German Literature - a personal survey

(actualisé le ) by Ray

Being able to read texts in the language of Goethe and Schiller has certainly been an advantage in my long-standing quest to better appreciate the literature of that mysterious land on the other side of the Rhine, as many works that are well-known or even famous in the German-speaking world are out of print or particularly hard to find elsewhere in translation, or have never even been translated.

Mostly this is due, I would think, to the enduring popularity of the short-story format among German writers and readers alike – a format that has never been particularly popular elsewhere, especially when it comes to foreign authors. And there are certainly also historical and geopolitical reasons for the general lack of interest elsewhere in the literature of Europe’s economic powerhouse and most populous country...

You will, I think it is safe to say, find in this compilation of works by author a quite comprehensive sampling of the outstanding short stories, novellas, novels and plays that have been written by German, Austrian and Swiss-German authors over the past several hundred years.

No. Author___________ German Title [1] English translation__________ Genre Period Synopsis/Commentary___________________________________________
1 Vicki Baum Frauensee The Ladies of the Lake novel 1927 as romantic as you could wish, very classy.
2 Vicki Baum Menschen im Hotel* Grand Hotel novel 1930 I loved this even more the second time around: all the magic and glamour and excitement of the ultra-cosmopolitan Berlin of the Weimar Republic.
3 Heinrich Böll Der Zug war pünktlich* The Train Was On Time novella 1949 a very powerful account of a German soldier’s fateful train odyssey towards the eastern front towards the end of WW2 – unforgettable!
4 Heinrich Böll Das Brot der frühen Jahre* The Bread of the Early Years novella 1952 an interesting evocation of the immediate post-war period seen through the eyes of a young working-man who narrates his love-at-first-sight encounter with a young woman in harsh conditions indeed. HB is a modern reference and this is one of his best-known works.
5 Wolfgang Borchert ausgewählte Erzählungen* Chosen Stories short stories 1945-1947 ultra-stark, stream-of-consciousness-style evocations of life in war-torn quasi-apocalyptic post-WWII urban Germany. Several of these highly original and mostly very bitter short tales scale great heights, notably Die Hundeblume (“The Dog Flower” - about a prisoner’s quasi-maniacal longing for a lone flower in the prison courtyard) and Schischyphusch (“Sisyphus” – where two stutterers clash in a restaurant) are particularly impressive and urgently need to be read by everyone.
6 Wolfgang Borchert Draußen vor der Tür* Outside the Door theatre 1947 A young soldier just back from captivity in Siberia wanders around devastated post-war Hamburg after a first unsuccessful suicide attempt, searching in vain for warmth and shelter and a reason to live in spite of the loss of his wife (who is with another man) and his parents (who have “denazified” themselves with their gas stove). He and we experience intense encounters with emblematic figures of his past and present time – DIE ELBE (personifying the river Elbe, where he had tried to drown himself), DER ANDERE (The Other, a caring bystander), DIE FRAU (The Wife, whom he finds living with another man), DAS MÄDCHEN (The Young Woman, who finds him on the river bank and shelters him), DER OBERST (The Colonel, a former officer of his on the Eastern front), DER EINBEINIGE (The One-Legged Man, the young woman’s wounded husband, devastated to find her with our soldier), DER KABARETTDIREKTOR (The Theatre Director, a potential employer) and others – notably, for one extremely forceful scene, GOTT (God or The Old Man, in whom nobody believes any more). A singular cry from the heart, infused with moving, poetic language from start to (inevitably-dark) end. The very gifted 26-year-old author of this outstanding work, surely one of the most significant theatrical creations of that momentous period, died of tuberculosis one day before its opening night in Hamburg in 1947.
7 Bertolt Brecht Die Dreigroschenoper* The Threepenny Opera theatre 1928 Adapted from John Gay’s early-18th Century play The Beggar’s Opera] (1728), this musical drama was written by Brecht in collaboration with Elizabeth Hauptmann, the translator of Gay’s work into German who worked with him closely on its adaptation to the stage, and, to a lesser extent, with Kurt Weill, the composer of the play’s celebrated musical score. Not to mention John Gay, much of whose text was integrated into this account of the deeds and misdeeds of the elegant but too profligate gang leader Macheath, alias Mack the Knife, vaguely set in the London of the Victorian era. A huge and quite unexpected success at the time, this effervescent new kind of socially-oriented drama manages to epitomize with its verve, its cynicism and its anti-establishmentarianism both the dynamism and the burning social tensions of the (unfortunately) ill-fated Weimar Republic.
8 Bertolt Brecht Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder* Mother Courage and Her Children theatre 1940 A musical-tragedy (!) portraying a widow’s determined struggle to survive, with her three grown children, by travelling around Europe with a waggon trading whatever goods she can obtain in the wake of armies on all sides during the terrible Thirty Years War that ravaged Germany in the 17th Century (and reduced its population by 50%). The musical element, many mostly bitter songs commenting on the common man’s poor lot, is clearly influenced by the enduring success of The Threepenny Opera - which was though a parody of mainstream opera, wherefore the songs – and surprises somewhat in the sombre context of extreme violence so predominant throughout the play. And the play’s subliminal pacifist message that war is a crime against humanity only fostered by those in power to for ignoble mercantile aims strikes me as being oddly out of tune with its time, as the play was written and published in 1940 when Hitler’s armies were on the march and threatening the very foundations of Western civilization and its humanist heritage (but then it is true that at that time the author’s beloved Soviet Union was at peace with Germany and had been rewarded with half of Poland for its services). Still, the central figure of Mother Courage, with her earthiness and her resourcefulness and her capacity for facing up to the worst disasters and to still be able to carry on, stands out as one of the most remarkable theatrical personalities of our time.
9 Clemens Brentano Geschichte vom braven Kasperl und dem schönen Annerl The Good Gaspard and the Pretty Annette novella ca. 1820 charming, a classic of the German Romantic movement.
10 Georg Büchner Dantons Tod* Danton’s Death theatre 1835 An intense, passionately-felt and extremely brilliant portrayal of the dramatic last five days of the great revolutionary’s existence, meticulously faithful to the historic acts and declarations of all of the leading protagonists in that epic drama. A theatrical masterpiece.
11 Georg Büchner Lenz* Lenz novella 1835 Jakob Lenz was one of the best-known members of the 18th-Century Sturm und Drang literary movement of social and intellectual protest, which fascinated Büchner and which preceeded the more idealistic German Romantic movement. He had suffered a nervous breakdown during a twenty-day visit to a friend in Alsace in 1778, the Protestant minister Johann-Friedrich Oberlin, who maintained a detailed diary describing in detail Lenz’s state of mind during his visit. Closely based on Oberlin’s journal and on letters by Lenz during that period, this is an intensely-charged and lyrical narrative told in the third-person indirect-narrative style that puts the reader inside Lenz’s mind as he travels to the remote village and wanders through the mountains where he can communicate with his friend and with nature and seek the solitude and the relief from the anguish of existence which he so much needs and never fully finds. A powerful and very moving exploration of the process of mental illness.
12 Georg Büchner Woyzeck* Woyzeck theatre 1836 A kaleidoscopic mosaic in 31 short and explosive scenes portraying the life and destiny of a common labourer whose murder of his common-law wife was a much-talked-about cause célèbre in Büchner’s time. The text is dramatic and forceful to a degree. Its deconstructionist structure, its highly-charged expressionist style and its anti-establishmentarian Weltanschauung (attitude) caused this uncompleted work, never published or performed even in part during the poet-dramatist’s tragically short existence, to be rediscovered and brought to the public’s attention only at the end of the century, since when it has been elevated to the rank of a major precursor of the experimental theatre of our own time. We note that the celebrated atonal operatic version by Alban Berg, first performed in 1925, was called Wozzeck as a result of a printer’s typo error that was discovered too late to be corrected!
13 Gottfried Bürger Wunderbare Reisen des Freiherrn von Münchhausen* The Marvelous Voyages of the Baron of Münchhausen fable 1814 the Baron of Münchhausen is the biggest, but most entertaining, liar of them all, and his account of his adventures has to be read to be (not) believed.
14 Elias Canetti Die Blendung Auto Da Fe (The Burning) novel 1935 A book about books, and one man’s over-riding passion for books, and book collecting, that is itself a whirlwind of words that swirl around the reader to sweep him effortlessly along to the final paroxysm of an ending that leaves one quite breathless with admiration for the force and power of this exceptional ... book.
15 Adelbert von Chamisso Peter Schlemihls wundersame Geschichte* The Marvelous Story of Peter Schlemihl novel 1813 This is a classic story in the fantastic vein with an expansive, the-sky’s-the-limit flavour to it, from the great period of Romantic ferment in Germany in the early 19th Century, that is nowhere nearly as well known outside of its native land as it deserves to be.
16 Friedrich Dürrenmatt Der Richter und sein Henker* The Judge and his Hangman crime fiction 1952 hard-nosed, cruel and difficult, but well worth the trouble. Original and most striking.
17 Friedrich Dürrenmatt Der Besuch der alten Dame The Visit of the Old Lady theatre 1956 most impressive, an important work.
18 Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff Aus dem Leben eines Taugenichts* From the Life of a Good-for-Nothing novella 1826 In the first sentence the youthful and very carefree narrator rubs the sleep out of his eyes, listens to the twittering of the starlings and the murmurings of his father’s mill and sits on the doorstep to bask in the warm spring sunshine, only to hear his father’s outraged admonition "you Taugenichts (Good-For-Nothing)! getting up at noon while we have all been slaving away since daybreak! Take your things and get out of my house forever !" So our young hero takes off down the road in front of his father’s mill with his beloved violin and a few pennies to visit the wide world.
Taugenichts, who is just about always either singing or playing his violin or listening to birds trilling away or admiring the glories of nature or the charms of the many females who pass his way, in no time at all is - because of his singing and musical ability and perhaps also because of his quite irresistible easy-going charm - first taken on as a gardener and then as a gatekeeper at a splendid castle, where he can indulge to his heart’s content his inclinations for singing and listening to the sounds of nature and bringing flowers to lovely young ladies. But when his love for the lovely lady of the castle is unrequited, he unhesitatingly sets off without a penny down the road again, on the way to the Rome of his dreams - the Rome not only of saints but also of Venus-worshipping pagan rites - and rapidly becomes involved in a bewildering set of dramas and misunderstandings and rococo adventures which do lead him to the Rome of his ambition. Where he finds and loses again the mysterious lady of the castle back home, where he somehow manages to finally end up again amidst many imbroglios and much confusion.
Steeped in music and poetry and the love of nature, deceptively erudite and ambitious in spite of the bucolic simplicity of its wandering but quite unforgettable hero, brimming over with humour and vitality, this complex masterpiece both looks back to the baroque and rococo past while magnificently incarnating the exuberance of the Romantic spirit of its time.
19 Michael Ende Momo* Momo novel for young people 1973 A modern-day classic for young people that is as well-known in Germany as Treasure Island. And rightly so - this is a terrific book with a great theme: the fight of a marginal young girl against the powerful but obscure forces that robotise adults by convincing them to constantly "save" time. A book which I would recommend to anyone of any age.
20 Michael Ende Die unendliche Geschichte* The Neverending Story novel for young people 1979 I loved this extremely original, imaginative, well-paced and well-told story - now a modern classic.
21 Hans Fallada Erzählungen* Short Stories short stories ca. 1932 light and charming.
22 Hans Fallada Fridolin der freche Dachs* Fridolin the Bold Badger novel for young people and the others too 1944 This starts off with a bang on p. 1 when Fridolin is out for a stroll with his family and one of the little ones slips and rolls downs a slope into the stream below, where it is snapped up by a waiting and very hungry pike. F’s mother senses that something has gone wrong and recounts her brood: one, two, many (that’s as high as badgers can go) and is reassured that all is well and so the story continues. This is the best animal story ever written (with Jack London’s) in my humble opinion.
23 Theodor Fontaine Effi Briest Effi Briest novel 1894 Fontaine was an extremely prolific writer of novels, short stories, poetry, articles, travel diaries, letters and just about everything else (he wrote almost non-stop every day) who however only wrote his first novel at the ripe old age of fifty-nine, in 1878. Like all the rest of his oeuvre (notably his celebrated five-volume travel journal Wanderings in Brandenburg), this novel, Fontaine’s last and most famous, analyses the mores and the mindset of the traditional aristocratically-minded Prussian society struggling, ultimately unsuccessfully, to maintain its status and moral standards in the face of the rise to preeminence of the more commercially-minded and dynamic (and – oh horror – sometimes Jewish) middle class. In an elegant but straightforward way we follow the title heroine as she gets involved in an almost-inevitable adulterous relationship with a brilliant and attractive officer friend of the family and has to face the terrible consequences of her flouting of the rules of the established society in the essentially agriculture-oriented, traditional Prussia of her day. Sensitive, beautifully written, Fontaine’s fine intellect and penetrating insights into human nature implicate us in the tensions of this intense social drama in as subtle and artful way as could be desired.
24 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Die Leiden des jungen Werthers* The Sufferings of Young Werther novel 1775 The original "Bildungsroman" (novel of learning) about a young man’s initiation to life - the book that put Goethe on the map and whose sensitive, soulful, searching and suicidal hero was a founding figure for the Romantic movement throughout Europe.
25 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Faust. Eine Tragödie Faust. A Tragedy theatre 1808 the summum of the great master’s art, an enormous monument.
26 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Die Wahlverwandtschaften The Elective Affinities novel 1809 Goethe’s classic novel set new standards for straightforward adult attitudes towards moral issues such as extramarital relations, adultery and even incest, but its main interest as far as I am concerned is the remarkable quality of the prose and dialogues. Not a particularly easy read, but I found myself increasingly impressed and enthused by the calm but Olympian overall tone that permeates the text, and finished the book with the sensation of having shared some very privileged moments with a writer of truly unusual breath and scope.
27 Jakob u. Wilhelm Grimm Das blaue Licht und andere Märchen* The Blue Light and Other Stories fairytales ca.1812 The classic Grimm Brothers tales with all their sharpness and cruelty - no punches pulled for the kiddies in those days! The title story, about the revenge a soldier wreaks on the king who had dismissed him without a cent, thanks to a magic light which he stole from a wicked witch (before getting her killed!), is typical of the pitiless methods applied by one and all, children included, on their enemies. The most striking feature of these stories - extremely well know in German-speaking countries - apart from their fairy-tale and magical elements, their princesses and kings and witches and strange gnomes, is their almost breathless pace, the way they zoom along and tell their story in a rush that leaves no time for the reader, young or old, to worry too much about the morality of what is going on. And they get right to the often-gory point without beating around the bush - no doubt one of the main reasons for their long-lasting success with the younger generations since they were first published in the 1840s.
28 Jakob u. Wilhelm Grimm Märchen* Fairy Tales fairytales ca. 1815 The original versions of these famous tales are a good deal bloodier and tougher than their modern edulcorated versions - they tell stories with hard-hitting morals, with no punches pulled and with no vagueness about the horrible dangers lurking out there in the big wide world for people in general and for children in particular. Nor about what parents are sometimes capable of doing to their children (like leaving them to starve in the forest when food runs short) or about what kids can do when they really get going (like pushing nasty old ladies into burning ovens). Fascinating.
29 Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelschausen Der Abenteuerliche Simplicissimus Teutsch The Adventurous Simplicissimus Teutsch novel 1668 the devastating Thirty Years War seen by the first giant of German literature, a baroque monument.
30 Hermann Hesse In einer kleinen Stadt In a Little Town short stories 1908-1918 A collection of impressive stories centered on the theme of the values and hidden tensions of life in comfortable "bourgeois" provincial Germany at the beginning of the 20th Century. Written at various times from 1908-1918 (i. e. - both before and after Hesse’s definitive emigration to Switzerland in 1912) these multi-layer stories both subtly and openly question the value system of our modern materialistic society.
31 Hermann Hesse Der Dichter The Poet short stories 1920-1940 HH is a master of the genre.
32 Hermann Hesse Siddharta. Eine indische Dichtung Siddharta, an Indian Poem novel 1922 The search for internal peace and spiritual understanding of Siddharta, told in a way that is halfway between a novel with dialogues and internal monologues and a sacred text recounting with awe the spiritual messages of Buddhism and Hinduism. Much easier to read and even assimilate than I had been expecting, this book’s awesome reputation is on the whole well justified, although I wasn’t as shaken by its eastern spirituality (that’s not what I’m looking for in a novel, anyway) as many of its reader-believers seem to have been.
33 Hermann Hesse Der Steppenwolf The Wolf of the Steppes novel 1927 Although I have always liked what I have read by this great German-Swiss writer I was not as interested by this famous book as I had thought I would be, finding it much calmer and more staid than I was expecting. I suppose that the spiritual and intellectual implications of his prose passed way over my down-to-earth positivist Anglo-Saxon head.
34 Hermann Hesse Schön ist die Jugend* Youth is Beautiful short stories 1930 difficult, but moving and even poetical.
35 E.T.A. Hoffmann Fantasiestücke Fantastic tales short stories 1814-1821 Hoffmann is a master of the short story in the fantastic vein, an inspired writer whose taste for extravagance and the bizarre combined with his gift for imaginative writing and a way of whisking his story along with never a pause or a dull moment make him in my eyes one of the great writers of his romantic-era times.
36 E.T.A. Hoffmann Die Elixieren des Teufels The Devil’s Elixirs novel 1816 This novel, Hoffmann’s first, about the doings of a strange monk who guards a mysterious elixir of the devil’s own making, is as wild and extravagant and complex as anything he ever wrote, which is saying a lot. In Hoffmann’s inimitable manner he adroitly introduces supernatural elements, or rather the possibility or suspicion of supernatural elements, into the ordinary everyday world, intermingled with fraternal admonitions to the reader to be wary of false appearances, that combine with the verve of the prose to elevate this story above the more straightforward Gothic novel in the vein of M.G. Lewis’s The Monk, which had caused a literary sensation throughout Europe at the end of the previous century and on which this book is in a way modelled. As seems to usually be the case with Hoffmann, a number of separate strains and themes run in parallel and criss and cross, and one is constantly subjugated by the vigour and originality of the prose that surges along like an unstoppable tidal force throughout the story - one can just sense the words flowing out from his pen as he frenetically writes to get them down on paper fast enough.
37 E.T.A. Hoffmann Das Fraulein von Scuderi* Mademoiselle de Scuderi novella ca. 1820 brillant, Hoffmann is a champion, light and amusing and somehow mysterious at the same time - I can’t get enough of him ...
38 E.T.A. Hoffmann Der goldene Topf The Golden Vase novella ca. 1820 A really terrific fable with a touch of the fantastic - you are just swept along, caught up by the author’s enthusiasm and irresistible charm and the way the words just flow along with brio and poetry. What a writer !
39 E.T.A. Hoffmann Der Sandmann* The Sand Merchant novella ca. 1820 quite inspired - another Romantic milestone.
40 E.T.A. Hoffmann Prinzessin Brambilla Princess Brambilla novella 1820 impossible not to be quite subjugated by the charm, the fantasy, and the brio of this splendid fable.
41 E.T.A. Hoffmann Spielerglück* Gambler’s Luck novella ca. 1820 fascinating.
42 E.T.A. Hoffmann Lebensansichten des Katers Murr The Tomcat Murr novel 1821 I just loved this story about - in part, but what a part ! - a particularly gifted cat who is not only smart enough to learn the language of humans but who is lucky enough to have a superior kind of master who reads aloud to him so that he learns how the letters in the book he is staring at correspond to the sounds that he is hearing, and thus learns to read as well. After that, writing is a piece of cake for this super-cat, and this book is his auto-biography, recounting not only his intellectual attitudes to life but the conversations of his master with his erudite friends as well as his own thoughts and escapades and involved love-life. To help stir things up, the manuscript is presented as having been mixed up in the printer’s shop with the biography of a strange and inspired musician and writer-intellectual named Kreisler, also the theme figure in Hoffmann’s Tales in the Manner of Calot (the basis of Offenbach’s celebrated operetta Tales of Hoffmann), who has his own scrapes and escapades and expansive semi-mystical meditations, so the Murr chapters alternate with the Kreisler ones in a bizarre and unsettling but totally original and intriguing way that leaves the reader quite overawed at the vigour and scope of this work like none other.
The overall result is a funny, brilliant and profound parody of a Bildungsroman (a novel of a young man’s learning-about-life process) that just explodes with the individualism and the fascination with the mysteries of life and with the world of fantasy that characterized the romantic spirit of the time, of which Hoffmann was a leading figure.
43 Heinrich Hoffmann Der Streuwelpeter* Slovenly Peter children’s literature 1845 Written by a father for his 3-year-old son, this short series of moralistic tales about the (really) awful things that happen to children who step out of line is full of the give-it-to-them-straight approach to the brutal side of life, aimed at scaring kiddies into staying on the straight and narrow path, that was so very prevalent (in Germany at least) in those days. Kids loved it then and still do - it is a classic in the German-speaking cultural sphere (and was first translated into English by Mark Twain). With an absolutely wonderful series of drawings by the author.
44 Hugo von Hofmannsthal Andreas* Andreas novella 1900 baroque and modern at the same time, captivating.
45 Felicitas Hoppe Picknick der Friseure The Hairdressers’ Picnic novel 1999 A recent German novel about life in the DDR, which turns out to have been just about as drab and discouraging as one had always imagined it to be. Sort of OK, one suspects it has lost a certain twangy Saxon touch in the translation process.
46 Ödon von Horvath Geschichten aus dem Wiener Wald* Stories from the Viennese Forest theatre 1932 charged with the troubled atmosphere of the thirties.
47 Ernst Jünger In Stahlgewittern In Steel Storms war novel 1920 one of the most important works of literature to come out of WW1, by a major writer who was also one of the most decorated soldiers of the German Army in the First World War.
48 Ernst Jünger Afrikanishe Spiele African Games memoir 1936 Jünger recounts his adventurous enrolment in the French Foreign Legion at the age of 17. You have here pre-1914 Paris, Marseilles, Algiers and the Algerian bled (backwoods) and especially and above all the colourful and oh-so-believable characters that the young and resourceful Ernst meets on the way. Everything I have read by Jünger is close to perfection, including this fascinating memoir. Decidedly one of my favourite writers.
49 Ernst Jünger Auf den Marmorklippen* On the Marble Cliffs novel 1939 Jünger’s great poetical novel, set in a mythical and deformed but recognizable Europe, about the desperate and probably-doomed struggle of the forces of enlightenment to defend civilization against the forces of destruction and inhumanity surging out of Europe’s dark forests that are led by a charismatic, utterly determined leader known as the Great Forester. In spite of Jünger’s immense prestige as one of Germany’s most decorated First World War veterans and celebrated author of the war novel In Steel Stoms, it required great courage on his part to publish this book in the Germany of 1939.
50 Ernst Jünger Heliopolis Heliopolis science fiction 1949 the powerful prose of Jünger applied to some formidable themes (science and politics in a future ultra-sophisticated world) – most readable.
51 Ernst Jünger Gläserne Bienen Glass Bees science fiction 1956 uneven but full of interesting and striking poetical meditations.
52 Ernst Jünger Rivarol Rivarol and Other Essays literary essays 1956 the erudition of this great writer is a royal treat for the reader.
53 Ernst Jünger Subtile Jagden Subtle Hunts memoir 1967 The author of On The Marble Cliffs was also an amateur etymologist who spent a great deal of time throughout his very long life (1895-1998) chasing after specimens of insects all over the world, and this well-titled memoir subtly but powerfully succeeds in transmitting to the reader his passion for the beauties to be discovered in the world of the butterfly (one species of which is named after Jünger, who discovered it) and the cicada and other 6-footed denizens of this earth of ours. A wonderful book.
54 Franz Kafka Der Heizer* The Stoker short story ca. 1913 a most impressive story about a teenager cast adrift to fend for himself in a very strange and foreboding place indeed – a huge German ocean liner in the port of New York. Apparently an initial script for what became the posthumous novel Amerika, this vision of a boy-man trying to survive in a strange new German-American New World is of great interest. Strong stuff!
55 Franz Kafka Die Werwandlung* The Metamorphosis short story 1915 A young man – the since-famous Gregor Samsa - wakes up one morning to find himself transformed into an man-sized beetle and tries, increasingly unsuccessfully, to cope with his new ostracized status as an outcast from society and progressively but firmly also from his own family, even - ultimate moral blow - from his dearly-beloved and loving sister. A stunning parable of the modern man’s psychic and emotional isolation in an uncomprehending and uncaring world.
56 Franz Kafka Brief an den Vater* Letter to Father memoir-letter 1919 The long letter (80+ pages) that Kafka actually wrote (but never delivered) to his father to explain to him in great detail why he (Kafka junior) had always had so much difficulty communicating with him. An extraordinary document, told from the heart by a son who may not have been as good a talker as his domineering and self-assured father but who sure knew how to put words together in a flowing, expressive way. A prose masterpiece.
57 Franz Kafka Das Urteil und a. Erzählungen* The Jugement and Other Stories novellas ca. 1920 All of these stories are shockers in Kafka’s specially bleak, detached, almost otherworldly way, in particular the title story, The Judgement, where a man-to-man conversation between a father and son brings out long-suppressed thoughts and attitudes and hitherto-hidden facts, and quasi-instantaneously triggers off a final catastrophic conclusion to what had seemingly been a straightforward and even banal relationship. That comes as no surprise to readers familiar with Kafka’s long, real-life, never-delivered letter to his own father, published after his early death as Letter to the Father, but the build-up is so artful and the comedown so awful that the reader is nevertheless as aesthetically and emotionally shaken as is so often the case with prose by the author of Metamorphosis, another overwhelming reading experience to be found in this precious selection of his stories. Also included in this quite fabulous collection are the jaw-dropping In The Punishment Camp about the weird goings-on in a Siberian penal colony, A Country Doctor, recounting an everyday tragedy in the life of a country doctor, and A Report for an Academy, where a talking dog reports to an assembly of scientists in an officious, academic manner on the use or rather misuse that humanity had made of his talents: a moving account of insensitivity and stupidity in a second-degree and not at all funny way, quite the contrary.
58 Franz Kafka Forschungen eines Hundes und Beschreibung eines Kampfes* The Investigations of a Dog and Description of a Fight novellas 1921, 1907 I had to read these long, complex, really exceptionally bewildering stories twice over to start to come to grips with them. The second careful read-through considerably reinforced the initial impression of profound originality, with something mysterious or interesting or simply intensely-felt or intensely-described happening on just about every page.
59 Franz Kafka Der Prozess The Trial novel 1925 Kafka’s masterful account of the struggle of Mr. Average Citizen with the state apparatus, written in 1912 but never completed and published posthumously in 1925. But can a book like this about the difficulty if not the impossibility of communication in the modern world ever be finished? Kafka opened up the whole field of absurdity and incommunicability in modern literature with this theme and with the detached mock-realist style of this seminal work.
60 Franz Kafka, H. Böll, u. a. Die Puppe und a. Geschichten* The Doll and Other Stories short stories contem-porary not everyone in this collection can stand comparison to Kafka et Böll, natürlich.
61 Erik Kästner Der 35. Mai* The 35th of May novel for young people 1931 This is one of my very favourite stories for children, an utterly charming and joyful tale about a boy who meets a talking horse who accompanies him and his rather zany uncle through a secret passage to a marvellous Land of Plenty where tarts grow on trees among other wonders, by the very talented author of Emile and the Detective and The Conference of Animals, not to mention the early-thirties best-seller Fabian.]].
62 Erik Kästner Die Konferenz der Tiere* The Conference of the Animals novel for young people 1949 Birds and animals of all kinds from all over the world congregate in Africa, in spite of the difficulties and dangers of the enterprise, for a mighty conference to decide how they can best act to prevent mankind from destroying the world in another cataclysmic world war. A timeless and premonitory metaphor from the late forties that carries about as much political punch as ever while remaining eminently readable for young and old alike.
63 Erik Kästner, H. Bochert, R. Musil u. a. Kurzgeschichten des 20. Jahrhunderts* Short Stories of the 20th Century short stories contem-porary The short story form has always been held in great estimate by German writers and readers alike and these samples of the art of saying much in few words is a good introduction to the genre. Most of the stories are by big names of the earlier part of the century (Franz Kafka, Robert Musil, Kurt Tucholsky, Erich Kästner, Max Frisch), but why not? - after all, German letters were as annihilated by Adolf ’s awfulness as everything else was.
64 Gottfried Keller Kleider machen Leute* Clothes Make People novella 1845 vivid, gay, sparkling with wit and insight, a justly famous (in German-speaking countries only though, alas) tale about a poor young tailor who is given a ride on a nobleman’s coach and who is mistaken for its owner because of his nice clothes (all our hero has in the world) by the owner of a local inn, by the town’s notables, by the mayor and especially by the mayor’s lovely young daughter – just wonderful!
65 Heinrich von Kleist Die Marquise von O...* The Marquise of O... novella 1808 On page 1 of this stark investigation of the feminine condition in a rigid society ruled by pitiless moral strictures, the young widow M. of O. finds herself in an unexpected condition with no idea of how or why this situation came to be, and courageously puts an ad in the local paper proposing marriage to the (unknown) person responsible for this state of affairs. We then flash back to, in rapid succession, a violent military assault on the fortified town of which her father was the governor, an equally violent assault on her own person by marauding soldiers, a rescue by a heroic young officer who spends the rest of the story pursuing her with all his considerable means, and the ups and downs of her relationships with him and with her loving but very obdurate family. Bold and intense in content and innovative in form, this remarkable story seems as up-to-date today as it must have appeared avant-garde in its own time.
66 Heinrich von Kleist Die Verlobung in St. Domingo* The Engagement in St. Domingo novella 1811 In the midst of the campaign of extermination of the thousands of white-skinned people left on Haiti (then called St. Domingo) after the successful uprising of slaves there in 1804, a young officer desperately seeks shelter and food for his small company of civilians in a wayside house, where he is lured into a very false sense of security by the family of the local killer-in-chief whose abode it is and who is absent for the moment. We follow the ups and downs of the attempts of the officer to survive in the face of apparently-hopeless odds with the help of the very seductive daughter of the house - but in the context of apocalyptic ultra-violence that permeates this dramatic story, we know that there will not be a happy end and there isn’t [2]. What a story! Breath-taking and timeless!
67 Heinrich von Kleist Der Findling* The Foundling novella 1811 A wealthy Roman merchant on a trip to plague-ridden Raguse loses his son and gains a young foundling (who was probably the cause of his son’s deadly infection!) whom he rapidly adopts. Naturally, this being a Kleist story, the bright and handsome foundling grows up to be a less than perfect scion of the family, perfectly ungrateful for all the love and education and riches that have always been piled on him. The bad deeds and disasters and violence – a constant Kleist theme – build up until the really violent end.
68 Heinrich von Kleist Der Zweikampf* The Duel novella 1811 A stark account of an honour duel in the late middle ages to establish - by death of the guilty party, necessarily conform to the will of divine justice according to the strictures of the time - the innocence or guilt of a noblewoman whose honour has been publicly besmirched. Couched in a complex, almost heraldic prose which most effectively recreates the mental and moral atmosphere of those far-away times, this striking tale is a kind of early (Romantic-era) murder mystery, with continual twists and turns of plot, a good dose of suspense, much intense emotion, remarkable protagonists and a most satisfying concern with old-fashioned notions of honour and moral rectitude.
69 Heinrich von Kleist Prinz Friedrich von Homburg* The Prince of Homburg theatre 1811 Written shortly before his early (self-inflicted) death at the age of 34, this powerful war drama set in 1635 during the Thirty Years War is Kleist’s crowning achievement. A patriotic plea for national resistance to foreign aggression (Swedish in the play, French at its time of writing) it is also a discourse on the upsides and downsides of wartime army discipline via a passionate and poetically-charged exploration of the theme of the death penalty. Strong stuff indeed!
70 Heinz Konsalik Bittersüßes siebtes Jahr Bitter-sweet Seventh Year novel 1981 gay, light and very funny.
71 Heinz Konsalik Der pfeifende Mörder* The Whistling Murderer docu-fiction 1981 terrific atmosphere, nicely written, I am a fan of HK.
72 Heinz Konsalik Die Bank im Park* The Bench in the Park historical novella 1985 You’re not supposed to admit that you like Konsalik, as he was and probably still is an immensely popular writer with the general public in Germany and elsewhere, but I must confess that I just couldn’t help being impressed by this long and evocative story about literary success and failure set in the Latin Quarter of Paris in the 14th Century. I had had the idea that with a popular writer the vocabulary should be relatively basic and therefore quite essential for beginners like me, but this book turned out to be way above the literary standard you would expect in an Anglo-Saxon equivalent for the mass public.
73 Heinz Konsalik Die Bucht der schwarzen Perlen The Black Pearl Bay novel 1991 Konsalik (1921-1999) was a hugely successful writer who was quite despised by the German intelligentsia, but I had been most impressed by The Whistling Murderer so I decided to give this one a try. It is a sort of romantic adventure story set in the South Seas, with I suppose a certain amount of appeal to sun-worshipping Northerners of the more sentimental sort. I now see what the intelligentsia were talking about.
74 Volker Kutscher Der nasse Fisch The Wet Fish crime fiction 2008 crime and detection during the Weimar Republic in the 20s, nicely done.
75 Siegfried Lenz Stimmungen der See Sea Moods short stories 1962 I like the short story genre in general and I really liked these two somewhat bizarre stories filled with atmosphere by one of the most prolific and respected German writers of the post-war period.
76 Siefried Lenz, Wolfgang Borschert u. a. Deutsche heutige Kurzerzählungen* Contemporary German Short Stories short stories contem-porary interesting and easy to read.
77 Gottfried Lessing Nathan der Weise* Nathan the Wise theatre 1779 Lessing’s magnificent verse drama is set in Jerusalem during the Crusades, and portrays in an extraordinarily favourable light the central character Nathan, a rich and cultivated Jewish merchant, who strives to defend both his adopted daughter and his ancestral faith in dramatic confrontations with a hostile Christian knight from Germany and with the Muslim ruler Saladin. Lessing’s earlier play The Jew had aroused great hostility and criticism for its favourable presentation of a Jew - unheard of at the time - so it was in all connaissance de cause that Lessing made this profoundly moving, premonitory and courageous statement that came to embody the very spirit of the Enlightenment throughout Europe. An eternal lesson of courage and humanism of the very highest literary quality.
78 Thomas Mann Buddenbrooks Buddenbrooks novel 1901 a family saga in the Hanseatic coastal town of Lübeck, written when Mann was only 25 - an enormous best-seller at the time and afterwards. Justly famous, a modern classic.
79 Thomas Mann Tonio Krüger Tonio Krüger novella 1903 This shortish novel is a must for anyone who has ever enjoyed Buddenbrooks, with which there are distinct links, notably the young-man-growing-up-and-searching-for-aesthetic-and-moral-and-philosophical-frame-of-reference theme as well as the distinctly detached tone in which Tonio K’s mental and physical travels are related.
80 Thomas Mann Der Tod in Venedig* The Death in Venice novella 1912 Gustave Aschenbach (like the Gustave in Mahler and the Wolfram von Eschenbach in Tannhäuser), the central figure in this 120-page-long, erudite and very intense exploration of the values that an artist aspiring to greatness or possibly already having attained it should or could or perhaps cannot ever really have, is no doubt a mix between Mann’s idol Goethe and Mann himself, with touches of Mahler and Wagner thrown in. We follow the quite famous Gustave A. and his elevated thoughts (at the beginning – they tend to go steadily down as the narrative unfolds) from his native Munich to the Adriatic coast to Venice, where he is plunged into the thralls of physical desire for a very beautiful fourteen-year-old boy whose family is staying at the same hotel on the Lido, and who quite innocently (?) sets our man off on dithyrambic meditations on the lessons of Plato’s The Banquet and Phaedrus and down a long path to moral and physical perdition. The Death in Venice (why is it usually translated as Death in Venice? Mann wanted a singular definite article in there and who are we to take it out? And we are not talking about any old death – after all not only Gustave A. but Mahler and Wagner also finished their days there!) is a quite breath-taking literary feat, involving a number of seemingly bizarre but significant background figures, profound moral and artistic themes, myriad literary and philosophical references and a style involving a breathtakingly rich vocabulary and innumerable long, involved, and complex sentences which somehow never seem to have an excess word in them. All in all: very Germanic and very Mann and very worth while reading!
81 Thomas Mann Der Zauberberg The Magic Mountain novel 1924 Reading this extraordinary book is an unforgettable experience. No one who has read this masterpiece can ever forget the young Hans Castorp’s visit to a sanatorium nestled high in the Swiss mountains, where he meets and becomes so intensely involved with its cosmopolitan patients from all over Europe, especially the tantalizingly mysterious Clawdia Chauchat, her explosive protector Mynheer Peeperkorn, and the impetuous philosopher M. Settembrini. Their encounters and discussions and intense relationships have an epic tonality that permeates the novel and creates an aura of significance that leaves the reader profoundly shaken and moved by the exceptional scope of this magnificently-written book with its vast themes of life and death and health and sexuality and passion and search for meaning.
Many of its scenes are particularly unforgettable: the day where Hans gets lost in a blinding snowstorm on a mountain top and has an almost mystical vision, the Walpurgis Night encounter with Clawdia when all constraints are lifted for one intensely-lived night, his confrontations with the extraordinary personality of Meinheer Peeperkorn and his intense conversations with M. Settembrini are some of the most remarkable scenes that I have ever read.
One is a different person after having read this magical book.
82 Edouard Mörike Mozart auf der Reise nach Prag* Mozart on the way to Prague novella 1857 A particularly charming and renowned (in German-speaking countries) fictional account, by one of the major poets of the 19th century, of the encounters and adventures and (brilliant) conversations of the great composer on the way from Vienna to Prague in the autumn of 1787 where his new opera Don Giovanni was about to be premiered.
83 Robert Musil Die Verwirrungen des Zöglings Törleß The Bewilderment of the Pupil Törless novella 1906 This no-doubt autobiographical account by the author of the monumental The Man Without Qualities of the emotional and sexual growing pains of a young adolescent in a prestigious boarding school for the youth of the nation’s elite on the far-flung borders of the pre-1914 Austro-Hungarian empire has a premonitory tang to it as our central character gets progressively involved with a rather nasty set of domineering and bordering-on-sadistic fellow students who clearly prefigure the bad people doing very bad things that were to wreak such havoc in later years in that part of the world. An honest, lucid and sophisticated treatment of the theme of schoolboy homosexuality that was way ahead of its time that has larger, societal overtones, written in a smooth but meditative style that impressed the critics of the day and impressed me too.
84 Leo Perrutz Der Meister des Jüngsten Tages The Master of the Day of Judgment novel 1923 A brilliant evocation of the social and literary atmosphere of Vienna circa 1909 in the form of an extremely original, fast-moving murder mystery with supernatural overtones. A writer who counted in the vibrant days of the could-have-been-great Weimar Republic.
85 Karl Popper Ausgangspunkte Exit Points memoir 1976 extremely engrossing, surprisingly easy to follow too.
86 Erich Maria Remarque Im Westen nichts Neues All Quiet on the Western Front novel 1929 probably the best novel to come out of the Great War: moving, fascinating, unforgettable.
87 Joseph Roth Das Spinnennetz The Spider Web novel 1923 A political fantasy featuring an embittered nonentity who rises to power in a post-WW1 Germany riddled by political and social strife, by means of a totally unscrupulous, unprincipled, opportunistic and mindless - but nevertheless effective - manipulation of the wave of patriotism, xenophobia, antisemitism and anticommunism that had engulfed that unlucky land. By one of the finest writers produced by the glorious civilization of the pre-WW1 Austro-Hungarian Empire. A violent fantasy, only published posthumously 25 years after Roth’s death by suicide in 1939, written in a telegraphic fairy-tale style that, it must be said, fails to provide the depth and credibility so necessary for such a big subject, a style very different from the smooth, penetrating prose of Hotel Savoy and The Radetzky March.
88 Joseph Roth Hotel Savoy Savoy Hotel novel 1924 Life in the provinces in the ultra-cosmopolitan atmosphere of eastern Europe after the Great War by a major Austrian writer.
89 Joseph Roth Radetzkymarsch The Radetzky March novel 1932 A large, sweeping saga of the social rise and fall of three generations of the newly-ennobled Trotta family in the Austro-Hungarian empire over the 80-odd years preceding the final catastrophe that ended the world as it was and really ushered in the new and terrible 20th century, the First World War. Set mostly in various outer reaches of that multinational, far-flung proto-European empire, in what are today Slovenia, the Czech Republic and the Ukraine, the sense of impending decline and doom assumes ever more tragic overtones as the novel approaches its end and the news from Sarajevo and elsewhere sets the wheels of war and ethnic-national conflicts in motion. With a touch more emotion and central characters easier to relate to than the feeble Trotta tribe, this would have been an absolute masterpiece; it remains a fascinating study of a bygone epoch that saw change of unprecedented proportions invade every sphere of industrial, cultural and social activity.
90 Joseph Roth Die Legende vom heiligen Trinker* Legend of the Holy Drinker novella ca. 1934 a very moving account of a man’s very major problem (referred to in the title), one which proved to be the author’s own undoing (via suicide) only a few years later.
91 Friedrich von Schiller Die Räuber* The Brigands theatre 1781 This intense drama about the lust for liberty in latter-18th Century Germany is considered to be an all-time classic there and elsewhere, so I was glad to be able to have access to the original text via this bilingual edition. Yes, it is dramatic and powerful and one can easily understand why its hero, the rebel-turned-brigand Moor, has made such an impact on the minds of enlightened Europe ever since its initial performance in 1781.
92 Bernhard Schlink Die gordische Schleife* The Gordian Knot spy-thriller 1988 An espionage thriller by one of Germany’s outstanding contemporary writers. Set first in southern France and then in Manhattan in the late 1980s, it lacks the pace of Anglo-Saxon thrillers but to a certain degree compensates that by its interesting central characters and its general class.
93 Bernhard Schlink Der Vorleser* The Reader novel 1995 a modern classic, even though I found the author’s portrayal of the leading female figure, a former prison guard at Auschwitz(!!) a good bit too empathetic for my taste. Note - as everyone knows, the story starts off when the lady next door asks the student-hero to read good stuff to her in lieu of foreplay: well in the Hollywood film he reads Mark Twain and other Yankee authors, no doubt because the authors cited in the original text are almost all unknown to audiences outside of the German cultural sphere ...
94 Bernhard Schlink Liebesfluchten Flights of Love short stories 2000 An absolutely first-rate collection of beautifully-written stories, all with considerable punch and emotional impact.
95 Bernhard Schlink Zuckererbsen* Sweet peas novella 2000 Another brilliant, very striking tale by one of Germany’s most renowned contemporary writers.
96 Bernhard Schlink Der Andere* The Other Man novella 2000 This is a terrific long story about a newly-widowed sixtyisher who finds in his letterbox a love letter to his late wife and undertakes a search through her past - and into his rival’s present - to understand just what kind of relationship he really had had with his wife and just what kind of person she really was. Told in a solid, straightforward way that even I could follow in the original text, with only a little help from the translation on each opposite page, the story becomes ever more gripping and ever more global in its questioning impact as our hero delves into his wife’s past and her lover’s present, until he eventually and almost unexpectedly ... you just must find out for yourself how this man’s quest for understanding evolves.
97 Bernhard Schlink Sommerlügen* Summer Lies longish short stories 2010 A brilliant series of intense, almost disquieting stories about people trying to come to grips with what they and their lives are all about. The closing tale, Die Reise nach Süden (The Trip South), about an elderly woman who suddenly realizes that she no longer loves anyone in her large family, is even more of a masterpiece than the others.
98 Arthur Schnitzler Leutnant Gustl* Lieutenant Gustl novella 1901 terrific, you are plunged into the (fascinating) mindset of those pre-WW1 days as if you were there.
99 Arthur Schnitzler Frau Berta Garlan* Mrs. Berta Garlan short stories ca. 1905 warning: this is a masterpieces of short fiction!
100 Arthur Schnitzler Ich* I short stories ca. 1910 most impressive.
101 Arthur Schnitzler Casanovas Heimfahrt* Casanova’s Journey Home novella 1918 Casanova was a very talented person and so was Schnitzler - when the two meet, sparks fly! unforgettable!
102 Arthur Schnitzler Traumnovelle Dream Story novella 1925 a dream night that finishes badly, a story that has perfectly passed the test of time.
103 Arthur Schnitzler Spiel im Morgengrauen Early Morning Cardgame novella 1926 another of S’s masterpieces, another wonderful evocation of the pre-war Austrian Empire mindset.
104 Arthur Schopenhauer Nachträge zur Lehre vom Leiden der Welt On the Sufferings of the World philosophy 1851 particularly brilliant, astonishingly pessimistic, packed out with stunning aphorisms and comments on man’s (dismal) lot in life.
105 W.G. Sebald Schwindel. Gefühle. Vertigo literary essay 1990 This is a literary essay on memory and the tricks it plays on us by a modern master of evocative, erudite, clear-sighted prose. Sebald takes us in the superb opening chapter with Stendahl through the Alps during Napoleon’s Italian campaign to meditate on the contrast between Stendahl’s vivid memories of the events he lived through and their objective, photographic realities, and continues to wander around Verona, Venice and Vienna in company with Casanova, Kafka and his own memories of places seen and people met, to finally confront his snatches of childhood memories in his birthplace in the mountains of southern Germany.
As in his other works the book is amply illustrated with photographs and images of the subjects under consideration to add an extra, visual layer of significance and poetry onto the penetrating power of the prose itself. A memorable reading experience!
106 W.G. Sebald Die Ausgewanderten The Emigrants literary essay 1992 In four separate, unrelated chapters Sebald explores the passage through time of four almost-average and almost-unassuming persons that had crossed his own life path at one time or another. In his uniquely penetrating way he digs ever further to explore the ever-widening implications of his findings to present us with a deeply moving, intense and profound portrait of the times through which these in fact exceptional people lived.
Sebald can make you see into the heart of things like no one else, thanks to his superb mastery of language and to the innate integrity and honesty of the way he approaches his subjects, going from the topmost, surface impressions through to the deepest layers of significance. The growing interest one feels as each of the people-stories unfolds is, as always with the author of The Rings of Saturn,considerably enhanced by the ubiquitous photos and images, which combine with the pregnant prose to heighten the ever-present sense of the wider implications of the life-stories of his four people-subjects.
This was the first of Sebald’s works to be translated into English, and it quite understandably immediately established his international reputation as one of Germany’s leading contemporary writers.
107 W.G. Sebald Die Ringe des Saturn The Rings of Saturn literary essay 1995 Sebald goes wandering around rural England visiting places of interest to him and thinking about writers and painters and thinkers and cities and landscapes that these places bring to his erudite and fertile mind. Since everything he looks at and writes about assumes near-cosmic significance thanks to the magic of his bewitching prose and penetrating internal vision, the reader is in for a big treat indeed, boosted by the neat way images of the subject under scrutiny are systematically inserted throughout the text.
108 W.G. Sebald Luftkrieg und Literatur Air Warfare and Literature historical essay 1999 A series of lectures on the subject of the Allied terror bombings of German cities throughout the Second World War, avowedly aimed at destroying the morale of the German population by killing as many civilians as possible, that really began with the surprise levelling of the residential areas of Hamburg in the summer of 1942 and that was carried steadily onwards up to the apocalyptic 2000-bomber raid on Dresden and its masses of refugees in April 1945(!).
Sebald wonders aloud, in his clear, straightforward, implacably logical way, why this painful subject has been with one or two exceptions almost entirely swept under the carpet in post-war Germany, with the subject being avoided by almost all writers and intellectuals, with the many eyewitness accounts by survivors being quite unobtainable, so that the very subject itself has become a non-subject in the modern German consciousness. A striking plea for intellectual and moral honesty.
109 W.G. Sebald Austerlitz Austerlitz literary essay 2001 Sebald does it again: he turns what starts out as a somewhat rambling series of personal reminiscences - centered not on the infamous death camp but on an extraordinarily erudite and engaging professor named Austerlitz, whose brilliant extempore exposé on architecture and time during a chance encounter in the Antwerp train station at the beginning of the book sets the tone for what we are in for - a panoramic view of the state of contemporary culture and a literary work of art of the first order.
Sebald’s startlingly clear, precise prose flows on in a harmonious, captivating way that reminds me somehow of the effect of the one and only Marcel P’s very own style.
110 Ernst von Solomon Die Geächteten The Outcasts memoir 1930 the violence and chaos in immediate post-WW1 Germany and the Baltic States, recounted by one of the most important writers of his time
111 Ernst von Solomon Die Kadetten The Cadets memoir 1933 to understand the patriotic-militarism that dominated German thought in the decade 1910-1920 there is nothing better (or better-written).
112 Patrick Süskind Der Kontrabass* The Double Bass theatre 1981 A brilliant, intense, often funny but overall pretty sad, introspective monologue by a bass player in a regional state orchestra musing in everyday-speech steam-of-consciousness mode about music, his instrument, the unattainable soprano singer whom he loves in a very frustrated way, life in general and so on - this is theatre and this is literature at its very very best.
113 Patrick Süskind Das Parfum The Perfume novel 1985 A stunning historical novel with a touch of fantasy about the search for the perfect perfume in 18th-Century France that was on the German best-seller lists for 9 years (!) and almost as long elsewhere.
114 Patrick Süskind Die Taube* The Pigeon novella 1987 A very impressive long story about a very average bank employee with hermit-like tendencies in contemporary Paris, whose existence is seriously upset by the intrusion of a pigeon into his life.
115 Patrick Süskind Geschichten Stories short stories 1996 what a golden touch this writer has!
116 Ludwig Tieck Der Pokal und andere Märchen* The Gold Cup and other Fairy Tales fairy tales ca. 1815 captivating and entrancing tales from one of the key figures of the German Romantic movement.
117 Kurt Tucholsky, Erik Kästner, H. Böll u. a. Humor und Satire* Humour and Satire short stories contem-porary It was interesting picking my way through these 20th-Century stories aimed at showing readers what a good sense of humour German writers really have after all, but the heavy-handedness of most of these satires – curiously mostly by writers from the DDR days of German state socialism – did not exactly have me rolling in the aisles or even smiling much. Some of them, mostly the pre-WW2 ones, were pretty witty, though, that I cannot deny. A worthwhile experience, even if not as convincing an experience as I thought it was going to be.
118 Robert Walser Der Spaziergang* The Stroll novella 1915 a wonderful account of one seemingly-normal-but-inwardly-rather-zany man’s thoughts while walking around his neighbourhood in (peaceful and neutral) Switzerland, a masterpiece!
119 Franz Werfel Der Abituriententag The Class Reunion novel 1928 A finely-wrought short novel of quite theatrical intensity, describing the confrontation of a renowned judge with a man accused of murder, whose past turns out to have been intimately linked with the judge’s own past, and whose descent into the depths menaces to sweep the judge along with him. A psychological drama of great intensity and power, set in the Vienna of both the glorious pre-First World War and the more sedate twenties, in the great Viennese tradition of Schnitzler and Zweig and Musil for whom Werfel is a most worthy kindred spirit.
120 Franz Werfel Eine blaßblaue Frauenschrift Pale Blue Ink in a Lady’s Hand novella 1941 A very short novel with the feel of a long short story but the emotional impact of something much vaster, this account of a top civil servant’s unsuccessful struggle in the mid-thirties with his conscience when faced with a secret from his past that threatens his social position is a relentless (and ever-contemporary) condemnation of the moral turpitude of an Austrian society almost effortlessly integrating the brutal antisemitism of hitlerian Germany in a vain attempt to preserve their comfort, tranquillity and independence.
121 Carl Zuckmayer Der Hauptmann von Kopenick* The Captain from Kopenick theatre 1930 a rather famous satire of the germanic respect for authority, dated now (the writing, not the theme!) but still quite interesting.
122 Stefan Zweig Der Amokläufer* The Man Who Ran Amok short stories 1901-1922 A terribly impressive and most moving collection of stories that turn around one of the central themes of Zweig’s work and life: despair and death by suicide. The 50-page title novella with its multiple ebbs and flows and its final rush of folly and overwhelming passion is the literary equivalent of one of Beethoven’s unclassifiable final sonatas: if any one of his stories can be said to stand out even taller than the others, this is the one! But Geschichte eines Untergangs (The Downfall), Das Kreuz (The Cross), Ein Verbummelter (The Bohemian), Die Mondscheingasse (The Side Street in the Moonlight), Leporella and Episode am Genfer See (Episode on Lac Leman) are all just about as original and moving and unforgettable as that tragic title story.
123 Stefan Zweig Die Hochzeit von Lyon u. a. The Wedding in Lyon short stories 1901-1929 Seven brilliant, varied, precisely-chiselled stories with an emotional and intellectual impact that confirmed for me once again the immense stature of this great writer formed in the golden age of pre-WW1 Vienna. The title story should really be read after the others, its account of a night of a love match in the face of imminent death during the ferocious Stalinist-type repression of enemies of the state during the 1794 Terror period of the French Revolution so powerfully and vividly recreates the atmosphere of those tragic days that anything else must necessarily be anticlimactic. But no, there is a hair-raising account of the anguish that racks a Jewish ghetto on the Polish border in Germany in the late Middle Ages when news arrives of widespread and approaching pogroms by rampaging mobs blaming Jews for an outbreak of the plague; there is a particularly evocative and sensitive tale of a queen of high society in France who is unexpectedly banned overnight from the court and her desperate efforts to regain her lost social position; an account of the desperate struggle to survive of a French colonel cut off from his troops during Napoleon’s atrocious war in Spain; a particularly subtle and moving story of a pacifist’s debate with his conscience on receiving his mobilization papers during WW1, and more. One of the great masters of the short story form, without a doubt.
124 Stefan Zweig Menschen und Schicksale People and Destinies essays 1902-1942 22 articles on the leading intellectuals and writers and artists of his time, most of whom he knew personally and all of whom he had met and empathized with: Verlaine, Romain Rolland, Joseph Roth, Rilke, Arthur Schnitzler, Tagore, Theodore Herzl, Jean Jaurès, Mahler and Freud amongst others, as well as essays on some of the outstanding intellectuals of the previous century, notably Chateaubriand, E.T.A. Hoffman, and Nietzsche. Full of tenderness and admiration for the brilliant spirits he is writing about en connaissance de cause, Zweig’s penetrating mind and incisive pen bring us new insights into the works and characters of every one of the objects of his scrutiny. Most appropriately and effectively, the opening essay is a powerful tribute to the genius of that prince of writers Marcel Proust, entitled The Tragic Destiny of Marcel Proust, that sent shivers of emotion down my spine. What a book! What a writer!
125 Stefan Zweig Angst Fear and Anguish short stories 1920 This excellent collection of stories starts off with the terrific title story that will I can guarantee impress you and shake you no end, as it did me. It finishes too with a small masterpiece, The Invisible Collection, that will not leave you unmoved either.
126 Stefan Zweig Brief einer Unbekannten* Letter from an Unknown Woman novella 1922 very powerful and very moving, this will not leave you unshaken or dry-eyed, guaranteed!
127 Stefan Zweig Phantastische Nacht* Fantastic Night novella 1922 a complex and powerful drama.
128 Stefan Zweig Sternstunden der Menschheit Decisive Moments in History historical essays 1927 12 essays on key turning points in mankind’s history according to Zweig, extremely engaging
129 Stefan Zweig Verwirrung der Gefühle Confusion of Feelings novella 1927 This intense drama gets us into the mind and heart of a university professor of sciences (Zweig is not one of your aesthetes who ignores the very existence of the scientific dimension of mankind’s achievement) who progressively reveals and relates the key event in his life: his encounter and subsequent complex relationship with a particularly gifted student at the start of the professor’s distinguished - but essentially mundane and disappointing - academic career. As usual with Zweig one has the impression that every word is just perfect as you are carried along in a calm and classy but quite irresistible manner from start to finish that is somehow characteristic of the finest writers of that extraordinary concentration of European art and culture and civilization (and science!) that flourished in and around Vienna before the horrible catastrophe of The Great War.
130 Stefan Zweig Vierundzwanzig Stunden aus dem Leben einer Frau* 24 Hours in the Life of a Woman novella 1927 very intense indeed.
131 Stefan Zweig Die Reise in die Vergangenheit* Voyage into the Past novella 1929 Separated unexpectedly by the First World War and having each gone their separate ways, a couple meet up again and explore to what extent time and the travails of life have affected their former passion. This delicate but intense exploration of the impossibility of reviving the past was only discovered many years after Zweig’s death in the archives of a London publishing house, fortunately for us.
132 Stefan Zweig Auf Reisen Travelling travel journals ca. 1930 sparkling, as usual with SZ.
133 Stefan Zweig Triumph und Tragik des Erasmus von Rotterdam Triumph and Tragedy of Erasmus of Rotterdam biographical essay 1934 wonderfully enlightening.
134 Stefan Zweig War er es?* Was it Him? novella ca. 1937 straightforward, clear, flowing and uncomplicated but tinged with a soupçon of doubt and even despair - pure Zweig.
135 Stefan Zweig Montaigne Montaigne biographical essay ca. 1940 one is filled with admiration after this for Montaigne and for Zweig.
136 Stefan Zweig Die Welt von Gestern The World of Yesterday memoir 1942 A sober, penetrating and often moving evocation of an extraordinary period of world civilization, pre-World War I Vienna at its height.
137 Stefan Zweig Schachnovelle* Chess Story novella 1942 his last novella and one of his best - and that is high praise indeed!

Footnotes

[1titles marked with an asterisk were read in German, the others in translation.

[2in fact the hero ends up blowing his brains out in the same way Kleist himself did a few months after the story was written.