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Billiards At Half-Past Nine

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | Billiards At Half-Past Nine.pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    Heinrich Boll(Author)

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Book details

  • PDF | 280 pages
  • Heinrich Boll(Author)
  • McGraw-Hill (1962)
  • English
  • 7
  • Other books

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Review Text

  • By T. F. Wells on 3 December 2014

    The author is the Nobel Prize winner Heinrich Böll who, along with a group of writers that included Günter Grass, sought to reconcile the ideal and the reality of German nationhood in the wake of the three increasingly destructive European wars his homeland had started in its brief 90-year history.The plot chronicles three generations of the relatively unremarkable Faehmel family living in a decidedly unremarkable town in a mostly quiet corner of Germany. Heinrich, representing the first generation, is an architect who, despite his youth and dearth of connections, is selected in the aftermath of the First World War to rebuild a local abbey suffering from near-terminal neglect. Heinrich’s son, Robert, follows his father into the building trade but gravitates away from development into demolition. Robert’s son, Joseph, takes up his grandfather’s mantle and at the book’s end is tasked with resurrecting the abbey after Robert has employed his particular skill during the 1944-45 German retreat from the Allies. Build, destroy, rebuild: the history of a nation.The book is therefore the opposite of a sweeping war epic. The cast of significant characters is limited to less than a dozen. The story is devoid of the dramatised horror you might expect in a novel that takes place at the epicentre of two world wars. Instead, it depicts the small misunderstandings, hurts and betrayals that occur in any family and in any community, invariably because of regimented thinking and willingly suppressed expression. It is also about the retreat into routine—work, school, even leisure (hence the title)—in order to avoid having to address larger calamities that threaten home, village and nation. But by being set against the backdrop of the most horrific political regime in European history, otherwise mundane conflicts rise to the level of wrenching tragedy.This is not an easy book to get into. It uses a narrative device common in 20th C “serious literature” in which key information is presented seemingly randomly at the beginning of the book and then given context as the story unfolds. It therefore helped me to write down character names as well as certain repeated themes—e.g., To the Roman children’s graves; Taste the Buffalo Sacrament; Shepherd my Lambs. And just how does the reader identify these themes? Because my edition, superbly translated by Patrick Bowles, was thoughtful enough to italicise them.And when I say “my edition,” I am talking about a used English translation copyrighted in 1961 and originally sold for 6s/6d (six shillings and sixpence--or roughly $1.80 at the FX rate of the day). I bought it online for a price which shows that inflation for Nobel Prize winning literature has not exactly kept pace with the 50-year increase in the CPI. It’s sad that a book as great as this is disappearing from English-language bookshelves. If you try to download it in Kindle, you will fail, raising the spectre that those denied the chance to read great literature about vital history are doomed to repeat it.

  • By Miss F on 9 February 2017

    I read this book first at school, when I was about 12 I think and it left a big impression. Heinrich Boell is one of my favourite authors and this is one of my favourite books. I'm going to read the English version for the very first time, I hope it's as good as the German. You never know with translations.


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