Although Heinrich Boll had won three literary prizes in Germany and had had earlier novels in translation published in the United States, it was not until Billiards at Half-Past Nine (1959) that he became established abroad as one of the most important German novelists since World War II. The son of a sculptor, Boll was born in Cologne. He was drafted into military service in 1938 shortly after he finished his schooling and served several years in the infantry before his demobilization in 1945. The Clown (1963), the story of the antihero who cannot succeed in spite of his efforts, is intensely cynical about modern Germany in a lighthearted way. In Absent Without Leave (1964) and Enter and Exit, Boll turns the German soldier into a portrait of every soldier. Critics have compared Boll to Thomas Mann at his peak as an uncompromising foe of conventionality as well as a writer who put narrative ahead of experimentation. In The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum (1974), Boll continues to focus on modern German society and the destructive possibilities latent in it. In the 1960s and 1970s, Boll became involved in the German peace movement and in the effort to stop the deployment of U.S. nuclear missiles on West German soil. Boll died in 1985.