Billiards at Half-Past Nine
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Billiards at Half-Past Nine

3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  1,410 ratings  ·  68 reviews
Boll's well-known, vehement opposition to fascism and war informs this moving story of Robert Faehmel. After being drawn into the Second World War to command retreating German forces despite his anti-Nazi feelings, Faehmel struggles to re-establish a normal life at war's end. He adheres to a rigorous schedule, including a daily game of billiards. When his routine is breach...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published September 1st 1994 by Penguin Classics (first published 1959)
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Community Reviews

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Some of the most beautiful writing ever in this book: "Don't encourage the frozen memory to thaw; such frost flowers would only turn into dull dirty water and run down the pane. Evoke nothing, never expect to bring back childhood's austerity of feeling in adult souls grown soft..."

Memory can be messy. What a father remembers may look completely different from how a son remembers it. This is especially true with a war thrown into the mix because suddenly the world stands on it's head and spins b...more
Red-green, white-green, from the billiard balls new figurations emerged like so many signals. Then were swiftly scattered. Leaving naught behind. Music with no melody, painting without likeness, quadrilaterals, rectangles, rhombs, endlessly multiplied. Clicking billiard balls caroming from green cushions.

This is a wandering meditation in post-war Germany, through ruined abbeys and thought pleadings of and for the dead. It is wry and humorous at times, but a deeply sensitive book. It is about fam...more
Rob Atkinson
This novel is one of the quintessential works of 20th C. German Literature, dealing as it does with the haunted legacy of Nazism, Germany's collective guilt in the post-war years, and the burden of memory, as reflected in the account of one German family, the Faehmels. Their history unfolds through the reminiscences of three generations, Grandfather, Father, and Son, all architects by trade; it eventually goes back as far as the old man's arrival in Cologne in 1907 and ends with the single, fate...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
Three generations of Germans, two world wars, a lot of deaths, destruction and guilt in between. That's a good way of summarizing this book.

Central character is Robert Faehmel. Strongly antiwar, hated the guts of Germany's militaristic leaders during both world wars yet, due to circumstances of self-preservation, became a commander of retreating German forces [mainly due to his expertise in blowing things up:] during the waning days of the second war and was responsible for the senseless demolit...more
I almost missed an ultimately great experience with this book because the first pages did not seem to be repaying the effort. Unnecessarily esoteric, I thought.
But I gave it a rest, then plunged into the middle and, as in other cases, it became easy to like and impossible not to care about. It's a marvelous novel.
This is a wonderful, wonderful book -- and it has made me a fan of Böll -- the writing is lovely, humane, a spirit of dignity...

I found the ending somewhat less satisfying, as there were too many loose threads, and so the missing star. But this remains a wonderful read, and the discovery for me of a magnificent voice.
It has been almost a month (and seems much longer) since i finished reading this book. It has been sitting next to this keyboard ever since. I haven't discussed it with friends. I haven't been tempted to share my thoughts in any way. That's about as tepid a 4-star assessment as possible.

#1 of all #1s: completely disregard any blurbs to the effect of "The interruption of this routine by an old schoolmate and former Nazi who has become a power in German reconstruction triggers a conflict both abso...more
Not written/published until 1959, the story of two generations of Faehmel family and their reaction to war. Their view divides people into Lambs and those who partake of the 'Host of the Beast'. Host (name for the bread used in the Christian Eucharist ceremony, Jesus physically present with man) and the Beast (in the Christian Bible, book of Revelations, Satan, the devil or the entity that blasphemes God). They consider themselves in the camp of the lambs. They are offended by the faces of the p...more
ich würde lieber 3.5 Sterne geben.
Sieht so auss ich muss mich wieder an den guten alten klassischen deutschen Romanen gewöhnen - war ziemlich interessant, aber irgendwie war es ein bisschen langweilig, konnte eigentlich keine Konnnektion zu Characters und Geschichte aufbauen.
Vielleicht ein anderes Roman (auf mein Tisch ist 'Wanderer kommst Du nach Spa...) werde ich ein bisschen mehr geniessen.
(und jetzt erinnere ich mich warum ich die deutschen Realisten wie Fontane gehasst habe...;)
Yashar Yashmi

*ستاره (از پنج ستاره): دو ستاره ی تمام*

یک کلاسیک مدرن. کلاسیک از آن جهت که شخصیت پردازی های آن واقعاً رنگ و بوی کارهای کلاسیک را به مشام می رساند و مدرن از آن جهت که روایت به شدت پیچیده و در هم تنیده، و زاویه ی دید پریشان و گریزپایی پی افکنده شده است. ‏

فصل اول کتاب دقیقاً مصداق همین کلاسیک مدرن است. شخصیت پردازی ها همه سر جای خودشان است . شما اطلاعاتی را به دست می آورید که شاید واقعاً تا به آخر داستان به دردتان نخورد با این حال همین اطلاعات به درد نخور است که خواننده را به کاراکترهای کتاب نزدیک...more
Robert Beveridge
Heinrich Boll, Billiards at Half Past Nine (Signet, 1962)

Heinrich Boll was a brilliant mystery writer. Moreover, he was capable of writing mysteries unlike anything seen before, mysteries that turned the genre on its head. He was also capable of expanding the mystery genre so that it not only bordered on, but crossed over into, literary fiction. Unfortunately, at one point Boll allowed the mystery to slide into the background and started to concentrate on the literary side of things. This leads...more
A damning indictment of early 20th century Germany through the lens of three generations of a family of professional architects. Although the events take place within a single day in 1958, the characters invoke memories, flashbacks, and stories which demonstrate how old wounds are never wont to heal quickly. The author investigates the consequences of extreme nationalism with great psychological insight.

Böll is a master at distorting the reader's sense of time in order to convey a sense of natio...more
Marc L
Een eerste keer gelezen in 1987 en ik was toen al behoorlijk onder de indruk. Böll geeft op een heel beklemmende manier weer hoe Duitsland in 1959 nog helemaal niet klaar was met het naziverleden (in de roman is geen sprake van nazi's, in de plaats verwijst Böll constant naar het Sacrament van de Buffel, maar dat laat niks aan duidelijkheid te wensen over). Het gegeven van de drie generaties en hun omgang met de abdij van Sint-Anonius (de grootvader bouwt die, de zoon blaast die op en de kleinzo...more
Charles Puskas
My wife and I are going on a Rhine river cruise this month and I wanted to read a novel reflecting 20th century Germany by an author in the area. The author is from Cologne and much of the novel concerns this city. The time span of the novel covers most of the 20th century with characters denouncing the war policies of both Hindenberg and Hitler. In the Second War those who follow Hitler partake of the Host of the Beast. The lambs are those vulnerable creatures who choose to resist, though in th...more
I don't quite believe the blurb on the back, that the novel "encompasses the ENTIRE GERMAN EXPERIENCE," but Billiards at Half-Past Nine is quite impressive in its ability to show all three generations of the Faehmel family, before, between and after the two world wars. The narration is the most fascinating part of the novel, stylistically; the book is narrated for the most part in one-sided internal dialogue, moving from consciousness to consciousness of minor and major characters, as if the rea...more
It's scandalous to be bored by a good book. But this is so s-l-o-w and I'm so easily distracted. I swear it's just me and not the book.

It changes narrators a lot, which is something I've never thought of as a good thing. I like the weirdness of the religious imagery. However, I don't like what it seems to be saying about the hopelessness of politics. Although, it's understandable within the context of the book (post-war Germany.) I don't think I have much respect for the apolitical.

I'm afraid o...more
Mario Liesens
Since i have far too little time to read all the books i'd like to, I rarely waste time on a book that sucks ( in my humble opinion). That explains why I usualy rate the books I've read with 4 or 5 stars. It's a system that works pretty fine, up till the point of course where you come across a book of such magnitude that 5 stars only do injustice if you compare it with other books who got the same rating. So much for my system i guess.
Ich muss sagen, dass mich die Familie Fähmel wirklich berührt hat. Sie ist nicht nur ein Beispiel für Moral und Widerstandskraft sondern auch dafür das Geheimnisse und Lügen eine Familie viel eher auseinander bringt und die Mitglieder sich gegenseitig entfremdet als die Wahrheit. Die letzten Seiten habe ich förmlich verschlungen, da nur wenige Taten genügen die Vergangenheit aufzuarbeiten, Frieden abzuschließen und wieder in den Familienbund zu gehen. Einziger Kritikpunkt: manchmal hatte ich das...more
Brook Miscoski
Aug 03, 2007 Brook Miscoski added it
Recommends it for: introspective people
Not really a spoiler, but discusses themes:

Here, Heinrich Boll explores feelings of guilt over the failure of German society to prevent the acts of the Nazi regime. There is a compelling creation-destruction opposition carried out between the generations, juxtaposing the need for redemption with the need to continue as part of an ongoing family and culture. And Boll illustrates what I think is a deep-rooted optimism and humor about humanity's ultimate capabilities with a brilliant stroke at the...more
This is one of my first forays (and perhaps, come to think of it, my very first) into postwar German literature. Through use of flashbacks, Böll sets up this very retrospective but entirely non-nostalgic sensibility, using a time of peace and prosperity as a highly effective counterpoint to a time of war and political extremism. Throughout, Böll utilizes a cool, languid tone. This gives the novel a certain Brechtianism, encouraging a critical perspective, albeit one undertoned with a strong sens...more
Darran Mclaughlin
A little bit disappointing. For some reason I had a gut feeling I was going to love Boll but as it turns out I can only say I thought this was pretty good. Reading 2666 by Roberto Bolano, visiting the Gerhard Richter exhibition at the Tate Modern and watching the Baader-Meinhoff Complex in the last year got me interested in German post-war history, and I loved the Tin Drum by Gunter Grass. As it is I admired this book in parts but I don't feel compelled to seek out other books by Boll.
Cooper Renner
Though the actual events of the book all take place on one day in the late '50s, the memories and conversations of the various narrators arc back over half a century, looking into family history and the history of Germany in the first half of the 20th century. The word Nazi is never mentioned--unless I glazed over--but the Nazi period is very clearly referenced, and the complicity of the Catholic Church is implied as well.
Jennifer Boettcher
Caveat - I can sometimes miss the point. That being said, if the point is buried under random stream-of-consciousness type monologues of a self-absorbed old man with a boring life I may never find it. I read half the book, I can't give anymore of my life to this novel - not even the Cliff notes version. I don't even care if the protagonist dies. In fact, because he wasted my time, I sort of hope he did.
It's a perfect book: sad but magnificent. It makes you think about the way history goes, and about people who are just nothing in the timeline. This story teaches us how it's important to know who you are and how it's important to do what you want to do not looking at the society's opinion. The history of the country within the history of the family. Perfect.
Dec 06, 2012 H rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2012
Apprentices, trucks, nuns. Life in the streets. I read this way back when in the 1970s, and I still like it. It begins as a course in Melancholy 1 but has a surprisingly cheerful ending. Well, sort of. I like the way the story is told--many voices, so much circling and obliqueness. And it never gives the reader what she wants--which, it turns out, is what she wants.
A complex story, which I found difficult at first but slowly it grew on me. Left me with a rather depressing view of humanity.
Jill Stafford
I joined a new bookclub in 2003 and this was the first book assigned. It took all of my will power to finish this book, but since I was new to the club, there was no way I was not going to finish it. It turns out that none of the members liked the book. Nine years later, we still talk about how awful it was!
I like the way this book moves back and forth through time and generations to demonstrate the impact of fascism. It makes the book very human, though prevents it from being just a lone individual's perspective. All of them are pretty odd, and they are rendered wonderfully. All in all, an interesting book.
An intriguing look at one family's experiences through two world wars in Germany, as seen from different perspectives and points in time. However, the writing can be a rather weighty and takes work to get through, especially with so many perspective changes and so many people to keep track of.
This is among the best books I have read, and reread, many times. Heinrich Boll was a thoughtful, anxious writer, who saw much, and I wonder how much of what he saw and felt he didn't tell (this in the face of some very honest, sometimes damning books. I just believe there was more).
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Heinrich Böll became a full-time writer at the age of 30. His first novel, Der Zug war pünktlich (The Train Was on Time), was published in 1949. Many other novels, short stories, radio plays and essay collections followed, and in 1972 he received the Nobel Prize for Literature "for his writing which through its combination of a broad perspective on his time and a sensitive skill in characterizatio...more
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“Feelings can kill such good hard things as love and hate.” 5 likes
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