Johann Wolfgang von Goethe – German poet, statesman, thinker and naturalist. Born on August 28, 1749, in the old German trading city of Frankfurt am Main in the family of the prosperous burgher Johann Caspar Goethe (1710-1782). The first poetic experiments of Goethe refer to the age of eight. In 1765 he went to the University of Leipzig, where he satisfied his craving for reading and to try all genres and styles of the Enlightenment, so that by the age of 19, when a serious illness forced him to stop his studies , he already mastered the techniques of versioning and drama and was the author of a fairly large number of works, most of which were later destroyed. In Strasbourg, where in 1770-1771 Goethe completed his legal education, and in the following four years in Frankfurt, he was the leader of a literary riot against the principles established by Johann Christoph Gottsched (1700-1766) and the theorists of the Enlightenment.
The most important of Goethe’s works produced before he went to Weimar were Götz von Berlichingen (1773), a tragedy that was the first work to bring him recognition, and the novel The Sorrows of Young Werther (German: Die Leiden des jungen Werthers) (1774), which gained him enormous fame as a writer in the Sturm und Drang period which marked the early phase of Romanticism. Goethe died in 1832, in Weimar of apparent heart failure.
Wilhelm Hauff was a German poet and novelist. He was born in 1802 in Stuttgart. He died at the age of twenty-five, and the period of his literary work was comprised within his last two years. This short time however sufficed to express his extraordinary genius.
Hauff was the son of August Friedrich Hauff, Government Secretary of Foreign Affairs. His father died when he was but seven years of age, and the education of the children devolved upon the mother, a woman of great intelligence, whose influence over her sensitive son was the result of a perfect understanding of his emotional nature. Hauff’s powers of work were enormous, and he produced his stories in rapid succession. Das Bild des Kaisers (The Portrait of the Emperor), a poetic piece of romance, and Die Bettlerin vom Pont des Arts (The Beggar of the Pont des Arts), are masterpieces of their kind. Among the best of his productions must be ranked Phantasien im Bremer Rathskeller (Phantasies in the Bremen Rathskeller). It is however most especially in the series of tales The Caravan, The Sheik of Alexandria, and The Inn in Spessart, that Hauff’s high originality is best exemplified. He is pre-eminently a storyteller, and his pure and lucid style is the transparent medium for the expression of strikingly bold dramatic ideas. His wit is singularly delicate, yet penetrating, and he exercises a fascination over persons of all ages and conditions. The popularity which he at once attained is still unabated. His collected works continue to be issued in numerous editions, and his place in German literature seems now as assured as it has always been in the hearts of his countrymen.
Alexander Kluge, born in Germany in 1932, is a world-famous author and filmmaker, a lawyer, and a social critic. He has won German’s highest literary award, the George Büchner Prize in addition to his four gold lions from the Venice Film Festival. Kluge is one of the leading intellectual voices in Germany today. Described, as a young man, as “Adorno’s favorite son”, over the past half century Kluge has created a vast body of work that can be regarded as a continuation, in word and image, of the Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School.
*Photo: © Constantin Riess.
Hartmut Lange was born in Berlin Spandau, 1937. After studying dramaturgy at the Babelsberg Academy of Film, he started working as a dramaturge in 1960 in East Berlin. After leaving for a trip to Yugoslavia, however, he did not return to the GDR. Instead, he went to West Berlin, working as a dramaturge at various prestigious theaters. Lange’s plays, essays, and prose have won many awards, among them the Gerhart Hauptmann and the Laure-Bataillon Prize.
Emine Sevgi Özdamar, born in 1946, is a Turkish-German author, actress, and theatre director. At the age of 12 she entered the stage for the first time, and in 1965 she came to Germany as a Gastarbeiter, working at a factory in West Berlin. After taking acting classes in Istanbul, she got her first professional roles, and engagements in Berlin (Volksbühne), Paris, Avignon, and Bochum (Schauspielhaus) followed. Her debut novel, Life is a Caravanserai: Has Two Doors I Went in One I Came out the Other, appeared in 1992 and was translated into several languages. She has authored four novels, a collection of short stories, and multiple plays. Her literary work was awarded several prestigious German prizes, such as the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize (1991), the Adalbert von Chamisso Prize (1999), and the Kleist Prize (2004).
*Photo: © Helga Kneidl.
Clemens J. Setz is an Austrian author. He was born in 1982 in Graz where he studied Mathematics and German and where he lives today as a translator and freelance writer. In 2011 he was awarded the Leipzig Book Fair Prize for the short story collection from which The Corpse is taken. His novel Indigo was shortlisted for the German Book Prize in 2012. In 2015 Setz received the Wilhelm Raabe Literature Prize for his novel Die Stunde zwischen Frau und Gitarre (‘The Hour Between Woman and Guitar’).
*Photo: © Hans Hochstöger, Suhrkamp Verlag.
Georg Klein is a German writer who was born in 1953. He is the author of five novels, several collections of short stories and a detective story. His work has been awarded many prizes, including the Brothers Grimm Prize and the Bachmann Prize. In 2010 he won the Leipzig Book Fair Prize for Roman unserer Kindheit (‘Novel of Our Childhood’). Georg Klein is a member of the PEN Centre Germany.
*Photo: © Wilko de Vries.
Peter Stamm is a Swiss author. He was born in 1963 and studied English, Psychology and Psychopathology for a few semesters before doing various jobs in various places, including Paris and New York. Since his first novel Agnes was published in 1998 he has produced five further novels, five collections of short stories and a collection of plays. Peter Stamm lives in Switzerland.
*Photo: © Gaby Gerster.