Henry Theodore Belle. Biography
The tragic consequences of the Second World War for the country that unleashed it. By the time of its defeat, Germany was the same ruined state as the countries to which she had raised her hand. A large part of its territory was covered with ruins, many foreign troops were in charge of its operations in many of its cities and villages, its economic life was at a zero level, and the conscience of its people was tainted with the blood of millions of victims. Soon the country was divided into two states, separated from each other by the “Iron Curtain” and in a state of severe ideological confrontation. In fact, there was a tragic split in the German nation, which dragged it into a long “cold war”.
The war for the spiritual life of Germany was also a huge loss. During the twelve years of the Hitler regime, a generation was crippled by the cult of the Fuhrer, a habit of being guided by the law of force, a belief in its superiority over other peoples. This generation
G. Belle was born in Cologne in the family cabinetmaker. To maintain a large family,
Inner resistance to the Nazis was provided by Henry. In his youth he refused to join the Hitler Youth, and after graduating from high school, he settled down to work in a secluded secondhand bookstore in the hope of avoiding the fate of many peers who, voluntarily or under compulsion, went to serve the Hitlerite government. By this time belong his first literary experiments, during the war burnt in a bombed-out parental apartment. However, Heinrich was still unable to escape from the grip of the Nazi regime: at the end of 1938 he was ordered to serve in the earthworks, and in 1939 – he was mobilized in the active army, where he remained almost until the end of World War II.
As part of the occupation troops, Belle visited Poland, France, Romania and Hungary; military fate threw him and the USSR in particular on the territory of Ukraine. In the writer’s works, many Ukrainian geographical names were imprinted: Galicia, Volyn, Kiev, Zaporozhye, Lviv, Stryi, Kolomyia, Cherkassy, Odessa, Sevastopol, Kherson, etc. Often he portrayed Ukrainian towns and villages as places where German soldiers were expected to lose, loss, death.
Not sharing the beliefs of the Nazis, Belle felt himself a stranger among the soldiers who had been seduced by the Hitlerite army. Suffice it to say that during the service he, in his own words, did not make a single shot. Nevertheless, the writer fully knew the front-line privations: several times he was wounded and underwent a course of treatment in hospitals. In 1944, despite the danger of being shot, Henry fled the army. Later, explaining how risky this step was, he talked about a non-commissioned officer who was executed for deserting several hundred meters from his own house. In his last novel, “Women against a background of river landscape,” the writer once again turned to the autobiographical situation of the flight of a soldier from the front and even distributed to her the moral assessment that was gained during the war years. In response to the recognition of the hero of the novel: “I was a coward, I did not want to become a hero,
By the end of the war, Belle was captured in the US. After his release, he studied at the University of Cologne, then served for some time in the statistical office. However, soon after the publication of his first stories, which attracted the attention of literary critics, he focused entirely on professional literary activity, giving up other types of earnings. Beginning with small prosaic forms of narrative and story, Belle after several years mastered the complex genre of the novel. His novels “Where have you been, Adam?” , “And did not say a single word,” “House without a master,” “Billiards at half past nine,” “The eyes of a clown,” “Group portrait with a lady,” entered the treasury of world literature in the twentieth century.
By the early 1960s, H. Bell became the leading German author. In 1972 he was awarded the highest international award – the Nobel Prize. Wide popularity of the writer was due not only to his creative merit, but also to his active position in upholding the ideas of humanism, spiritual freedom of the individual and tolerance towards dissenters. Thus, in the 1960s he protested against the persecution in the USSR of the dissident writers A. Sinyavsky, J. Daniel, V. Nekrasov, V. Voinovich, etc. One of them, A. Solzhenitsyn, Belle temporarily sheltered in his house. Acting in accordance with his ideas that compassion is more expensive than justice, he often came into conflict with the opinion of the majority. “I demand mercy, not sacrifice!” – said the writer.
However, it was obviously written on him to swim against the current. In any case, Belle himself understood his life credo in this way. It is no coincidence that he heard from the famous literary critic M. Reich-Ranicki the advice “to keep pace with development,” he remarked with sudden sharpness that he did not do it even in school years, when his peers en masse entered the Hitler Youth, and becoming an adult, the more I did not set myself the task of stepping along with the majority. “I do not know,” he summed up, “where the current development will lead me, if I follow it, but if I did, I still do not want and can not keep up.” This property allowed the writer at all stages of life and under all its circumstances to maintain internal independence.
G. Belle was buried in the German village of Martin. On his grave, devoid of any signs that the ashes of a famous writer rest in it, there is an ordinary wooden cross with a simple inscription: “Heinrich Belle, 1917-1985”.