The Nobel Prize in Literature 1972
Born: 21 December 1917, Cologne, Germany
Died: 16 July 1985, Bornheim-Merten, West Germany (now Germany)
Residence at the time of the award: Germany
Prize motivation: “for his writing which through its combination of a broad perspective on his time and a sensitive skill in characterization has contributed to a renewal of German literature”
Prize share: 1/1
Heinrich Böll was born in Cologne, Germany. After graduating from secondary school, he began working as an apprentice bookseller in Bonn. In connection with World War II, he was drafted into military service. Böll participated in several battles until he was captured as an American prisoner of war. After the war ended, he returned to Cologne and began writing fiction. During the 1950s he published a series of works in quick succession. During the 1970s Böll focused on political issues. Among other things, he helped Alexander Solzhenitsyn when he was expelled from the Soviet Union.
Heinrich Böll’s experiences during World War II played a decisive role in his writing. He depicted the futility of war and the suffering it brings in the short story collection Wanderer, kommst du nach Spa... (1950) (Stranger, Bear Word to the Spartans We...) and the early novel Der Zug war punktlich (1949) (The Train Was on Time). Böll wrote several novels that criticized postwar West German society, including Gruppenbild mit Dame (1971) (Group Portrait with a Lady). One of his best-known works is Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum oder: Wie Gewalt entstehen und wohin sie führen kann (1974) (The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum).