Heinrich Böll

German writer (1917–1985)

Heinrich Theodor Böll (December 21, 1917July 16, 1985) was a German novelist, short-story writer and playwright. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1972.

Heinrich Böll, 1981


  • Eine Familie, die keine schwarzen Schafe hat, ist keine charakteristische Familie.
    • A family without a black sheep is not a typical family.
    • "Die schwarzen Schafe" (1951); cited from 1947 bis 1951 (Köln: F. Middelhauve, 1963) p. 478. Translation: "Black Sheep", in Leila Vennewitz (trans.) The Stories of Heinrich Böll (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1995) p. 408.
  • Er meidet die überaus geschmackvollen offiziellen »Helden«friedhöfe. Warum nur, so denkt er, tun die Deutschen so viel für ihre Toten und so wenig für ihre Lebenden?
    • He avoids the official "heroes'" cemetery, done in such impeccable taste. (Why, he wonders, do the Germans do so much for their dead and so little for the living?)
    • "You Enter Germany" (1967); cited from Aufsätze, Kritiken, Reden (Köln: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1967) p. 278. Translation: "You are Now Entering Germany", in Leila Vennewitz (trans.) Missing Persons and Other Essays (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1994) p. 48.
  • Sie muss also zu weit gehen, um herauszufinden, wie weit sie gehen darf.
    • One ought to go too far, in order to know how far one can go.
    • "Die Freiheit der Kunst", speech delivered at Wuppertal on September 24, 1966; cited from Cultura 21 magazine [1], September 30, 2005. Translation: Walter Laqueur Germany Today: A Personal Report (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1985) p. 130.
  • Creativity is not limited to people practising one of the traditional forms of art, and even in the case of artists, creativity is not confined to the exercise of their art. Each one of us has a creative potential, which is hidden by competitiveness and success-aggression. To recognize, explore and develop this potential is the task of the School. Creation – whether it be a painting, sculpture, symphony or novel – involves not merely talent, intuition, powers of imagination and application, but also the ability to shape material that could be expanded to other socially relevant spheres.
    • Joseph Beuys and Heinrich Böll (1972), cited in: Caroline Tisdall, Joseph Beuys, exh.cat., Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York 1979. p. 278.
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