is definitely something I plan to do in the future.

    I’d choose “Group Portrait with Lady” and “Irish Journal”.

    Thanks for the chance!!

    danaan at gmx dot at

  2. I love Michael Ende’s Momo (or The Grey Gentlemen)! I read a lot of fantasy, and it’s one of my favourite fantasy novels (plus one of the first books I read in German!)

    All the novels sounds so great. I’d love to get “The Clown” and “The Train was on Time”!

    • I like Germany fantasy a lot. I want to read Inkheart soon. Have you read Krabat by Ottfried Preussler? It’s very famous in Germany.
      Böll is a fantastic writer. The Clown is my favourite.

  3. If I tell you about 3 favourite writers, can I win all 6? 🙂

    No? Alright, I’ll behave myself …. I am massive Stefan Zweig fan – it all started, quite appropriately seeing as I live in Scotland, with his story of Mary, Queen of Scots. I read it just before moving here 23 years ago and I’ve haven’t stopped reading him since. (Verified by the number of reviews on my site.)

    Now how to pick 2 titles from that luverly batch of books. Eeny, meeny, miny, mo ….Group Portrait with Lady and The Safety Net, please.

      • And by second choice, I meant second attempt. I don’t wish to infer that Erpenbeck is inferior to Zweig. She’s not ….
        and I’m going to stop commenting in my lunch break. Rash words will get me in bother.

        • I’ve never read any of his biographies. Meant to read the balzac this year but maybe that will not happen.
          German, Austrian, Swiss, in any case, whatever you really liked counts but will that make you win 3 books… rules, rules…
          I wasn’t aware that you liked Visitation so much. We have our first review of the book by Rise (in lieu of a field guide). Very different from others I read so far. I already linked it on the GLM page. 🙂
          Picking 2 out those 6 is not easy.

  4. Thanks for hosting this giveaway, Caroline 🙂 I would love to get ‘The Train was on Time’ and ‘Billiards at Half-Past-Nine’.

    My favourite German book / author – I love Hermann Hesse (especially ‘Narcissus and Goldmund’, which is one of my alltime favourite books), ‘Night Train to Lisbon’ by Pascal Mercier (another alltime favourite – it is so awesome). I also love Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s books. I love all of his books that I have read till now, but if I have to pick one, it will be between ‘Suspicion’ and ‘The Pledge’. I also love Goethe’s ‘The Sorrows of Young Werther’ for the poetic prose.

    • I noticed that, by an interesting coincidence, three of the authors I have mentioned above are Swiss! Strange!

      I also love Theodor Storm’s ‘Immensee’ – so achingly beautiful and heartbreaking. I want to read more of his works.

      • I liked everything I read by Storm. I think you should try Der Schimmelreiter next (sorry don’t know the English title). I’ve also read shorter ones but can’t remember the titles.

        • Thanks Caroline! I will do that. I checked in Wikipedia and it says that ‘Der Schimmelreiter’ is ‘The Rider on the White Horse’ in English. Is that translation accurate?

          • Yes, that is accurate but I like the fact that you can compose words in German. Schimmel means white horse, Reiter means rider. It’s nicer somehow in one word than one long sentence.

            • That is interesting and wonderful, Caroline! So much is lost in translation, isn’t it? I can only imagine how beautiful the story must be when read in German. Maybe I should learn a little bit of German, one of these days 🙂

              • Yes, I agree, a lot is lost but still we can enjoy books in translation. I hear German is not an easy language if you have to learn it but if you only want to read it… It is feasible. 🙂 Once you get the hang of the structure of the sentences it’s ok… That’s the tricky part.

          • Oh, I absolutely utterly and truly adore Storm as well.

            There are two versions of Der Schimmelreiter in English. “The Rider on the White Horse” and other stories published by New York Review of Books. Or “The Dykemaster” – a standalone edition, published by Angel Classic and translated by the superlative Denis Jackson.

            I have copies of both – see, told you, adore is not too emotional a word for how I feel about Storm.

            • You loved Aquis Submersus, didn’t you? I got it for this month as it’s never in any of the Gesammelte Erzählungen.
              The Dykemaster isn’t very literal…
              The descriptions in Effi Briest remind me of Storm, btw.

    • Vishy, that’s an interesting coincidence. maybe you would like Robert Walser. He is very unique. Apparently he influenced Kafka a lot but his writing is more emotional, very poetical. I haven’t read Jacob von Gunten but Richard (caravana de recuerdos) mentions it often. I read short stories. The Walk contains short fiction.
      And I love Narcissus and Goldmund.
      I need to read Pascal Mercier.

  5. Group Portrait with Lady. Billiards at Half-past Nine.

    I’m not that well-versed in German lit. I’m a Zweig fan but the Austrian thing makes me feel a bit uncomfortable about labelling him as German (same with Schnitzler). I think I’d have to consider their feelings about it. Anyway….

    Love Doris Dorrie–not that I’ve read that much. Read a Goethe, halfway through another. Read & loved Effi Briest, but that’s the only Fontane I’ve read. Part of the reason I signed up for this was to improve/expand my reading of German Lit. (Anyone out there want to hold a Spanish lit month, I’d be happy to join). I’ve read some Gunter Grass. Ordered a used copy of Buddenbrooks and it arrived IN GERMAN. Big help. I want to read more Mann (Heinrich AND Thomas). Bought a book of Kleist’s collected works.

    • For weird reasons (Fassbinder) I thought you’ve read a lot of German books. maybe I’m a bit more generoues with the term German literature as this does just mean the language for me.
      I would have loved to do a post on the German writing authors living in Prague like Meyrink, Egon Erwin Kisch, Kafka. There is only one left Lenka Reinerova….Not translated.
      I like Dörrie too. Her movies as well btw.
      There wil be a mini-Spanish Literature Month in January with the Bolaño group read (see button on the right) and I will also align my readalong… But there is talk of a real event… I think some people are warming up for it already… Who could that be?

      • I will join anybody for a Spanish language, peninsular Spain, Latin American, or Ibero-American Literature Month, Caroline–you can count on me! Thanks for mentioning the Savage Detectives group read, too. ¡Saludos!

        • It’s actually Stu who started to mention it but Lizzy thought it might be good to first see how German Literature Month goes but…. I would say it is in the air… Maybe in spring. And, yes, I would have made a Spanish as in Spanish language month because that would include so much more …

      • Well the thing is that I feel as though I’ve just scratched the surface with German lit. And if you don’t have an academic background in it, it’s not always that easy to get pointers, so I appreciate this month a lot. You’ve both put in quite an effort.

        • Thanks, Guy, I’m glad it’s appreciated as – to be honest – it does take some time – but we enjoy it. Dont we Lizzy?
          I’m sure you will find a lot. And all sorts and all centuries too.
          I realize now that German literature may not be as accessible as it seems to me. More than one person told me they can’t find books of German authors in their countries. I’m amazed that we have participants from four continents.
          I find it sad that not more is translated. Germany has a very lively genre production. Crime, historical fiction and fantasy…. They don’t make it into English at all. Crime somewhat.

  6. I was going to choose Bernhard, anti-Austrian, but Stu beat me to him. I will second “Gathering Evidence” as an excellent, excellent memoir of childhood. Another favorite is Max Sebald’s “The Emigrants” which opened my eyes to the wonders of translation.

    Hoping to win The Clown and Billiards at Half-Past Nine.

    • I love The Clown…
      Gathering Evidence is the title of Bernhard’s memoir in English ? Interesting. I read three childhood memoirs together once – Bernhard’s, Walter Benjamin’s and Klaus Mann’s. They are some of the best childhood memoirs I’ve ever read.

  7. I’d love a chance to win The Train Was on Time and Group Portrait with Lady, Caroline. I keep seeing them in the store and lusting after them, so thanks for the opportunity! German language writers I’ve most enjoyed to date: Bernhard, Mann (based on half of Doctor Faustus, which I’d like to get back to for German Lit month), Walser, Zweig, and Wolfram von Eschenbach. Others I hope to read soon: Canetti, Fontane, Gotthelf, Musil, and of course Boll for the Lit and War group read. Plus another Sebald at some point and maybe Fallada if somebody can assure me he wasn’t just a flavor of the month in the blogosphere.

    • Flavour of the month…hehe No, I assure you he wasn’t but it is thanks to the English translation and the frenzy in the English speaking world that he is read again in Germany. He was almost forgotten. Little Man What Now is excellent. He isn’t a great stylist, he writes rather like Erich Maria Remarque. Readable – I hate this word by now but that’s what he is.
      You have nice plans. I will maybe read Robert Walser after your comment on Tom’s blog. I have his complete works here. And Musil.
      I’m a huge Doctor Faustus fan. mann as written a book about writing the Faustus which is excellent as well.

      • I forgot to mention that a couple of the female authors you wrote about yesterday also interested me. The men, well, they’ve been on my list for a while. I started reading Doctor Faustus again earlier today and decided to finish it for German Lit Month for sure, so now seeing that you’re a huge fan of it is just the icing on the cake. Great news!

  8. Thanks for the great giveaway! I’ve never read any of Böll’s books and would love to win any of them, except for perhaps Irish Journal. I’m not much into travelogues.

    I love Goethe, especially the first part of Faust. I haven’t read much other German literature, with the exception of Klaus Mann’s Mephisto. I appreciated that one more after I read it than while I was reading it.

    • I totally know what you mean. Sometimes we read a book and it’s not all that good but after having finished it we see how good it really is. I haven’t read Mephisto but Faus. More than once. I live near the city in which there is the only integral theater play to be seen of the Urfaust, Faust I and Faust II. The place is called Goetheanum.
      It saw it’s first representation here.

  9. My favourite author is Erich Maria Remarque. Everybody has heard of All Quiet on the Western Front but another of his novel, Night in Lisbon, is also very poignant.

    I’d love to win The Train was on Time and Billards at Half-Past Nine.

    I wish to discover more of German crime and mystery writings. I remember those serial The Old Fox and Derrick with great fondness.

    Thanks for the very generous giveaways.

  10. I want to enter for all of them. And my favorite is All Quiet on the Western Front, both because it was my first and because of the importance it later had to my coursework on 20th c. Germany

  11. I would love love love to win Boll’s Irish Journal, along with Group Portrait With Lady.
    I’m really new to German literature, having been turned off it earlier in life by a dose of Kafka before I was able for him, and the notion that it was all darkness and angst.
    But this German Literature Month has prompted me to look again, and I’m reading both Hesse’s “Narziss and Goldmund”, which is exquisite, and Grass’s “The Flounder”, the most extraordinary thing I’ve come across in ages, quite fascinating. I’m loving them both.
    May whoever wins the books enjoy them to the full. Cheers.

    • That’s wonderful to hear. It’s not all Kafka, thank God. As interesting as some of it is, unique and all, he is dark.
      I haven’t read The Flounder. I’m interestd in reading your review.
      Hesse is quite the opposite of Kafka. He has his dark- or rather melancholic- moments but overall it’s a much more hopeful world. I loved Narziss und Goldmund.

  12. Pingback: What to drink when reading Heinrich Böll « Lizzy’s Literary Life

  13. Billiards at Half-Past Nine and Irish Journal. But just being greedy here.

    Seriously, in terms of fiction I want to say Gertrud by Hesse (if he counts, being dual nationality … ). Deeply strange and haunting. Deeply flawed, too. But fascinating.

    Non-fiction has to be the three volumes of Klemperer’s diaries available in English. For all the obvious reasons. But also for the weird incidental detail and the erudition on the gradual normalisation in Central Europe in the mid-twentieth century of the language of hate.

    • As I said in another comment- there is no such thing as greed when books are involved. 🙂 Gertrud isn’t one I see mentioned often and I haven’t read it yet although I got it. Thanks for reminding me.
      And I got the whole Klemperer diaries. 12 volumes in German but that doesn’t mean they aren’t complete in English. The TV series is quite good too. It’s an interesting book but also because it shows how long it took untile they realized hwat is going on. That amazed me . Interesiting what you say about the normalisation of the language of hate…

  14. I’d like to enter to win The Train Was on Time and The Safety Net.
    My only foray into German Literature has been Comedy in a Minor Key by Hans Keilson, which was dark and funny. Although he wrote in the Netherlands, apparently he was born in Germany!! I am currently discovering Effie Briest by Fontane, which I think is excellent so far.Thank you.

    • I’m very glad you like Effi Briest.
      I’m never sure whether Keilson wrote in German or Dutch.
      I just recently got a book with collected iworks. Dark and funny is a combination I like.

  15. Group Portrait with Lady and The Train Was On Time.

    This is a great and generous idea. Thank you for hosting this. And, for Melville House, this has done what they intended. Heinrich Boll is on my TBR, a Melville House edition is in my future, one way or another.


    • You are welcome, Kerry.
      They are very generous indeed. They already offered two novellas by Kleist. And we have a set of Falladas as well.
      I think it is well deserved attention, I like them quite a bit.
      But other editors are also quite generous. All in all we can give away 30 books.

  16. The only German author I’ve read this year (so far) is Friedrich Christian Delius (who I never got around to writing about). My favorite German author is also Stefan Zweig–I’ve read and loved The Post Office Girl and my favorite, Beware of Pity. I just got in the mail another novella by him (splurge on my part), Fear. I think I will be reading one of the books I own by him this month, too. Could you drop my name in the hat for The Train was on Time? My library has loads of his books, but (unfortunately for me) most of them are in the original German.

    • I will do that. Yes, Zweig is wonderful but I never read Beware of Pity. It wasn’t available in German for a while. I’d like to read it very much. Not this month either. 🙂

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