Traces along the Wild Atlantic Way Heinrich Böll and his “Irish Journal”

From left to right: Heinrich, Annemarie, René and Raimund Böll in front of the cottage in Keel, Achill Island, Ireland, c. 1958.
From left to right: Heinrich, Annemarie, René and Raimund Böll in front of the cottage in Keel, Achill Island, Ireland, c. 1958. | Photo (Detail): © Archiv Erbengemeinschaft Heinrich Böll. Heinrich Böll Fotoarchiv

Read by millions of Germans since 1957, the Irish Journal and its author, Heinrich Böll, have had an unsurpassed impact on the German image of Ireland.

Ask any German who has been to Ireland and you can be pretty sure they will have heard of Heinrich Böll’s “Irisches Tagebuch” (Irish Journal). The future Nobel Laureate first came to Ireland in 1954. A year later he came back with his family, and discovered Achill Island. After a few more visits he bought a small cottage there in 1958. He published his impressions of Ireland in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung initially, but three years later, revised and extended to form 18 chapters, they appeared in book form as his “Irish Journal”.

It cannot exactly be described as documentary travel writing; Böll took artistic licence and added some fictitious elements, e.g. the copper kettle in the chapter “The most beautiful feet in the world”. Achill became the family’s second home, and they spent many summers in the white cottage on the edge of Dugort village. A consiserable amount of Böll’s writing was done there too, including co-translations with his wife; she translated over 200 works into German, yet Annemarie Böll barely merits an aside in the literature about Böll. Heinrich Böll died in 1985. Seven years later his heirs opened the cottage as an artists‘ residency. In 2003 the “Achill Heinrich Böll Association” bought the cottage from the Böll estate in order to ensure its continued use as an artists‘ retreat.

VISITOR INFORMATION: 
Heinrich Böll Cottage
Dugort
Achill Island
Co. Mayo
IRELAND

Heinrich Böll - Irish Journal, Chapter 14

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Heinrich Böll - Irish Journal, Chapter 17
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„German Traces in Ireland“ is a project of the Goethe-Institut Irland