Heinrich Böll

Photo: Toni Richter. All rights reserved.

Heinrich Böll

Heinrich Böll passed away on the 16 July 1985. Since that time much that was part and parcel of the environment in which the Nobel laureate lived and worked have undergone fundamental change. However, the quality that makes Böll’s work transcend contemporary factors and lends it enduring significance was something at the centre of his narrative and essayistic works – namely, the aspiration to act autonomously and develop forms of free, personal commitment that go beyond conventional patterns of thought. Böll viewed freedom, above all, as freedom of the mind.

Heinrich Böll was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for his novels and short stories in 1972.

His courageous and unerring intervention significantly enriched and influenced political culture in Germany. Throughout his life, Heinrich Böll transcended all ideological boundaries in his committed support of persecuted colleagues, civil rights activists, and political prisoners; this once earned him the mocking title of "Warden of the Dissident Wayfarers" in an East German magazine.

His global commitment to human rights greatly enhanced the image of the Federal Republic of Germany and fostered international understanding. His books and essays vividly portray the first 40 years of German democracy following the Nazi dictatorship. Committed to speaking out against the global threat of nuclear destruction, he was actively involved in the peace movement in the early 1980s.

Heinrich Böll was president of PEN International for several years.

His most important works include "The Bread of Our Early Years," "Billiards at Half-past Nine," "The Clown," "Group Portrait with Lady," "The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum," "Women in a River Landscape," and "Irish Journal." Many of his books have been made into films.

With the approval of the Böll family and the National Convention of Bündnis 90/Die Grünen (Green Party), the Foundation carries the name of Heinrich Böll because he embodied that rare combination of political awareness, artistic creativity, and moral integrity which remains a model for future generations. The courage to stand up for one's beliefs; encouragement to meddle in public affairs; and unconditional activism in support of dignity and human rights were characteristics of the writer Heinrich Böll. The Foundation is committed to that tradition.