Germany Literature

By | January 29, 2022

The cut that defines, a quo, the present picture of German literature is evidently extrinsic and occasional; and yet, by a singular and almost punctual coincidence, as the passage from the old to the new decade, almost suddenly, the situation was radically changed with respect to the immediate past; and this not so much because in the meantime the “masters” (above all Th. Mann, Benn and rather prematurely Brecht) had disappeared, except for H. Hesse, but because, in the short space of a few years, they still asserted themselves with arrogance not registered for other authors (at least for the “German” ones) new names with new proposals, which have constituted fixed points of arrival and reference. In the always highly cultivated field of fiction this is the case of Germany Grass and U. Johnson, who presented themselves in the same year, 1959, and then also of M. Walser, who definitively consecrated himself in 1960. First of all Germany Grass (born in 1927), who, while not pretending to break with the past, nevertheless dared to try self-sufficient expressive ways with respect to the poetics encoded by the great names, German or not; and so with the novel Die Blechtrommel, providing the ferocious and unpredictable parody of the last decades of German history, made more noise than just the world of letters, as had not yet happened even to the first Böll. U. Johnson (born 1934) with Mutmassungen über Jakob he proposed for the first time in participatory but not pathetic terms the more radical and less obviously solvable problem of the German reality, that of the division of the Germany and the relations between the two Republics, the federal and the democratic; and his approach was immediately considered valid as it gave a clear sense of an absurdity which, however, has no alternatives, and at the same time it gave the flavor of an attempted but impossible struggle, the search for impartiality in the face of what totally involved him. And M. Walser (born in 1927), who for some years, among other things with the novel Ehen in Philippsburg (1957), had revealed unusual aggression in the context of social criticism, with the long (or too long) novel Halbzeit he managed to fix the image of a Germany too soon forgetting the past and therefore precisely, on the chosen path of the most overflowing well-being, deprived of a future.

These were evidently felt themes, even if other authors, with already defined personalities, again in those years returned to assume them, and always in a more or less accentuated condemnation key, among others A. Andersch (born in 1914) with the realistic-passionate novel Die Rote (1960), W. Schnurre (born in 1920) with the chronicle-caricature novel Das Los unserer Stadt (1959), H. Böll (born in 1917) with the ironic moralizing of the novel Billard um halb zehn (1959). But different in the three new authors, too young among other things to have had a part in the Nazi tragedy, it was a possibility of breaking with that past and hence an opening onto new perspectives. And it is of little concern, then, to point out that they, while continuing to operate following the same path as their initial success, then found it difficult to repeat themselves; to remember in any case: by Germany Grass, who had already published remarkable lyrics, Die Vorzüge der Windhühner, 1956, and had already made his debut in the theater which he did not abandon even later – of interest among other things Die Plebejer proben den Aufstand, 1966, on the tension between revolutionary theory and practice in the committed intellectual – the novels Katz und Maus, 1961, Hundejahre, 1963, Örtlich betäubt, 1969; by U. Johnson, who insisted all the more in the novel, works at times of unusual size, Das dritte Buch über Achim, 1961, Zwei Ansichten, 1965, Jahrestage, 3 vols., 1970-73; by M. Walser, who continued his assiduous activity of often angular criticism, both in the novel: Einhorn, 1966, Die Gallistl’sche Krankheit, 1972, Der Sturm, 1973; both in the drama: Eiche und Angora, 1962, Überlebensgross Herr Krott, 1963, Der schwarze Schwan, 1964, Der Abstecher, 1967, Der schwarze Flügel, 1968, Ein Kinderspiel, 1970. What matters is that they, in happy contemporaneity, collaborated to create an atmosphere that did not disappear immediately, with previously less perceived and less favored potentials. Even if the range of expression has become very wide, from the recovery and respect for the always resistant tradition up to the most daring and sometimes more free experimentation, it can well be said that it dominated more than ever, also following new solicitations, the will to be present at your own time. Thus, completely new in the Germany of Bonn, a nucleus of essentially self-taught workers writers was also created, who brought to the fore, with strongly polemical intentions, daily events and therefore typical problems of the world of work: among the others M. von der Grün (born in 1926: Irrlicht und Feuer, 1963, Zwei Briefe an Pospischiel, 1968). In other words, there is a need for an almost documentary characterization, so that the critical proposal and, if necessary, the accusation are more founded. Exemplary, in this regard, are the Lebensläufe (1962) by A. Kluge (born in 1932), emblematic stories within the German “sad history”, and the novel by H. Bender (born in 1919) Wunschkost (1959), concise document on the loneliness of prisoners of war. The critical intention of those who, perceived in the rampant well-being of the most conspicuous figure of the 1960s, does not differ, grasps the risk of a conscious or at least trivializing stupor, and therefore insistently returns to the past too soon removed or looks at the present with a disenchanted look. A very careful author works in this sense, moreover strongly linked to the memories of his native Masuria just known and immediately abandoned, S. Lenz (born in 1926, between the novels Deutschstunde, 1968, and Das Vorbild, 1973); or even a more aggressive author, H. Fichte (born 1935) of the provocative novels Die Palette (1968) and Versuch über die Pubertät (1974). On the other hand, others had already started and then insisted on stigmatizing the culture promoted in the wake of a false miracle as false: thus HE Nossack (born in 1901; after the 1960s the novels Der Fall d’Arthez, 1968, Dem unbekannten Sieger, 1969, Ein glücklicher Mensch, 1975) and above all H. Böll, unscrupulous moralist and always up-to-date “chronicler” of the post-war Germany, after the sixties capable of modifying himself by resorting more than before to satirical and grotesque aids and additions, with novels and short stories that are not always persuasive but always sure to catch (Ansichten eines Clowns, 1963, Entfernung von der Truppe, 1964, Ende einer Dienstfahrt, 1966, Gruppenbild mit Dame, 1971, occasion for the award of the Nobel Prize in 1972, Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum, 1974). Böll, who is perhaps not the greatest German novelist of his time but, above all for the continuity of his action, is certainly the most representative, is also such for the dissent, not violent but firm, always manifested with respect to the orientations of official policy.

Even in the Democratic Republic, even if the space for open dissent still appears to be reduced, however, in particular, the newest recruits have been able to create their own area of ​​maneuver that is admittedly non-conformist; and the results are those of a more articulated and frank disposition towards the issue that has in fact been imposed, the placement of man within a socialist and at the same time technically advanced society, with the heavy and converging risks of alienation, and also here the relations, which are much more than just political, between the two Germanys.

Thus, alongside the consecrated names such as those of an almost exhausted A. Zweig (1887-1968) and of a still active A. Segners (born in 1900; after Sessanta Das Vertrauen, 1968, Sonderbare Begegnungen, 1973), others have reported it; to remember H. Kant (born in 1926), author of the novel Die Aula (1967; the subsequent Das Impressum, 1969) is also good, who is clearly on the path of detente; the multifaceted and prolific Germany Kunert (born in 1929), ironic in the novel Im Namen der Hüte (1967); M. Bieler (born in 1934), with the satirical novel Bonifaz oder Der Matrose in der Flasche, symptomatically published in the same year (1963) in the two Germany (again his novels Maria Morzeck oder Das Kaninchen bin ich, 1969, and Der Mädchenkrieg, 1975); C. Wolf (born in 1929), with the novels Der geteilte Himmel (1963) and Nachdenken über Christa T., (1969), which are among the happiest documents of an unease and at the same time of a perspective; E. Strittmatter (born in 1912), already well known and already discussed, the most advanced in the satirical criticism and self-criticism especially in the novel Ole Bienkopp (1963).

Even in the theater the sixties brought notable and even profound changes. Dead, but more than ever present in his legacy, B. Brecht, stiff in his already used formulas C. Zuckmayer (1896-1977), on the other hand already first discovered also in Germany a happy theatrical vein of the absurd (on the other by W. Hildesheimer, born in 1916, to whom after the 1960s the comedies Die Verspätung, 1961, Nachtstück, 1963, as well as a singular Mary Stuart, 1971), the most striking and also more consistent new element was a strong desire for documentation and, hence, for warning and condemnation. Der Stellvertreter (1962) by R. Hochhuth (born in 1931), In der Sache JRobert Oppenheimer (1964) by M. Kipphardt (born in 1922), Die Ermittlung (1965) by P. Weiss (born in 1916). by means of poetic mediation as minimal as possible, because precisely from the events following the day the action, which is above all political, of revision and, if necessary, of repulsion.

Among the three authors cited, P. Weiss with his Marat – Sade (1964), the first world success after the war by a “German” author, had already established himself as a master of documentary and ideological theater, even if it was transferred into history; and it is the one that has shown the most authentic personality, on a continuous line that includes the Gesang vom lusitanischen Popanz (1967), the scripted protest on Vietnam (1968), Trotzki im Exil, (1970), Hölderlin (1971), where, however, ideology, albeit skilfully controlled, overwhelms the true historian. For the rest, what is most interesting to record comes from the experimentation, oriented, on the double track of the critical recovery of the dialect and of the structured improvisation, to acknowledge and identify the problem of language and therefore of social conditioning. On the other hand, after very fortunate years (and we can still remember here, as an eminent example among others, S. Lenz, author between 1961 and 1964 of two dramas of serious ethical system such as Zeit der Schuldlosen and Das Gesicht) the theater as a whole has passed to less productive seasons, due to the decline of certain not only poetic certainties. And the importance is also valid for the Eastern theater, where P. Hacks (born in 1928) continues to emerge, but more than anything else because he is linked to his own intense past. act. Beside him only H. Müller (born in 1929), who finds his effective formula in the demystification of classical themes as a warning of the present (among other things Philoktet, 1964, and Oedipus Tyrann, 1969).

According to, German opera, like fiction, had the honor of world-wide recognition in the Nobel Prize awarded to N. Sachs (1891-1970) in 1966. But Sachs’ poetic experience mostly belonged to previous seasons; and other authors (such as among the older H. Arp, W. Lehmann, Germany Britting, and then again ML Kaschnitz and Germany Eich and among those of the middle age K. Krolow and H. Domin) have remained, how far they have thought to insist, more or less happily conforming to their already known profiles. HM Enzensberger (born in 1929), who made his debut in 1957 with the verteidigung der wölfe and fully confirmed himself in 1960 with the landersprache, was a new man, for originality of tones and for polemical vigor, that is to say overall for modernity of writing., authentic lyric and at the same time authentic ethical-social polemic, in a fortunate combination that had succeeded, before him, only by Brecht; and Enzensberger himself then struggled to repeat himself, trying, after the new lyrics of blindenschrift (1964), the path of poetic and political essays and that of the committed novel (e.g. Der kurze Sommer der Anarchie, 1972; interesting, however, the unexpected return to the lyric of Mausoleum, 1975, 37 ballads each dedicated to a historical figure, the last emblematically Che Guevara).

Original voices are also those of the multifaceted H. Piontek (born in 1925; after the 1960s, for opera, Mit einer Kranichfeder, 1962, Klartext, 1966, Tot oder lebendig, 1971) and of the experimenters, among the most cautious P. Härtling (born 1933; as a poet after the Sixty Spielgeist – Spiegelgeist, 1962, and Bruchstücke, 1965) and P. Rühmkorf (born 1929; as poet Irdisches Vergnügen in g, 1959, Kunststücke, 1962, Gemischtes Doppel, 1967). After all, experimentation is one of the most trodden and most debated fields, not so much for the ever-recurring stimulus to formal originality, as for the ever less negligible urge to problematize the supporting structures of civilization and culture as well. In this sense, alongside others that are almost increasingly fierce and more unilaterally exposed (such as F. Mon born in 1926, including Artikulationen, 1959, and Sehgänge, 1964), H. Heissenbüttel (born in 1921), which traces, in a chilling geometrization, his still lyrical way of expressing the now desperate discomfort of man thrown into an entirely mechanized reality (after the 1960s, the series of 6 Textbücher, 1960-68). All this while in the East, Becher and Brecht dead, already prestigious poets continued in their work, not always facilitated by the authorities, such as the lyricist of nature P. Huchel (born in 1903; ChausseenChausseen, 1963) or the his most genuine heir J. Bobrowski (1917-1965; Sarmatische Zeit, 1961, Schattenland Ströme, 1962, Im Wintergesträuch, posthumously 1970), and other younger ones bound and bind themselves to the old German tradition of the lyric of nature, even if it insinuates into it, to the point of extrinsically weighing the factor of ideological commitment, on a more or less Brechtian trace. less openly followed, even in dialectical tricks, that is led to find a place for the ego even in a society where it would risk less justifying itself (among the various names W. Biermann, born in 1936, K. Mickel, born in 1935, and the aforementioned Germany Kunert).

Germany Literature