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 Böll was one of the trio of great German writers (along with Thomas Mann and Herman Hesse) who have been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Böll was born in Cologne in 1917 and brought up in a liberal Catholic pacifist family. Drafted into the Wehrmacht, he served on the Russian and French fronts and was wounded four times before he found himself in an American prisoner-of-war camp. After the war he enrolled at the University of Cologne, but dropped out to write about his shattering experience as a soldier. His first novel, The Train Was on Time, was published in 1949, and he went on to become one of the most prolific and important of post-war German writers. His best-known novels include Billiards at Half-past Nine, Children are Civilians Too, Group Portrait with Lady, The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum, And Never Said a Word and The Safety Net. Böll served for several years as president of International P.E.N. and was a leading defender of the intellectual freedom of writers throughout the world. He died in 1985.