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German writer (1917-1985)

One ought to go too far, in order to know how far one can go.

HEINRICH BÖLL, Cultura 21, Sep. 30, 2005

Behind every word a whole world is hidden that must be imagined. Actually, every word has a great burden of memories, not only just of one person but of all mankind. Take a word such as bread, or war; take a word such as chair, or bed or Heaven. Behind every word is a whole world. I'm afraid that most people use words as something to throw away without sensing the burden that lies in a word.

HEINRICH BÖLL, The Paris Review, spring 1983

When I am asked how or why I wrote this or that, I always find myself quite embarassed. I would gladly furnish not merely the questioner, but myself as well, with an exhaustive answer, but can never do so. I cannot recreate the context in its entirety, yet I wish that I could, so that at least the literature I myself make might be made slightly less of a mysterious process than bridge-building and bread-baking.

HEINRICH BÖLL, Nobel Lecture, May 2, 1973

An artist is like a woman who can do nothing but love, and who succumbs to every stray male jackass.


When I got the Nobel Prize I said to myself that it had made me neither smarter nor more stupid.

HEINRICH BÖLL, The Paris Review, spring 1983

A family without a black sheep is not a typical family.

HEINRICH BÖLL, "Black Sheep," The Stories of Heinrich Boll

I seldom have a firm plot or any idea at all about the ending. But there is a clear, almost mathematically conceptual idea that determines length—the length or brevity of a literary work being comparable to the size of the frame needed by a picture.

HEINRICH BÖLL, The Paris Review, spring 1983

Most people, being denied reliable telepathic communication, reach for the phone, which they feel is more reliable.

HEINRICH BÖLL, The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum

Humor is really one of the hardest things to define, very hard. And it's very ambiguous. You have it or you don't. You can't attain it. There are terrible forms of professional humor, the humorists' humor. That can be awful. It depresses me because it is artificial. You can't always be humorous, but a professional humorist must. That is a sad phenomenon.

HEINRICH BÖLL, The Paris Review, spring 1983

Writing is - at least for me - movement forward, the conquest of a body that I do not know at all, away from something to something that I do not yet know; I never know what will happen - and here 'happen' is not intended as plot resolution, in the sense of classical dramaturgy, but in the sense of a complicated and complex experiment that with given imaginary, spiritual, intellectual and sensual materials in interaction strives - on paper to boot! - towards incarnation.

HEINRICH BÖLL, Nobel Lecture, May 2, 1973

Here on earth we find ourselves in a waiting room.

HEINRICH BÖLL, The Paris Review, spring 1983


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