Group picture with lady

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Group picture with lady is a novel by Heinrich Böll from 1971 . The appearance of this novel was the decisive factor that Böll was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1972 .


The narrator referred to as author reconstructs the life of Leni Pfeiffer on the basis of conversations with contemporary witnesses and testimonies left behind.

The main character of the novel, Leni Pfeiffer, née Gruyten, is an intelligent and kind-hearted, but uneducated woman. At the beginning of the National Socialists' takeover of power, your family was one of the winners of this time. After the start of the Second World War , the family was hit by several blows of fate, and Leni was ultimately almost entirely on her own. Towards the end of the war she worked in a wreath and flower making shop, where she met the Soviet prisoner of war Boris Lvovitich Koltovskij. Although this is forbidden and extremely dangerous, the two begin a love affair, and Leni has a child from Boris shortly before the end of the war. Due to unfortunate circumstances, he is mistaken for a German prisoner of war, in an Allied prisoner of war camp and dies in a French mine. - The final parts of the novel take place in the post-war period and tell, among other things, of Leni's relationship with the Turkish guest worker Mehmet. This relationship is reflected in the central episode of the novel: Leni's love for the Russian prisoner of war Boris, which has given her the vilification of “blonde Soviet whore”. Leni shows herself to be unaffected by social tendencies to exclude certain groups of people and to treat them "derogatory". According to the author, “waste” and “derogation” are key words in the novel.


The novel is a kind of poetic documentation; one also speaks of pseudo-documentary construction. Most of the documents are fictitious, but many authentic documents are also processed, including a. from the files of the Nuremberg war crimes trials (including in Chapter 8). Alois Pfeiffer's war prose (in Chapter 4) comes from the following work: Combat experiences from the war on the Western Front in 1940. Ed. Based on descriptions by frontline fighters. from the General Staff of the Army , Berlin 1941. - Böll himself said in June 1971 about his novel: “The idea for this book has occupied me for a very long time, probably for most of the novels and stories I have written so far. I tried to describe or write the fate of a German woman in her late forties who took the whole burden of this story with and on herself between 1922 and 1970. ”The aerial warfare and the conquest of the city - in who lives the central figure Leni Pfeiffer - through the Americans at the end of the Second World War (from many details it is easy to see: the central chapters take place in Böll's hometown Cologne ). In September 1969, Böll stated in a radio interview: “For me the real aspect of the war was the bombing of the cities. That was utter madness. The women and children in the cities had it much, much worse than even a soldier at the front. "

The figure of the nun Rahel, called Haruspika , is clearly based on Edith Stein .

The title of the novel was invented by Annemarie Böll and Dieter Wellershoff .


  • “The book is a series of interview-like explorations with a happening-like ending. [...] The novel looks like a long freight train rolling by wagon by wagon, each wagon is laden with ironic, fictional, documentary memory particles and visions. "( Joachim Kaiser in" Süddeutsche Zeitung ", July 31 / August 1, 1971)
  • “There is no form principle at all in this book. Obviously Böll lets himself be carried away by his ideas. And he lets himself go: unconcerned and carefree, without any scruples, he strings together many individual pieces. […] The language of the novel also shows how little Böll's self-control was this time. [...] Never before has a German classic written so sloppily as Heinrich Böll this time. "( Marcel Reich-Ranicki in" Die Zeit ", August 6, 1971)
  • "[...] while especially with 'anti-authoritarian' writers, with Handke or Wondratschek or Fichte, the language flashes with polish and ambition, while the work pressure that has created it often only triggers brain cramps even when reading, Bölls let themselves be Read untrained and carefree sentences that are not hammered into shape by any performance or formal constraints the way his book ends: carefree, relaxed, almost happy. " ( Reinhard Baumgart in " Der Spiegel ", August 2, 1971)
  • " Group Portrait with Lady (1971) is clearly the work that tipped him towards the prize, and it is a Nobel Prize novel if ever I saw one." (Michael Ratcliffe - after Heinrich Böll was awarded the Nobel Prize - in " The Times ", London, May 3, 1973)


The book was filmed in 1976/77 with Romy Schneider as Leni Gruyten / Pfeiffer and Brad Dourif as Boris Koltowski. The ensemble also included Vadim Glowna , Richard Münch , Witta Pohl , Kurt Raab , Rüdiger Vogler and Bettina Kenter . The director was the Yugoslav Aleksandar Petrović , who won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Festival in 1967 for his film I even met happy gypsies . Böll had initially worked on the script, but then no longer took care of the project, which the leading actress in particular had strongly criticized and lamented. The premiere took place on May 26, 1977 at the Cannes Film Festival in 1977 .


  • Böll, Heinrich: group picture with lady. Novel. Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch 1971, 400 pages (first edition); Fig. → [1] . (At number 1 on the Spiegel bestseller list for 7 weeks in 1971 )
  • Böll, Heinrich: group picture with lady. Novel. Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1974 (dtv 959). [continuously new editions]
  • Ralf Schnell / Jochen Schubert (eds.): Heinrich Böll. Works. Cologne edition. Vol. 17. Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 2005. [with description of the development, documentation of the sources and commentary on the position]



  • Karl Korn : Heinrich Böll's description of an epoch . In: " Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung ". No. 171. July 28, 1971.
  • Joachim Kaiser : Compassionate Naturalism and Mystical Vision. Heinrich Böll's new novel: "Group picture with lady" . In: " Süddeutsche Zeitung ". No. 182. July 31 / April 1 August 1971.
  • Geno Hartlaub: Leni and the bread of life . In: " German General Sunday Gazette " (Hamburg). No. 31 August 1, 1971.
  • Reinhard Baumgart: Potpourri and inventory . In: " Der Spiegel ". Volume 25, No. 32. August 2, 1971. p. 104.
  • Marcel Reich-Ranicki: Thinking about Leni G. Heinrich Böll's new novel "Gruppebild mit Dame" . In: " Die Zeit ". No. 32. August 6, 1971. p. 13.
  • Wolfram Schütte : Heretical legend of Mary, heavily darkened. Heinrich Böll's new novel "Group picture with lady" . In: " Frankfurter Rundschau ". No. 180. August 7, 1971.
  • Klaus Rainer Röhl: Conjectures about the sheet metal years. "Did Johnson and Grass take notes?" In: "Concrete". No. 17. August 12, 1971.
  • Helmut Heißenbüttel : How to tell in a documentary way . In: " Mercury ". Issue September 9, 1971.

Research literature

  • Manfred Durzak : Heinrich Böll's epic sum? On the analysis and impact of his novel "Gruppebild mit Dame" . In: Basis. Yearbook for German Contemporary Literature 3 (1972), pp. 174–197.
  • Hans Joachim Bernhard : The novels Heinrich Bölls. Social criticism and community utopia . 2nd, revised and expanded edition. Berlin 1973 [on group picture : pp. 335–381].
  • Renate Matthaei (ed.): The subversive Madonna: a key to the work of Heinrich Böll . Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Cologne 1975, ISBN 3-462-01046-8 [A collection of essays on group pictures ]
  • Bernd Balzer: The literary work of Heinrich Böll. Introduction and comments . Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich 1997 [on group picture : pp. 316–341].
  • Jochen Vogt : "Group picture with lady" . In: Heinrich Böll. Novels and short stories. Interpretations . Edited by Werner Bellmann. Reclam, Stuttgart 2000. pp. 222-248, ISBN 3-15-017514-3
  • Werner Bellmann: Heinrich Böll, group picture with lady. Explanations and documents . Reclam, Stuttgart 2002, ISBN 3-15-016028-6
  • Werner Bellmann: Critical comments on Heinrich Böll's "Group picture with lady" along with a reference to "The bread of the early years" . In: Wirkendes Wort 52 (2002), Heft 2, pp. 249-256.
  • Werner Bellmann: The files of the Nuremberg war crimes trials as a source for Heinrich Böll's novel "Group picture with lady" . In: Euphorion 97 (2003), Issue 1, pp. 85-97.
  • Important information on group picture with lady is contained in: Heinrich Böll - Dieter Wellershoff: Group picture with lady . A tape interview. In: Akzente 18 (1971), Heft 4, pp. 331-346.

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Press release on the award of the Nobel Prize for Literature to Heinrich Böll in 1972
  2. "The scattered details of the figure of Rahel in the text show many similarities with the life dates and circumstances of the Jewish-born nun Edith Stein (1891–1942, who converted to the Catholic Church in 1922 and who belonged to the Carmelite Convent in Cologne-Lindenthal between 1933 and 1938; Teresia Benedicta a Cruce). “- Cf. Werner Bellmann, Explanations and Documents, p. 107; Heinrich Böll, Cologne edition, vol. 17, p. 538, commentary
  3. ^ Heinrich Vormweg: The other German Heinrich Böll . Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Cologne 2000, p. 307 .

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