UC Santa Barbara > History Department > Prof. Marcuse > Courses > Hist 133c > Texts > Böll Billiards Handout
Boell: Billiards, cover

Heinrich Böll
(1917-1985)

Billiards at Half-Past Nine

(novel first published 1959; takes place on Sept. 6, 1958)

Handout by Prof. Harold Marcuse (homepage)
For UCSB History 133c, "Germany since 1945"

January 2004


  • This handout was prepared in January 2004 by Prof. Harold Marcuse at UC Santa Barbara as a reading aid for college students in an upper level course on the history of Germany since 1945.
    The page numbers below refer to the 1994 Penguin edition.
    If you would like to print this handout, use this pdf print version of handout.

Family Tree of Main Characters

Boell: Billiards, family tree


Each Chapter has a main narrator:
1-Leonore; 2-Jochen; 3-Robert; 4-Heinrich; 5-Johanna; 6-Robert; 7-Schrella, Nettlinger;
8-Joseph&Marianne; 9-Schrella; 10-Robert, Ruth; 11-Johanna

Cast of characters outside the Faehmel family (back to top)

  • Leonore: secretary for Robert Faehmel, hired by father Heinrich on his 80th birthday
  • Jochen Kuhlgamme, b. 1888: desk clerk at Prince Heinrich Hotel (age 70 in 1958)
  • Hugo: busboy at Prince Heinrich Hotel (has Ferdi P.ís spirit, p. 268)
  • Bernhard "Old Wobbly" Vacano, b. 1900: fat coach, Nazi police commissioner
  • Ferdi Progulske: Robertís classmate who tried to kill coach Vacano with a bomb; executed
  • Erika Progulske: "loose" girl in Robert/Schrellaís class, later runs snack bar
  • Nettlinger: Robertís classmate, opportunist under Nazis, bigwig in 1958
  • Trischler: restaurant owner
  • Schrella's father Alfred: a waiter
  • General Otto "Field of Fire" Kösters, b. 1885: had abbey leveled in '45; teaches Joh. about guns
  • Dr. Emil "Em" Droescher: Council President, went to school with Johanna Faehmel
  • Gretz: family that ran the butcher shop under the Kilb family residence

Allegorical symbols (ask yourself what they mean) (back to top)

Agnus Dei, the "lamb of God," a symbol of Jesus sacrificing himself
The abbey Maria Laach near Cologne, in the area where Böll grew up
  • Lambs, Sheep, Shephards, Beasts
  • Blood: of lambs, of boars
  • colors: red, white, green
  • The Abbey (also as cake): completed 1907, destroyed 1945, rebuilt 1958
  • The "soulless" game of billiards (ends with adoption of Hugo); note colors
  • First sexual intercourses of Johanna, Edith and Marianne (note colors)
  • Heinrichís piles of architectural drawings, different heights, sorted by year (like a bar graph)

Glossary (back to top)

  • 13: Heuss: postage stamps with a picture of the West German president
  • rounders: English game similar to baseball; (Robert's home run in 1935)
  • From poem by Hölderlin (1770-1843): "Firm in compassion the eternal heart" (literal translation: "feeling sympathy, the eternal heart stays firm)
  • "everything according to Hoyle": author of popular books about game strategy
  • How weary these old bones: beginning of a Nazi song (Es zittern die morschen Knochen):
    the world is afraid of war, and we will keep marching, until everything breaks to pieces.
  • 124: Latin saying: "Heavens, thaw from above and clouds let justice rain" (Jesiah 45,8)
  • 147: Latin: I'm guilty, I'm guilty, I'm most guilty!
  • 150: Latin: "Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return."
  • 239: Latin: "The Lord takes the sacrifice out of your hands" (prayer said by altar boys)

Links (back to top)


handout created by H. Marcuse, Jan. 15, 2004, posted to web 1/17/04,
link added 1/20/04, family tree updated 1/30/04, 12/26/05, links updated 1/1/08
back to top, to UCSB Hist 133c homepage, to Prof. Marcuse's hompage