Billiards at Half-Past Nine
Publication Date: December 28, 2010
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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 Germany, forces him to confront private memories and the wounds of Germany’s defeat in the two World Wars.
Jessa Crispin is the editor and founder of Bookslut.com and Spoliamag.com. She has written for "The New York Times", "The Guardian", "The Washington Post", "Boston Review", "The Los Angeles Review of Books", "Architect Magazine", "The Globe and Mail", and other publications. Her first book, "The Dead Ladies Project: Exile, Expats and Ex-Countries" is forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press. She has lived in Ireland, Chicago, Texas, Kansas, and Germany. She currently lives nowhere in particular.
THE ESSENTIAL HEINRICH BÖLL
"Daringly and hypnotically written... an extended soliloquy on memory, recrimination and tenuous hope."
—Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal
"Böll is an expert marksman: the arrows are sharp, the feathers smooth, the targets numerous."
—The New York Times
"His work reaches the highest level of creative originality and stylistic perfection."
—The Daily Telegraph
"The renewal of German literature, to which Heinrich Böll's achievements witness, and of which they are a significant part, is not an experiment with form. Instead it is a rebirth out of annihilation, a resurrection, a culture which, ravaged by icy nights and condemned to extinction, sends up new shoots, blossoms, and matures to the joy and benefit of us all."
—The Nobel Prize Committee
“The claim that Böll is the true successor to Thomas Mann can be defended by his novel Billiards at Half-Past Nine.”
“A work in the best tradition of the German novel, taking up the thread broken by the Third Reich, the thread spun by Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front and Fallada’s Little Man, What Now?”
—Christian Science Monitor
“A man of deep feeling and intelligence, speaking in a strongly contemporary voice, [Böll] recorded in his early stories the way it felt to come home to a destroyed country. The tone was neither angry, ironic nor surreal. On the contrary, these stories gave us the slow-moving thoughtfulness of a narrator in pain, walking about on a lunar landscape, knowing he must make sense of things more quickly than he is able to do.”
—Vivian Gornick, The New York Times