Heinrich Boll

The Train Was on Time
  • The Train Was on Time

  • 'Böll's novel blows a stent in the human heart. . . It feels more necessary than ever.' Anna Funder, from the introduction

    'This is the best book I have read this year; not by miles, but by whole astronomical units; I am stunned by it as if by a blow. It is *astonishing* to the extent that I cannot convey to you its power' Sarah Perry, bestselling author of The Essex Serpent and Melmoth

    Twenty-four-year-old Andreas, a disillusioned German soldier, is travelling on a troop train to the Eastern Front when he has an awful premonition that he will die in exactly five days. As he hurtles towards his death, he reflects on the chaos around him - the naïve soldiers, the painfully thin girl who pours his coffee, the ruined countryside - with sudden, heart-breaking poignancy. Arriving in Poland the night before he is certain he will die, he meets Olina, a beautiful prostitute, and together they attempt to escape his fate...

    'His work reaches the highest level of creative originality and stylistic perfection' Daily Telegraph

    'Boll combines a mammoth intelligence with a literary outlook that is masterful and unique' Joseph Heller, author of Catch-22

    'My most-admired contemporary novelist' John Ashbery

    'From the moment I stepped on board the troop train with Private Andreas, concerns pertaining to my own world fell away completely. Holding this impelling book is tantamount to holding the young soldier's fate in one's hands. It is impossible to let go.' Claire-Louise Bennett, author of Pond

Heinrich Boll won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1972. Born in Cologne in 1917, Boll was raised in a pacifist Catholic family who later opposed Nazism. After an apprenticeship at a bookseller's, he was drafted into the Nazi Wehrmacht before being sent to an American prisoner of war camp in 1945. After the war he enrolled at university, but dropped out to write about his shattering experiences as a soldier: The Train Was On Time was his first novel, published in 1949, and he went on to become one of the most prolific and important post-war German authors. Boll served for several years as the president of International P.E.N. and was a leading defender of the intellectual freedom of writers throughout the world. He died in 1985.