Billiards at nine thirty

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Dust jacket of the first edition

Billard um half past nine (spelling: half past nine) is a time-critical novel by Heinrich Böll published in 1959 .


The story of the Fahmel family of architects from the Rhineland is told over three generations. The focal point of the plot is September 6, 1958, the 80th birthday of the head of the family, Heinrich Faehmel, which is to be celebrated in the evening with close family and friends. The memories and stories of the family members on that day unfold bit by bit the great arc of family history in the five decades between the Wilhelmine Empire and the economic miracle of the Federal Republic, which included two world wars and the Nazi dictatorship. Places of the action are an unspecified city, which has many parallels to Böll's hometown Cologne , and a nearby, rural river valley.

In 1907 the young architect Heinrich Faehmel appeared in the city. The occasion is his participation in the tender for the construction of the St. Anton abbey in the Kissatal, which he surprisingly wins against well-known competition. The abbey will be his first and at the same time most important building project, and the Kissatal will become a kind of second residence. This project forms the professional cornerstone of his life plan, which provides for the systematic path to the higher levels of urban society and the formation of a large family, the completion of which Heinrich Faehmel wants to celebrate his 80th birthday in the future. Fahmel wants to lay the family foundation by marrying into a local patrician family. He marries the notary's daughter Johanna Kilb, with whom he has four children, two of whom die early.

In the time of National Socialism , whose will to power and the associated contempt for mankind is always described in the novel as the sacrament of the Ox , each individual asks himself the question of how he or she feels about the totalitarian system of rule, whether or not he costs from the sacrament of the Ox , with what he is counted among the lambs . The Fahmel family kept their distance, especially the older son Robert, only the younger son Otto followed the party. As a schoolboy, Robert experiences terror against his unadjusted friends, especially through his classmate Nettlinger, the sports teacher and some Nazi officials. After an unsuccessful attempt at an explosives attack, Robert's friend Schrella fled abroad, another was executed and Robert also went to the Netherlands as a precaution.

Since there is nothing against him, Robert can return after a few years and becomes a demolition expert in the war. In the last days of the war he was deployed in the Kissatal and was able to convince the fanatical Wehrmacht general that blowing up the St. Anton Abbey would offer a tactical advantage. The reasons why he razed his father's main work to the ground is never finally clarified, most likely because the monks had very willingly paid homage to the sacrament of the buffalo . Robert hides his perpetrator from his father.

After the war Robert returns to the bombed city. His wife perished in the war, his brother Otto was killed and his mother was admitted to a mental sanatorium. He himself works as a vehement proponent of explosions in the clean-up work. He then opened an office for static calculations in the studio of his retired father , where he employed members of his demolition squad from the war. Traumatized, from now on he withholds his feelings and emotions towards everyone, lives discreetly and withdrawn and sets himself a strict and precise daily routine. Among other things, he goes to the nearby Hotel Prinz Heinrich every day at 9:30 a.m. and plays billiards for an hour and a half in the presence of the hotel boy Hugo, to whom he tells formative episodes of his life.

At the beginning of September 1958, the reconstruction of the St. Anton Abbey was in full swing. Robert's nephew and foster son Joseph Faehmel is also involved as an assistant to an architecture office. During excavation work, Joseph discovers explosive marks in Roberts' handwriting and plans to confront them. Robert's school friend Schrella is arrested on his first re-entry because of the not yet revoked search warrant against him from the Nazi era. Through personal intervention by Nettlinger, who - outwardly converted to a Democrat - quickly made a career after the war, he is immediately released. Nettlinger treats his former victim Schrella extremely jovially - certainly also so that he doesn't get the idea of ​​harming him and his career with the experiences from the pre-war period. Both try to contact Robert independently on September 6th. Robert escapes the attempt at contact by the detested Nettlinger. Schrella, on the other hand, is invited to Heinrich Faehmel's birthday party in the evening, where he sees Robert again. At short notice, the celebration will be relocated from Faehmel's regular café to the hotel. On the side balcony, a minister and his entourage, including Nettlinger, await the march of an old Nazi group, to which the minister wants to show his sympathy by waving demonstratively. Suddenly, grandmother Johanna, who has arrived from the sanatorium, pulls a pistol and shoots the minister.


“A widespread, painfully beautiful elegy of the life of our own time, of hopes, sufferings and illusions. The book is mature. It is relieved of all tendencies. «(Karl Korn in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung , July 25, 1959, in the introduction to the preprint, ibid.)

»[...] the novel 'Billard um Halbzehn' has the size that Böll and German writers of his generation missed. [...] The novel takes place in 1958 and only in 1958. The path of generations is shown in terms of the result, as it is here and now to the poet Böll. Flashback has never been used more sensibly. "(Marcel Reich-Ranicki in Die Welt , October 8, 1959)

“I suspect that Böll [...] as a novelist is moved by formal ambitions, the necessity of which he did not quite understand when looking at larger role models. [...] to poetically manage to bring together half a century of German history in one family - that is simply not his business. I'm afraid this novel will be highly praised. "(Paul Hühnerfeld in Die Zeit , October 9, 1959)




  • First edition: Billiards at half past ten. Novel . Kiepenheuer & Witsch , Cologne 1959
  • Billiards at nine thirty. Novel . Knaur-Taschenbuch Nr. 8, Droemer Knaur, Munich / Zurich 1963
  • Billiards at nine thirty. Novel . Deutscher Taschenbuchverlag , dtv, 2000 u.ö .; ISBN 3-423-00991-8
  • Billiards at nine thirty . Heinrich Boell. Works. Cologne edition. Vol. 11. Ed. By Frank Finlay and Markus Schäfer. Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Cologne 2002. ISBN 3-462-03150-3 [with a clear description of the development, documentation of the preliminary stages and position comment]


  • Becker, Rolf: Böll. A little bit of truth . In: Der Spiegel . 13. Vol. 44. October 28, 1959. pp. 80f.
  • Horst, Karl August: Overcoming the time. To the new novel by Heinrich Böll . In: Neue Zürcher Zeitung . No. 300. November 1, 1959.
  • Hühnerfeld, Paul: Heinrich Böll: "Billiards at half past nine". Wrong role models, wrong ambitions affect even the best narrator. In: The time . No. 41 October 9, 1959.
  • Kaiser, Joachim: What is a person without grief? In: Süddeutsche Zeitung . No. 297. 12./13. December 1959.
  • Kirst, Hans Hellmut: Unsentimental family portrait . In: Münchner Merkur . October 24, 1959.
  • Reich-Ranicki, Marcel: Bitter said from a loving heart to the Germans. Heinrich Böll's new novel, "Billard at half past nine", a great achievement in our young literature. In: Die Welt (Berlin-West edition. Essen). October 8, 1959.
  • Widmer, Walter: Coping with the unresolved past. About the new novel "Billard at half past nine" by Heinrich Böll. In: Der Kurier (Munich). October 15, 1959.

Research literature, interpretations

  • Bernd Balzer: Billiards at nine thirty . In: BB: The literary work of Heinrich Böll . Introduction and comments. Munich 1997. pp. 223-247.
  • Horst Grobe: Heinrich Böll, "Billiards at half past nine". König's explanations and materials , 397. C. Bange, Hollfeld 1999 ISBN 3804416640 .
  • Klaus Jeziorkowski: The writing in the sand. In: Heinrich Böll 1917–1985 . Edited by Bernd Balzer. Peter Lang, Bern 1992. pp. 135-162. [Among other things to "Billiards at nine thirty".]
  • Hans Kügler: Heinrich Böll: "Billiards at half past ten". Time, time experience, awareness of history . In: German novels from Grimmelshausen to Walser. Interpretations for the literature class . Edited by Jakob Lehmann. Vol. 2: From A. Seghers to M. Walser. Scriptor pocket books, Königstein im Taunus 1982 a. ö. ISBN 3589207868 , pp. 413-432; and ibid. 1982: ISBN 3589207876 (both parts in one volume).
  • Annemarie & Wolfgang van Rinsum: Interpretations: novels, stories. Bayerischer Schulbuch Verlag, Munich 1991 ISBN 3762721440 , therein Billard pp. 156–163.
  • Volker Wehdeking: Billiards at nine thirty . In: Heinrich Böll. Novels and short stories. Interpretations . Edited by Werner Bellmann . Reclam, Stuttgart 2000. pp. 179-199. ISBN 3-15-017514-3 .
  • Kindler's Literature Lexicon on Billiards at half past six. JB Metzler'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung and CE Poeschel: as an e-book on CD-ROM or online via the Munzinger archive .

Web links


  1. Using excerpts from the following works: Manfred Durzak: The modern novel. Development requirements and tendencies , Kohlhammer 1971 etc., ISBN 3170047280 , pp. 64–67; Richard Hinton Thomas & Wilfried van der Will: The German novel and the prosperous society , Kohlhammer 1969, 1985, ISBN 3170870866 , p. 63ff .; Karl August Horst: Overcoming the time , in: Werner Lengning: The writer Heinrich Böll. A biographical and bibliographical outline . dtv, 1959 to 1984, ISBN 3423005300 , p. 67 ff.