Heinrich Boll, the Nobel Prize winning novelist, was a regular visitor to Achill Island in the west of Ireland from the late 1950s to the 1970s. Heinrich Boll stayed at a cottage near Dugort on the north of Achill Island, now known as Heinrich Boll's Cottage and provided as a retreat for other artists and writers on Achill Island.

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Heinrich Boll & Achill Island : Page 1 of 3

German novelist Heinrich Böll (1917-1985), winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, visited Achill regularly during the 1950s and 60s. His travelogue, 'Irish Journal', describes in loving detail his journey to Achill and his observations on island life.

Born into a liberal Catholic and pacifist family in Cologne in 1917, Heinrich Böll was drafted into the German army and fought on the Russian and French fronts during World War II. He was wounded four times before being captured and held in a U.S. prisoner-of-war camp.

Following the war he turned to writing, basing his work on his experiences as a soldier. His first novel was published in 1949 and Heinrich Böll went on to have over 20 books of his work published. Böll also translated the works of other authors into German, including Irish writers G.B. Shaw and J.M. Synge. It is possible that like Paul Henry and Graham Greene before him, Böll read Synge before travelling to Achill Island. Böll's work has in fact been compared to that of Graham Greene, both of whom are said to have combined an unorthodox Catholic belief with a sense of the absurd in human actions. In 1972 Heinrich Böll was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in recognition of his humanist literature. An active supporter of writers in repressive regimes (Böll was the first to host author Alexander Solzhenitsyn after he was exiled from Russia in 1974), Heinrich Böll has been described as a literary spokesman for the disadvantaged.

Heinrich Böll first travelled to Achill Island in the early 1950s, crossing the country by train from Dublin to Westport with his family. The details of this visit, along with Heinrich Böll's acute observations of Irish ways and customs - from tea drinking to priests wearing safety pins to the popularity of ice cream - are recorded in the humorous, moving and wonderfully readable book 'Irish Journal'.

Life on Achill and in Ireland generally in the 1950s provided Heinrich Böll with plenty of material with which to indulge his penchant for the absurd and the incongruous, not least the casual relationship with time. The German writer, whose first book was titled 'The Train Was On Time', began his experience of the west of Ireland agreeably enough, observing that his train arrived in Westport right on schedule. From there on in, however, Böll was quickly introduced to the Irish saying: 'when God made time he made plenty of it'. Recounting the time he went to the movies in Keel, this phrase obviously struck a chord with Böll as he observed that regardless of the advertised start time the movie could only begin when all the priests - "the local ones as well as the ones on vacation" - are assembled in full strength. Böll's account of and meditation on the passage of time at the village hall in Keel between the advertised start time of the movie ('a snare and a delusion') and the arrival of the priests following their post-supper conversation is worth recounting in full:

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Further reading

Buy books on Achill Island from Amazon

Irish Journal
- A Traveller's Portrait of Ireland

By Heinrich Böll

The Mad Dog
By Heinrich Boll

The Bread of Those Early Years
By Heinrich Boll

And Never Said A Word
By Heinrich Boll

The Clown
By Heinrich Boll

The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum
By Heinrich Boll