Home > Uncategorized > Heinrich Böll: I saw the fateful gleam in his eyes too late

Heinrich Böll: I saw the fateful gleam in his eyes too late


Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Nobel prize in literature recipients on peace and war

German writers on peace and war

Heinrich Böll: Every death in war is a murder – a murder for which someone is responsible

Heinrich Böll: I’m going to die soon and before the war is over. I shall never know peace again.


Heinrich Böll
From Billiards at Half-past Nine
Translator unidentified

“War bonds, Leonore? I didn’t buy them. They were left to me by my father-in-law. Throw them into the fire along with the banknotes. Two medals? Yes, of course, I built siege trenches, I bored tunnels, set up artillery emplacements, faced barrages, dragged the wounded out of the field of fire. Second-class, first-class, bring them here, Leonore, let’s have them. We’ll throw them into the roof gutter. Let the muck in the gutter bury them. Otto found them once when he was rummaging around in the cabinets while I was at my drawing board. I saw the fateful gleam in his eyes too late. He’d seen them, and the respect he felt for me took on added dimension. Too late. But at least let’s get rid of them now, so Joseph won’t find them some day among the things I’ll leave behind.”

Only a faint tinkle as he let the medals slide down the sloping roof. The medals tipped over as they fell from the roof into the gutter, and lay with their dull side uppermost.

“Why so shocked, child? They’re mine, and I can do what I want with them. Too late, and maybe not entirely. Let’s hope it’ll rain soon and the dirt will be washed down off the roof….”

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