Episode 13 Hiberno Goethe: René Böll


This episode features visual artist René Böll who is the son of Nobel prize winner for literature Heinrich Böll.

Born 1948 we hear about René’s growing up in the bombed city of Cologne and his memories of summers spent on Achill island in a house with no electricity apart from the kitchen. René tells us about shark hunters, in the 1960s Achill and how it felt more like a remote place. Ciaran and René talk about the 68 West German student movement and René remembers his visit to Prague together with his parents at the Prague spring 1968 witnessing Soviet invasion.

We hear about Heinrich’s controversial and at times provocative writing and the impact it had on the life of the family. The most celebrated novel Irish Journal received mixed but mostly very positive feedback and is still very popular today having sold over 2 million copies. René tells us about his mother Annemarie who was an English teacher, translator and interpreter and she met the Kelleher family from Kerry who sent many carepackets to Annemarie after the war ended.

René’s own work as a visual artist is influenced by Achill through its landscape, sky, colours and particular light. A recurring theme in René’s work is the Cillíní, the unofficial secret graveyards where sailors and children that are not baptised are buried.

We hear about other places that inspire René’s work- the beauty of Ecuador where he went with his wife who is originally from there many times and his liking for ink painting traditionally from China and Japan.

We hear a reading of his poem Under the Mackerel Sky and an excerpt of his father’s work Irisches Tagebuch.

The connection from the father Heinrich carries on to René who returns to Achill every year, for the Heinrich Böll memorial weekend in 2022.

This Podcast dives into the many colours of arts, language and life across cultures. St. Pauli fan and former Düsseldorfer Ciarán Murray and his guests explore the connecting moments of German and Irish life. What do musicians, dancers, artists, writers pick up from either culture? How are they inspired and enriched by the other? For all listeners who like to go and think beyond borders.