Boll's well-known, vehement opposition to fascism and war informs this moving story of Robert Faehmel. After being drawn into the Second World War to command retreating German forces despite his anti-Nazi feelings, Faehmel struggles to re-establish a normal life at war's end. He adheres to a rigorous schedule, including a daily game of billiards. When his routine is breached by an old friend, now a power in German reconstruction, Faehmel is forced to confront both public and private memories.
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In 1972, Heinrich Böll became the first German to win the Nobel Prize for literature since Thomas Mann in 1929. Born in Cologne, in 1917, Böll was reared in a liberal Catholic, pacifist family. Drafted into the Wehrmacht, he served on the Russian and French fronts and was wounded four times before he found himself in an American prison camp. After the war he enrolled at the University of Cologne, but dropped out to write about his shattering experiences as a soldier. His first novel, The Train Was on Time, was published in 1949, and he went on to become one of the most prolific and important of post-war German writers. His best-known novels include Billiards at Half-Past Nine (1959), The Clown (1963), Group Portrait with Lady (1971), and The Safety Net (1979). In 1981 he published a memoir, What’s to Become of the Boy? or: Something to Do with Books. Böll served for several years as the president of International P.E.N. and was a leading defender of the intellectual freedom of writers throughout the world. He died in June 1985.
Jessa Crispin is the editor and founder of Bookslut.com. She is also a reviewer for NPR’s “Books We Like,” and her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Guardian, and The Toronto Globe and Mail, among other publications. She lives in Berlin.
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