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The Train Was on Time (1949)

by Heinrich Böll

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
462639,840 (3.98)25
'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… (more)
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» See also 25 mentions

English (4)  Spanish (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (6)
Showing 4 of 4
An accomplished debut novel published in 1949. A young German soldier has a premonition that he will shortly die, somewhere soon. Somewhere during the next few days of his journey. We observe his thinking, his reminiscing and his activities as the train moves along the tracks. ( )
  Caroline_McElwee | Aug 10, 2019 |
It's all about fear of death going to war and calculating when it might happen. Absorbing and frightening.
  jon1lambert | Jun 1, 2019 |
I chose this one on a whim and I'm glad I did. It's short, so a quick read, but the situation and emotions are intense. The novel provides an interesting look at the lives of a few German soldiers during WWII and contributed something new to my overall understanding of the era. ( )
1 vote anneearney | Mar 31, 2013 |
Showing 4 of 4
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» Add other authors (26 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Böll, HeinrichAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bentham, ChrisCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vennewitz, LeilaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
I have known many adventures in my time: the creation of postal routes, Sahara rebellions, South America...but war is not really an adventure at all, it is only a substitute for adventure...War is a disease. Like typhus.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, ‘Pilot de Guerre’
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Als sie unten durch die dunkle Unterführung schritten, hörten sie den Zug oben auf den Bahnsteig rollen, und die sonore Stimme im Lautsprecher sagte ganz sanft: "Fronturlauberzug von Paris nach Przemysl über..."
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'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

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