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The Train Was On Time

The Essential Heinrich Böll

Translated by Leila Vennewitz
With a new introduction by William T. Vollmann

Heinrich Böll’s taut and haunting first novel tells the story of twenty-four-year-old Private Andreas as he journeys on a troop train across the German countryside to the Eastern front. Trapped, he knows that Hitler has already lost the war … yet he is suddenly galvanized by the thought that he is on the way to his death.

As the train hurtles on, he riffs through prayers and memories, talks with other soldiers about what they’ve been through, and gazes desperately out the window at his country racing away. With mounting suspense, Andreas is gripped by one thought over all: Is there a way to defy his fate?

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.




“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 Commitee

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

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

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