Billiards at Half-Past Nine Literary Analysis

Billiards at Half-Past Nine is a novel written by author Heinrich Boll in 1959. The whole story is happening in a single day, September 6, 1958, but flashbacks and memory remembering by some of the characters stretch the story back. In the center of the novel is Faehmel family’s history, beginning with the last part of the 19th century and ending with the present day from 1958.

The author symbolizes the German conscience after the war and revises the effects the Nazi era had in the entire world and its inhabitants. He debates whether it’s possible for someone to accept the role they played in the suffering and death of so many people. This, however, is very subtle, as the reader can’t figure out the motifs and the metaphors without knowing more about the author as he never uses Hitler’s name or even Nazism in this novel. Boll came from a pacifist, Catholic family and refused to play any role in Nazism or the Hitler Youth.

Boll uses metaphors to portrait this anxiousness and the entire context of the World War II. The entire novel is a metaphor which portraits two opposing parties: the ‘lambs’ and the ‘Buffalo’ and the differences between them. A strange distinction, for example, reminds vaguely of the Bible, where Christ separated the Sheep and the Goats – Matthew 25:1-46.

The Buffalo Sacrament represents a metaphoric representation of those who unite in the belief there should be an all-powerful, all-conquering Germany. The author leaves the Buffalo Sacrament purposely ambiguous even though there are many references to it in the novel. We can deduce that the people who take this Sacrament are exactly those who believe in the imperialistic Germany, the greatest nation on Earth.

The author clarifies vaguely the purpose of the Sacrament when he hints to Buffalo’s holy name, Hindenburg. This denotes a messiah for this cult, accompanied by a hymn: the Nazi marching song. The song itself points to the violence of the Buffalo and his followers and the catastrophic result of their belief. Thus, the German war hero opposes the ‘Holy Lamb’ from the Bible. Boll points out the extreme idolatry

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