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The Berlin Review of Books


JUREK BECKER (1937-1997)

jurekbeckerjacobtheliarJacob the Liar

“I had the desire to meditate upon the question of what role hope plays in the lives of people.  Whether it is sufficient for survival, or whether it is only helpful when it spurs people into action.  For example, into resisting. I was also preoccupied with the question whether lying is a purely cognitive theoretical category or whether it also has a moral dimension.  I wanted to know if there is a level at which the rules of logic become unimportant and obsolete and are replaced by the rules of morality. What I also wanted (although I'm probably not saying anything new) was to write a story about the value of storytelling, above all in times of misery; whether it can help people to survive, or distract them from the worries they would have been better off taking care of.” -Jurek Becker on his book `Jacob the Liar´

“This fable of a Jewish ghetto during World War II is one of the great literary masterworks of the Holocaust. Published in Germany in 1969, it is only now appearing in an authorized English translation. Concerning a former cafe owner who fabricates the story of the Russian army's inexorable advance on the ghetto, and the liberation that will follow their arrival, the tale has the simple power of myths or dreams. A comic tale of unimaginable tragedy, the novel brings vividly to life the doomed inhabitants of the ghetto: Schmidt, the obtuse assimilationist; the child, Lina, who hunts for Jacob's imaginary radio; Frankfurte,r the formerly obese burgher. And Jacob himself, a storyteller whose inventions become like bread to the others, who finds himself trapped in his growing mesh of lies until he is driven to tell the truth. At the end there are two final passages: one in which the Russians arrive to save the ghetto; and one in which they don't. Who is to distinguish between fact and myth?” (c) 2001 by Amazon, Inc. and subsidiaries

Jurek Becker: Jacob the Liar
Arcade Publ. 1996


UWE JOHNSON (1934-1984)

uwejohnsonspeculationsaboutjacobSpeculations about Jakob

“Uwe Johnson is significant not only for his unique literary style and linguistic creativity but also for the thematic issues addressed in his works. He was the first German author to treat, in fiction, the division of Germany after the war. He explored its psychological, political, and cultural manifestations in a network of characters and places unmatched in complexity and authenticity. [...] Writing fiction was one of the ways Johnson came to terms with Germany's fascist past, cold war realities, his unwilling emigration from the former German Democratic Republic, and his unfulfilled desires for a democratic form of socialism.” From: Gary L. Baker: Understanding Uwe Johnson. University of South Carolina Press 1999.

Uwe Johnson: Speculations about Jakob
Continuum Publ. 2000




“Bernhard, who lived in 1989 at the age of 58, was a powerfully imaginative, endlessly bitter critic of his native Austria—a country he portrays as a captive of its history, its political failures, its artistic pretentions, its very willingness to exist after the moral debacle of the Nazi era. [...] He insisted that art in the modern era had outlived itself. Writing in a hard-bitten prose idiom that transforms language into a rhythmic, musical form, Bernhard denies that art can have meaning in our morally and spirtitually diminished present. Yet his cascades of bilious prose offer themselves as proof that fresh aesthetic insights remain both possible and compelling: Bernhard's fiction opens and explores territory that is new for the novel, and in consequence it brilliantly illuminates the complexities of modern life and art.” From: Stephen D. Dowden: Understanding Thomas Bernhard. University of South Carolina Press 1991

thomasbernhardwittgensteinsnephewWittgenstein´s Nephew

“These friends introduced me to the refined world of the Sacher, Vienna's premier coffee-house -- not, I am thankful to say, to one that was frequented by the literary folk, whom I have basically always found repugnant, but to one frequented by their victims. At the Sacher I could get all the newspapers, which I have always had to have since the age of twenty-two or twenty-three……At the literary coffeehouse I could never have devoted myself to the newspapers for a whole morning without interruption; before so much as half an hour had passed I would have been disturbed by some writer making his entrance,  accompanied by his retinue. I always found such company distasteful because it deflected me from my real intentions… At the Braunerhof, above which my friend had lived for years before we met, I am still put off by the foul aim and the poor lighting, which is kept down to a minimum -- doubtless from perverse considerations of economy -- and in which I have never been able to read a single line without effort. … The Braunerhof is inimical to all my daily requirements, yet this is precisely what makes it the archetypal Viennese coffeehouse -- like the Café Hawelka, completely downmarket. I have always detested the typical Viennese coffeehouse, famous the world over, because I find everything about it inimical to me. Yet for many years it was at the Braunerhof that I felt at home, despite the fact that, like the Hawelka, it was always totally inimical to me, just as I felt at home at the Café Museum and at the various other establishments I frequented during my years in Vienna. I have always hated the Viennese coffeehouse, but I go on visiting them. I have visited them everyday, for although I have always hated them -- and because I have always hated them --I have always suffered for the Viennese coffeehouse disease. I have suffered more from this disease than from any other. I frankly have to admit that I still suffer from this disease, which has proved the most intractable of all. The truth is that I have always hated the Viennese coffeehouse because in them I am always confronted with people like myself, and naturally I do not wish to be everlastingly confronted with people like myself, and certainly not in a coffeehouse where I go to escape from myself….The truth is that the more deeply I detest the literary coffeehouse of Vienna, the most strongly I feel compelled to frequent them.” -Thomas Bernhard in Wittgenstein´s Nephew

Thomas Bernhard: Wittgenstein´s Nephew
Phoenix/University of Chicago Press 1990


“And as I went on running I thought: I'll write something at once, no matter what -- I'll write about this artistic dinner in the Gentzgasse at once, now. Now, I thought -- at once, I told myself over and over again as I ran through the Inner City -- at once, I told myself, now -- at once, at once, before it's too late.” From Thomas Bernhard: Woodcutters

Thomas Bernhard: Woodcutters
Phoenix/University of Chicago Press 1989

GÜNTER GRASS (b. 1927)

guntergrasstindrumThe Tin Drum

“But now it was Monday afternoon and my grandmother was sitting by the potato fire. Today her Sunday skirt was one layer closer to her person, while the one that had basked in the warmth of her skin on Sunday swathed her hips in Monday gloom. Whistling with no particular tune in mind, she coaxed the first cooked potato out of the ashes with her hazel branch and pushed it away from the smoldering mound to cool in the breeze. Then she spitted the charred and crusty tuber on a pointed stick and held it close to her mouth; she had stopped whistling and instead pursed her cracked, wind-parched lips to blow the earth and ashes off the potato skin.   |   In blowing, my grandmother closed her eyes. When she thought she had blown enough, she opened first one eye, then the other, bit into the potato with her widely spaced but otherwise perfect front teeth, removed half the potato, cradled the other half, mealy steaming, and still too hot to chew, in her open mouth and, sniffing at the smoke and the October air, gazed wide-eyed across the field toward the nearby horizon, sectioned by telegraph poles and the upper third of the brickworks chimney.   |   Something was moving between the telegraph poles. My grandmother closed her mouth. Something was jumping about. Three men were darting between the poles, three men made for the chimney, then round in front, then one doubled back. Short and wide he seemed, he took a fresh start and made it across the brickyard, the other two, sort of long and thin, just behind him. They were out of the brickyard, back between the telegraph poles, but Short and Wide twisted and turned and seemed to be in more of a hurry than Long and Thin, who had to double back to the chimney, because he was already rolling over it when they, two hands’ breadths away, were still taking a start, and suddenly they were gone as though they had given up, and the little one disappeared too, behind the horizon, in the middle of his jump from the chimney.   |   Out of sight they remained, it was intermission, they were changing their costumes, or making bricks and getting paid for it.” From Günter Grass: The Tin Drum

Cat and Mouse

“...and one day, after Mahlke had learned to swim, we were lying in the grass, in the rounder field. I ought to have gone to the dentist, but they wouldn't let me because I was hard to replace on the team. My tooth was howling. A cat sauntered diagonally across the field and no one threw anything at it. A few of the boys were chewing or plucking at blades of grass. The cat belonged to the caretaker and was black. Hotten Sonntag rubbed his bat with a woolen stocking. My tooth marked time. The tournament had been going on for two hours. We had lost hands down and were waiting for the return game. It was a young cat, but no kitten. In the stadium, handball goals were being made thick and fast on both sides. My tooth kept saying one word, over and over again. On the cinder track the sprinters were practicing starts or limbering up. The cat meandered about. A trimotored plane crept across the sky, slow and loud, but couldn't drown out my tooth. Through the stalks of grass the caretaker's black cat showed a white bib. Mahlke was asleep. The wind was from the east, and the crematorium between the United Cemeteries and the Engineering School was operating. Mr. Mallenbrandt, the gym teacher, blew his whistle: Change sides. The cat practiced. Mahlke was asleep or seemed to be. I was next to him with my toothache. Still practicing, the cat came closer. Mahlke's Adam's apple attracted attention because it was large, always in motion, and threw a shadow. Between me and Mahlke the caretaker's black cat tensed for a leap. We formed a triangle. My tooth was silent and stopped marking time: for Mahlke's Adam's apple had become the cat's mouse. It was so young a cat, and Mahlke's whatsis was so active -- in any case the cat leaped at Mahlke's throat; or one of us caught the cat and held it up to Mahlke's neck; or I, with or without my toothache, seized the cat and showed it Mahlke's mouse: and Joachim Mahlke let out a yell, but suffered only slight scratches.” From: Günter Grass: Cat and Mouse

Günter Grass: The Tin Drum.
Newly (2009) translated by Breon Mitchell
(this edition differs from the cover shown)
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
592 pages


HEINRICH BÖLL (1917-1985)

boell58x60“Art is always a good hiding-place, not for dynamite, but for intellectual explosives and social time bombs. Why would there otherwise have been the various Indices? And precisely in their despised and often even despicable beauty and lack of transparency lies the best hiding-place for the barb that brings about the sudden jerk or the sudden recognition.”
- Heinrich Böll in his Nobel lecture

heinrichboellstoriesCollected Stories

includes Traveller, if you come to Spa..., Doctor Murke´s Collection of Silence, and others


Heinrich Böll: The Stories of Heinrich Böll
Northwestern University Press (“European Classics”) 1995
685 pages


PETER WEISS (1916-1982)

peter_weissThe Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade

"... a hypodermic needle plunged directly into the playgoer's emotional bloodstream. It hypnotizes the eye and bruises the ear. It shreds the nerves; it vivisects the psyche--and it may scare the living daylights out of more than a few playgoers!" Time Magazine

Peter Weiss: The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat As Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of The Marquis de Sade (or Marat Sade) Waveland Press 2001
128 pages


ARNO SCHMIDT (1914-1979)

schmidt_arno“A giant of the modernist tradition, an enormously important talent in the fictional line of cruel comedy that runs from Rabelais through Swift and Joyce” (The New York Review of Books).

Collected Novellas

Arno Schmidt: Collected Novellas (Early Fiction 1949-1964)
Dalhey Archive Press 1994


MAX FRISCH (1911-1991)maxfrisch

Homo Faber

“We were leaving from La Guardia airport, New York, three hours late because of snowstorms. Our plane, as usual on this route, was a Super-Constellation. Since it was night, I immediately prepared to go to sleep. We spent another forty minutes waiting on the runway with snow in fron of the searchlights, powdery snow whirling over the runway, and what made me tense and anxious, so that I couldn't get off to sleep straight away, was not the newspaper brought around by our air hostess, FIRST PICTURES OF WORLD'S GREATEST AIR CRASH IN NEVADA, a piece of news I had already seen at midday, but simply and solely the vibration of the stationary plane with its engines running -- and also the young German next to me, who immediately caught my attention, I don't know why, he caught my attention the moment he took off his overcoat, when he sat down and pulled at his trouser creases, when he did nothing at all, but simply waited for the take-off like the rest of us, merely sat in his seat, a fair-haired fellow with pink skin who at once introduced himself, before we had even fastened our safety belts. I didn't catch his name, the engines were roaring, being revved up one after the other...   |   I was dead tired.  |   Ivy had talked away at me for three hours while we waited for the overdue plane, although she knew I was dead set against marrying.   |   I was glad to be alone.   |   At last we started.” From Max Frisch: Homo faber.

maxfrischhomofaberMax Frisch: Homo Faber
Harvest Books 1994

Max Frisch: Montauk (out of print); Biedermann and the Arsonists (out of print)

I´m Not Stiller

maxfrischstiller“I'm not Stiller! - Day after Day, ever since I was put into this prison, which I shall describe in a minute, I have been saying it, swearing it, asking for whisky, and refusing to make any other statement. For experience has taught me that without whisky I'm not myself, I'm open to all sorts of good influences and liable to play the part they want me to play, although it's not me at all. But since the only thing that matters in my crazy situation (they think I'm a missing resident of their little town) is to refuse to be wheedled and to guard against all their well-meaning attempts to shove me into somebody else's skin, to resist their blandishments even if it means being downright rude - in a word, to be no one else than the man I unfortunately really am - I shall go on shouting for whisky the moment anyone comes near my cell. I told them several days ago it needn't be the very best brand, but it must be drinkable, otherwise I shall remain sober; then they can question me as much as they like, they won't get anything out of me - or at any rate, nothing that's true. In vain. Today they brought me this notebook full of empty pages. I'm supposed to write down my life story - no doubt to prove I have one, a different one from the life of their missing Herr Stiller.” From Max Frisch: I´m Not Stiller.

Max Frisch: I´m Not Stiller.
Harvest Books/Harcourt Publ. 1994


Gantenbein: A Novel

maxfrischgantenbeinmodMax Frisch: Gantenbein. A Novel
Harvest Books 1982 (limited availability)

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“Half a century ago, the German novelist Wolfgang Koeppen broke 16 years of silence to publish in short order the books of a trilogy. From then until his death some 40 years later, he resumed virtual silence, broken by a little travel writing, voluminous scraps and notes and his remark to an interviewer that he was `terribly busy.´ Doing what? `I don't know.´ Koeppen was an endemically premature one-man countercurrent. History would zig, and he would zag. The triumph of Germany's postwar intellectual conscience has been to examine its culture and history with harsh clarity. It could have been otherwise. [Koeppen] was an early and bruised agent in seeing that it would not be otherwise.” Richard Eder, New York Times (5 July 2001)

Pigeons in the Grass

Wolfgang Koeppen: Pigeons in the Grass
Holmes & Meier Publ. 1988

The Hothouse

koeppen-hothouse“The Rhine was now wending its way between flat beds, a winding silver ribbon. Distant hills arced up out of the early morning haze....A hothouse climate flourished in the basin between the hills; the air stagnated over the river and its banks. Villas stood beside the water, roses were bred, prosperity strode through the parkland wielding hedge clippers, gravel crunched crisply under the pensioner's lightweight footwear, Keetenheuve would never join their ranks, never own a home here, never trim or breed roses, the nobiles, Rosa indica, which put him in mind of Erysipelas traumaticum [Wundrose], faith healers were at work here, Germany was one large public hothouse, Keetenheuve took in rare flora, greedy, curious plants, giant phalluses like chimney stacks full of billowing smoke, blue-green, red-yellow, toxic.” From Wolfgang Koeppen: The Hothouse.

Wolfgang Koeppen: The Hothouse
W.W. Norton 2001.


ÖDÖN VON HORVÁTH (1901-1938)

Kasimir and Karoline

Tales from the Vienna Woods

“Just as in `Tales from the Vienna Woods´, Horváth works in `Kasimir und Karoline´ on the theme of the battle between a social conciousness and physical desires in their social effect. With his folk plays, Ödön von Horváth goes beyond a mere description of the mentality of a generation between the wars. His incorrect language and the stock of phrases which mark his characters and which are contradictory to their reality in addition to their longing for a new and different life havn't lost any of their relevance for today.” Köln Theater

vonhorvathplaysoneÖdön von Horváth: Plays One (Sladek, A Sexual Congress)
Theatre Commun. 2001
300 pages

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vonhorvathplaystwoÖdön von Horváth: Plays Two (Italian Night, Tales from the Vienna Woods)
Theatre Commun. 2001
168 pages

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ANNA SEGHERS (1900-1983)

seghersThe life and work of the writer Anna Seghers, who was born in Mainz, was inseparably intertwined with the social conflicts and political struggles since the end of the First World War. In these conflicts, she felt her place was on the side of the socially weak and the disenfranchised. Like many intellectuals of bourgeois origin, she joined the Communist Party. In her works she dealt with contemporary historical material. She was awarded the Kleist Prize in 1928 for her very first piece: The Revolt of the Fishermen, a gloomy realistic story about the futility of rebellion against entrenched power. Following the National Socialist accession to power in 1933, she - a Jew and a Communist - was forced to leave Germany. During her flight and exile, first in Paris and subsequently in Mexico, she wrote works such as The Seventh Cross (1942), a novel about the horrors of the concentration camps. In 1947 she returned from her exile, settling down in East Germany. She became an intellectual figurehead in literary life in East Germany and was awarded the highest honours of the communist government, such as the “Stalin Peace Prize”, as well as honorary doctoral degree from the University of Jena.

The Seventh Cross

Anna Seghers: The Seventh Cross
Monthly Review Press 1987
381 pages

Excursion of the Dead Young Girls (out of print), Revolt of the Fishermen (out of print)


BERTOLT BRECHT (1898-1956)

“One of the greatest poets and dramatists of our century.” The Observer, London

Cover may differ from linked editionMother Courage and her Children

Bertolt Brecht: Mother Courage and her Children
newtranslated by David Hare
Arcade Publ., 1996, 112 pages

“Mother Courage and Her Children, perhaps Bertolt Brecht's best-known play after The Threepenny Opera, has already become a classic in the repertory of the English-speaking theater. Written in response to the outbreak of World War II, this "chronicle play" of the Thirty Years War follows one of Brecht's most enduring creations back and forth across Europe selling provisions and liquor from her canteen wagon. One by one her children are devoured by war, but she will not give up her livelihood-the wagon Commissioned and authorized by the Brecht estate, Arcade's definitive edition contains a new translation by John Willett and an introduction by the joint editors of Brecht's complete work in English, John Willett and Ralph Manheim. The extensive appendix provides variants and Brecht's own notes and working plan as well as commentary by the editors on the genesis of the play.” (From the publisher´s announcement)

The Independent on Sunday about the new translation: “ "A superbly combative new version that bristles with paradox, irony and scepticism. Compare random passages from an academic translation with Hare's version, and you'll see that, like one of those soda machines, he has taken a bottle of still water and put in the fizz.”



bertoltbrechtgalileo"Thoughtful and profoundly sensitive." -Newsweek

    “In the year sixteen hundred and nine
    Science' light began to shine.
    At Padua City, in a modest house,
    Galileo Galilei set out to prove
    The sun is still, the earth is on the move.”

Considered by many to be one of Brecht's masterpieces, Galileo explores the question of a scientist's social and ethical responsibility, as the brilliant Galileo must choose between his life and his life's work when confronted with the demands of the Inquisition. Through the dramatic characterization of the famous physicist, Brecht examines the issues of scientific morality and the difficult relationship between the intellectual and authority.

Bertolt Brecht: Galileo
Grove Press 1991, 155 pages


bertoldtbrechtstoriesCollected Stories

“Casual wickedness, moral hypocrisy, determined self-interest - such are the familiar residents of Brecht's fictional world. These thirty-seven short stories, together with a fragment of a short novel, comprise the complete collection of known finished stories. The tales in this volume range from the grotesquely mordant to the lightly farcical, and show Brecht to be just as a strong an innovator in fiction as he was in drama. The collection comes from all periods of Brecht's life and the Introduction by the Editors sets Brecht's fiction in context alongside his dramatic and theoretical works.”

The "bluntest, the most direct of this century's great writers" (Paul Bailey)

Bertolt Brecht: Collected Stories
Arcade 1998/reiss., 253 pages

Stories of Mr. Keuner

bertoltbrechtkeuner“In this collection of 86 prose fragments, Mr. Keuner (hereafter Mr. K.), the "thinking man," reflects on various issues that epitomized the volatile nature of German society between the two world wars, particularly its intellectual branch. Included are thoughts on poverty, religion, power, the profitable nature of folly, the benefits of uncertainty, small-minded nationalism, the suicidal nature of self-love, and more. Brecht compares Mr. K.'s wisdom to that of the prototypical philosophy professor who walks "clumsily" and creates "no light with [his] talking." Mr. K., on the other hand, is simply an ordinary man with an extraordinary acumen who sees so far ahead that he is able to prepare his next mistake. Autonomous and suspiciously accessible, these pieces are perhaps easier to comprehend than to classify: they are not strictly philosophical because of their visibly imaginative nature yet not strictly poetic as they teem with crudely translated language (at times so literal that they contain undertones of the commanding German idioms). Still, to label them as fiction is an easy way out: Sure, they are rooted in dialog between purposefully vague characters, and they also entertain, but their true value is most often hidden in the last sentence that not only bears the weight of each story's message but also the author's own ideology. These debatable and still timely stories belong in all academic libraries.” -Mirela Roncevic, "Library Journal"”

Bertolt Brecht: Stories of Mr Keuner
City Lights Books, 2001. 120 pages


roth_josephJOSEPH ROTH (1894-1939)

“I am a conservative and a Catholic, consider Austria my fatherland, and desire the return of the Empire.” Joseph Roth

"Joseph Roth was an enigmatic figure in his life more than in his work. Though Jewish, he rarely spoke about his Jewishness. Plagued by poverty, he admired aristocracy. Though extremely gifted, his truly deserved recognition came to him only posthumously." (Elie Wiesel, New York Times, 3 November 1974)

josephrothradetzkyThe Radetzky March

“Nature had forged endless horizons for these dwellers on the frontier, drawing around them a mighty circle of green forests and blue hills. They ... dealt in coral for the peasant girls of nearby villages, and for those other peasants over the border, on Russian soil, they dealt in feathers for feather beds, in tobacco, in horsehair, in bar silver, in jewelry, in Chinese tea, in fruit from the south, in cattle and horses, poultry and eggs, fish and vegetables, jute and wool, butter and cheese, woodlands and fields, Italian marble, human hair from China for making wigs, raw-silk and finished-silk merchandise, Manchester cotton, and Brussels lace, galoshes from Moscow, Viennese linen, lead from Bohemia.... The people in this district were swamp-begotten. For evil swamps lay far and wide to either side of the highroad and over the whole face of the land. Swamps that spawned frogs and fever, deceptive grass, dreadful enticements to a dreadful death for the unsuspecting stranger.... But all who had been born here were familiar with the malignity of the marshland, and they themselves were tinged with this same malignity. In spring and summer, the air was thick with the deep and endless croaking of the frogs. Under the sky, equally jubilant larks rejoiced. It was an untiring dialogue between sky and marshland.” From Joseph Roth: The Radetzky March

Joseph Roth: The Radetzky March
Overlook Press 2002 (U.S.)
Granta Books 2003, new translation by Michael Hofmann (UK)


The Wandering Jews
W.W. Norton 2001

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“The Wandering Jews, which appeared in 1927, is a book of impassioned reportage and polemic. One of its chapters opens with a declaration and a question: `No Eastern Jew goes to Berlin voluntarily. Who in all the world goes to Berlin voluntarily?´”  The New Republic


FRANZ KAFKA (1883-1924)

kafka_small"The tremendous world I have inside my head. But how free myself and free it without being torn to pieces. And a thousand times rather be torn to pieces than retain it in me or bury it. That, indeed, is why I am here, that is quite clear to me..." -Franz Kafka

“Conscientious, curiously explicit, objective, clear, and correct style with its precise, almost official conservatism.” -Thomas Mann about Franz Kafka´s style


franzkafkathetrialThe Trial

Franz Kafka: The Trial
Schocken Books 1995, 281 pages (U.S.)
Vintage Publ. 2001, 255 pages (UK)

“It is proof of Kafka's other talents as a novelist, a humorist, a psychologist and a satirist that he does not leave his parable a bald one, but works into it every kind of human gesture and lifelike detail.” -The New York Times Book Review



The Metamorphosis, In the Penal Colony, A Hunger Artist, and others

“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect. He was lying on his hard, as it were armor-plated, back and when he lifted his head a little he could see his domelike brown belly divided into stiff arched segments on top of which the bed quilt could hardly stay in place and was about to slide off completely. His numerous legs, which were pitifully thin compared to the rest of his bulk, waved helplessly before his eyes.” First paragraph of Franz Kafka: The Metamorphosis

Franz Kafka: The Complete Stories
Schocken Books 1995

The Castle

franzkafkathecastleIt was late evening when K. arrived. The village lay under deep snow. There was no sign of the Castle hill, fog and darkness surrounded it, not even the faintest gleam of light suggested the large Castle. K. stood a long time on the wooden bridge that leads from the main road to the village, gazing upward into the seeming emptiness.
Then he went looking for a night's loding; at the inn they were still awake; the landlord had no room available, but, extremely surprised and confused by the latecomer, he was willing to let K. sleep on a straw mattress in the taproom, K. agreed to this. A few peasants were still sitting over beer, but he did not want to talk to anyone, got himself a straw mattress from the attic and lay down by the stove. It was warm, the peasants were quiet; he examined them for a moment with tired eyes, then fell asleep.
Yet before long he was awakened. A young man in city clothes, with an actor's face, narrow eyes, thick eyebrows, stood beside him with the landlord. The peasants, too, were still there, a few had turned their chairs around to see and hear better. The young man apologized very politely for having awakened K., introduced himself as the son of the Castle steward and said: "This village is Castle property, anybody residing or spending the night here is effectively residing or spending the night at the Castle. Nobody may do so without permission from the Count. But you have no permission or at least you haven't shown it yet."
K., who had half-risen and smoothed his hair, looked at the people from below and said: "What village have I wandered into? So there is a castle here?"  
--From Franz Kafka: The Castle.

Franz Kafka: The Castle,
Schocken Books 1999, 328 pages


ROBERT MUSIL (1880-1942)

The Confusion of Young Törless

“The Austrian novelist Robert Musil (1880– 1942) occupies a peculiar position in the pantheon of great twentieth-century writers. He is admired by literati for a handful of astringent modernist fictions, especially for his first novel, The Confusion of Young Törless. This brutal yet seductively introspective tale of adolescent cruelty and sexual exploitation at a German military boarding school was published to instant critical acclaim in 1906, when Musil was only twenty-six.” Roger Kimball, The New Criterion (Feb 1996)

Robert Musil: The Confusion of Young Törless (with an introduction by J.M. Coetzee)
Penguin Books, 176 pages


ERNST JÜNGER (1895-1998)

The Glass Bees

Ernst Juenger's The Glass Bess"In scenes as harrowing and thought-disturbing as any created by Karel Capek, George Orwell or Aldous Huxley, [Jünger] contributes not only to prophetic and nihilistic literature but also to an understanding of the inner and outer forces that shape many a man's attitude toward tyranny." The New York Times
"Jünger's language shimmers with icily brilliant cynicism. He masters a style as hard and transparent as the insects of the story's title." The San Francisco Chronicle

Ernst Jünger: Glass Bees
NYRB Classics


HERMANN HESSE (1877-1962)

hermannhessebeneathwheelBeneath the Wheel

Hermann Hesse: Beneath the Wheel
Picador Press, 192 pages

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THOMAS MANN (1875-1955)

thomasmann“Ah, literature is death! I shall never understand how anyone can be dominated by it without bitterly hating it. Its ultimate and best lesson is this: to see death as a way of achieving its antithesis, life. I dread the day, and it is not far off, when I shall again be shut up alone with my work, and I fear that the egotistic inner desiccation and overrefinement will then make rapid progress. - But enough! Amid all these alternations of heat and frost, exaltation and suicidal self-disgust, a letter from S. Fischer blew in telling me that come spring he wanted, first, to bring out a second small volume of my stories and then, in October, Buddenbrooks, uncut, probably in three volumes. I shall have my picture taken, right hand tucked into the vest of my dinner jacket, the left resting on the three volumes. Then I might really go down happy to my grave.--But no, it is good that the book is going to see the light after all. So much of what is characteristically my own is there that it really will define my profile for the first time--for our esteemed colleagues in particular.” -Thomas Mann in a letter to his brother Heinrich, 13 February 1901

      Open www resource in new windowLetters of Heinrich and Thomas Mann (selection) 1900-1949 (New York Times link; requires *free* registration)

      Open www resource in new windowAutobiographical sketch of his life by Thomas Mann (Nobel Foundation link)



"Regarded as a whole, Mann's career is a striking example of the `repeated puberty´ which Goethe thought characteristic of the genius, In technique as well as in thought, he experienced far more daringly than is generally realized. In Buddenbrooks he wrote one of the last of the great `old-fashioned´ novels, a patient, thorough tracing of the fortunes of a family." -Henry Hatfield.

Thomas Mann: Buddenbrooks
Vontage Books 1994, 731 pages


Death in Venice, Mario and the Magician, Tonio Kröger, and Essays

About Tonio Kröger: “This classic novel examines the theme of the soul divided against itself. Tonio Kröger endeavors to resolve within himself the ever-present conflict between art and life; his life is that of the bourgeois but his soul is that of the artist. In an effort to rise beyond the mundane mechanism of the working class, Kröger associates himself with the Bohemian. Instead of finding freedom and enlightenment, he discovers that their academia has made them cold and aloof, contemptuous of the very warmth, life and honesty that Kröger is trying to find. His `awakening´ opens his eyes to the art present in the life around him. Readers will learn a great deal about Mann in what he reveals about himself through Tonio Kröger. Like his character, Mann was born into the bourgeois as the son of a Burgermeister and, as such, felt acutely the separation and isolation of an artist in such a society. Mann reveals his own struggle in Kröger's search to reconcile the dichotomy of an artist's heart coursing with bourgeois blood.” This is an book description (c) 2001

Thomas Mann: Death in Venice, Tonio Kröger, and other Writings
Continuum Publ. 1999, 324 pages (US edition)
Vintage Classics 1998, 336 pages (UK edition, may not include Tonio Kröger)


KARL KRAUS (1874-1936)

“The mission of the press is to spread culture while destroying the attention span.” Karl Kraus

Dicta & Contradicta

“Kraus's barbed aphorisms were an essential part of his running commentary on Viennese culture. These miniature gems, as sharp as diamonds, demonstrate Kraus's highly cultivated wit and his unerring eye for human weakness, flaccidity, and hypocrisy. Kraus shies away from nothing; the salient issues of the day are lined up side by side, as before a firing squad, with such perennial concerns as sexuality, religion, politics, art, war, and literature. By turns antagonistic, pacifistic, realistic, and maddeningly misogynistic, Kraus's aphorisms provide the sting that precedes healing.” (From the publisher´s announcement)

Karl Kraus: Dicta and Contradicta
University of Illinois Press 2001
176 pages


HEINRICH MANN (1871-1950)

Professor Unrat (out of print)

The Loyal Subject

heinrichmannloyalsubjectHeinrich Mann: The Loyal Subject
Continuum Publ. 1998
348 pages

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SARAH KIRSCH (b. 1935)
ERNST JANDL (1925-2000)
PAUL CELAN (1920-1970)
GÜNTER EICH (1907-1972)
PETER HUCHEL (1903-1981)
ERICH KÄSTNER (1899-1974)
GEORG TRAKL (1887-1914)
GOTTFRIED BENN (1886-1956)
STEFAN GEORGE (1868-1933)

germanpoetryintransitionCharlotte Melin (ed.): German Poetry in Transition 1945-1990
University Press of New England 1999

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(Note: not all the poets mentioned above are represented in this volume)

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