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Group Portrait with Lady

The Essential Heinrich Böll

Translated by Leila Vennewitz

Cited by the Nobel Prize committee as the “crown” of Heinrich Böll’s work, the gripping story of Group Portrait With Lady unspools like a suspenseful documentary. Via a series of tense interviews, an unnamed narrator uncovers the story—past and present—of one of Böll’s most intriguing characters, the enigmatic Leni Pfeiffer, a struggling war widow.

At the center of her struggle is her effort to prevent the demolition of her Cologne apartment building, a fight in which she is joined by a motley group of neighbors. Along with her illegitimate son, Lev, she becomes the nexus of a countercultural group rebelling against Germany’s dehumanizing past under the Nazis … and what looks to be an equally dehumanizing future under capitalism.

HEINRICH BÖLL was born in Cologne in 1917. Despite his background as a Catholic pacifist, Böll was conscripted and saw combat during the second World War. He was wounded four times before surrendering to American Soldiers. He published his first novel, The Train Was on Time, in 1949. His best-known novels include The Clown, Billiards at Half-Past nine, and Group Portrait with Lady. Boll served as president of PEN and was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1972.

Extraordinary… A powerful work of the imagination.”—Los Angeles Times

“His work reaches the highest level of creative originality and stylistic perfection.”—The Daily Telegraph

“Böll combines a mammoth intelligence with a literary outlook that is masterful and unique.”—Joseph Heller

“His most grandly conceived [novel]… the magnum opus which so far crowns his work.”—The Nobel Prize Committee

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