Germany, the Land of Poets and Thinkers

I couldn’t even begin to tell you how many pages on MyGermanCity.com that have the names Goethe or Schiller mentioned in them. These two contemporaries aren’t even the tip of the iceberg of writers and poets that have made Germany known as Das Land der Dichter und Denker — the Land of Poets and Thinkers.

So, here’s your chance to get to know some famous German writers in honor of next month’s Leipzig Book Fair in Leipzig (March 15th – 18th) and the lit.COLOGNE, the International Literature Festival in Cologne (March 14th – 24th).

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Born in 1749, Goethe’s works were considered part of a movement known as Sturm und Drang, or in English Storm & Stress. His The Sorrows of Young Werther would have topped all the “bestseller” lists, had there been any in his day.

Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller

Fritz (as he was called) was buddies with Goethe, and founded the Weimar Theater with him. He is, however, known for his works — like Don Carlos, The Wallenstein Trilogy (about the Thirty Years’ War), and The Robbers — a story of violence, money, power, and revolution. Utterly brilliant.

While Schiller and Goethe were part of the Sturm und Drang, a number of writers were known for Exilliteratur — exiled writers (like these next two guys) that opposed the Third Reich and all it stood for.

Thomas Mann

A Nobel Prize winner from Germany who emigrated to the U.S. during the Nazi years, Thomas Mann was first translated into English in 1924. So now German and English readers can enjoy his ironic works (Death in Venice, The Magic Mountain, etc.). You can also read his children’s works too, since three of his children (Erika Mann, Klaus Mann, Golo Mann) became writers.

Bertolt Brecht

Oh, this guy was busy — poet, director, and playwright he was. His anti-fascist sentiments can be found in his Life of Galileo, the Good Person of Szechwan, and the Fear and Misery of the Third Reich. He returned to what was then East Germany after being blacklisted by Hollywood during the Cold War.

Although the next writers might not have been part of the Sturm und Drang or Exilliteratur crowd, they’re still Nobel winners for Literature.

Gerhart Hauptmann

Go figure, another Nobel Prize winning author. Mr. Hauptmann wrote 37 plays, and a large collection of novels and short novels. Too bad he didn’t have as much success after World War II as he did beforehand.

Christian Matthias Theodor Mommsen

Not only was Theodor Mommsen a prolific writer (finishing 1500 works), this guy was an archaeologist to boot. He won a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1902 on his works of Roman history. He died over a century ago, yet his writings are still relevant.

Schiller said, “The voice of the majority is no proof of justice.” Then let me say that the voice of the majority that still loves these writers’ stories is proof that good taste still exists in the world.

 

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