*Review of the best according to the editors. Selection Criteria. This material is subjective, not intended as an advertisement, and does not serve as a guide to purchase. It is necessary to consult with a specialist before purchase.
The German school of thinkers and philosophers greatly influenced culture – and especially literature. Virtually every book written by a German writer has a profound metaphorical and serious moral message. Whether it’s practically philosophical writings or the direction of young ad
- t particularly popular among contemporary German authors.
So reading literature by German writers is a great way to broaden your horizons or understand something about human nature. And for those who want to get acquainted with the most famous authors of Germany, we have compiled a rating of the most popular. It includes 15 German writers, from the classical to the modern, from the school of fiction to children’s and young adult authors.
To compile a ranking of the 15 best-known German writers, we used data from online bookstores. The more purchases and saves an author has, the higher his position in the top.
An overview of the most famous German writers
|An overview of the most famous German writers||1||Bernhard Schlink||4.1|
|8||Johann Wolfgang von Goethe||4.6|
|14||Erich Maria Remarque||4.9|
|15||Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann||5.0|
Bernhard Schlink began his career with a very non-serious genre–the detective novels of a private investigator. Such a start seems extraordinary to say the least. The writer herself is a Ph.D., professor, a successful lawyer specializing in constitutional law. No one expected him to start specifically with a tabloid read.
But the private detective novels were only the beginning of a literary career. Bernhard Schlink’s book, called “The Reader,” brought him popularity. It came out in 1995 – and almost immediately made The New York Times bestseller list.
The Reader’s popularity was well-deserved. In the novel, the writer tackled rather complex and often taboo topics, such as the question of guilt, the relationship between a teenager and an adult woman, and Nazism. Critics, however, argue that The Reader is a book about forgiveness. And they are partly right. Although, of course, one of the book’s characters is guilty of a crime against humanity.
A lawyer by training and vocation, Bernhard Schlink often raises questions of guilt and culpability in his books. Even in her first, “tabloid” novels, these concepts are viewed through the lens of the uncertainty of the past. But he sometimes deals with other issues as well, addressing love, a woman’s place in the world, power, and greatness in the stories.
Cornelia Funke is a German novelist, famous for her novels for children and teenagers. At the time of this writing, she has just over 40 books published, five of which have been made into films. Cornelia Funke is best known for her Inkheart trilogy, whose first book was the basis for a Hollywood blockbuster of the same name.
Cornelia Funke’s work has been praised by literary critics. Thus, for “The King of Thieves,” she won two American awards. The Guardian also praised him, calling him the most important representative of children’s literature. And in 2005, the Times named Cornelia Funke the most influential German on the planet.
Cornelia Funke’s favorite genre is fantasy. However, the “Wild Hens” series of books is written in the genre of classic children’s literature and is about a company of girls, their growing up and their relationship to other people. “King of Thieves,” despite some fantastic assumptions, also tells the tale of boyhood friendship and adventure.
This understanding of childhood came to Cornelia Funke for a reason. Before her first book came out, she worked in social services. Her duties included caring for handicapped children. And the writer noted that kids really appreciate fascinating stories that help distract them from an unpleasant reality. Therefore, her books are partly escapist – in the described plots and worlds want to “escape”.
Ottfried Proisler, a German writer of the second half of the twentieth century, does not have a large bibliography. In almost six decades of work, he has published only a little less than a dozen books. But he is very well known in the former Soviet Union.
His books first appeared in the former Soviet Union in the early 1990s. These children’s tales, which simultaneously immersed in a fantasy world, made him laugh, and raised issues important to every child, were much loved by boys, girls, and their parents. Ottfried Proisler’s creative debut is the book Little Waterman, published in 1956.
Negative characters traditional to German, Slavic and urban mythology – watermen, ghosts and Baba Yaga – act as positive characters in Prossler’s books. This approach sets him apart from other children’s writers. He also greatly influenced further works of art-no more scaring the child with ghosts or Baba Yaga.
After Ottfried Proisler died in 2013, his relatives published the writer’s memoir. And this is far from children’s literature. The writer was imprisoned during World War II as a Soviet prisoner of war and recounted his experiences in his memoirs…
Kerstin Geer is a contemporary German writer who is known for her books in the genre of teen fiction (more specifically, the so-called young ad trend
- t) and women’s literature. Her most popular work is “Timeless.”. It’s a time travel trilogy aimed at girls, and in its time it became the basis for the films of the same name.
Being aimed at young girls, Kerstin Gere’s literature does not put fantasy assumption first. The focus of the books is on the experiences of the heroines against the background of historical events. Kerstin Geer’s work has not been critically acclaimed, because of its somewhat clichéd nature. Her overt use of common themes of teenage fiction has not prevented the “Timeless” trilogy from becoming incredibly popular not only in Germany, but abroad as well.
However, not only teenage fiction can boast this German writer. Her bibliography includes novels that are based on the works and cosmology created by J.K. Rowling. r. r. Tolkien. However, only a handful of books outside of the Timeless trilogy have been translated into Russian (or even English).
Patrick Suskind is one of the brightest and most famous representatives of German postmodernism. His most popular novel, “Perfumer. The Story of a Murderer” has been translated into 47 world languages, and its total circulation exceeded 12 million copies. There was also a scandalous movie based on the book.
However, local popularity came to the German writer a little earlier, with the release of his monologue play The Contrabass. In it, the author raised questions about the place of the “little man” in the world. In order to “hold on”, people are forced to sacrifice the most important elements of their lives for the sake of work, productivity, and success.
Patrick Suskind rose to fame as a playwright through “Contrabass.”. He wrote not only theatrical works, but also screenplays. Later on, he also addressed the issues of the “little man’s” life. This theme appears, for example, in “The Dove” and is touched upon in part in “The Tale of Mr. Sommer”.
“Perfumer, in turn, is the author’s second published work. And it was it that brought him worldwide popularity. Besides the screen version itself, it also became the basis for a rock opera, and served as the inspiration for Rammstein, Aria, and Matey.
Heinrich Böll is one of Germany’s most famous writers. A successful writer (he received the Nobel Prize in 1972), translator, playwright, and songwriter, he was recognized both at home and around the world.
Both German and international fame came to Heinrich Böll in the early 1960s, after the publication of two novels – Billiards at Half past 10 and Through the Eyes of a Clown. The first one is devoted to the criticism of Nazism and expresses an almost pacifist point of view of the author. Böll hates war and everything connected with it. And Through the Eyes of a Clown is a critique of religion and church institutions.
Critics have been positive about Heinrich Böll’s work. They noted that the author in his works very accurately covers reality and is not afraid to demonstrate “awkward” topics, including those associated with criticism of German nationalism, and skillfully creates characters – their characters become textured, detailed and very realistic.
In his most recent works, Heinrich Böll criticizes government mechanisms that intrude on the lives of ordinary citizens. Both “The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum…” and “The Caring Siege” are dedicated to it. In the novels, the writer points out the dangers not only of the state, but also of the press – and often not too much separating one from the other.
Michael Ende is one of the most screened children’s writers of the second half of the 20th century. However, the literature he authored can hardly be called “suitable only for children”. The stories that Michael Ende tells in his books are quite enjoyable for adults as well, because they carefully balance on the edge of children’s perception and quite serious issues of life.
Perhaps Michael Ende’s most famous work is The Neverending Story. However, it became popular mainly thanks to numerous film adaptations (three films, a soap opera, and even a computer game). The plot and imagery of The Neverending Story are imbued with elements of Germanic mythology, Aleister Crowley’s occultism, and even escapism, and the very structure of the book implies a “work within a work,” which makes it very difficult to perceive. That’s why it’s hard to call it children’s literature.
But “Magic Punch,” which became the basis for the animated series “Wunschpunsch,” is quite children’s literature. A gloomy tale that will especially appeal to boys and girls over the age of 12. The rest of us are also unlikely to be able to unravel all the symbolism that the author hides “the second layer”.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was not only one of Germany’s most famous writers. He is literally the creator of a new literary genre – the so-called “educational novel”.
“Educational novel” is a special trend in Enlightenment literature, which implies a detailed description of the moral, spiritual and psychological formation of the main character. The genre emerged with the publication of Wilhelm Meister’s Years of Study, by Goethe, in which the hero radically changes his views over the course of his life. At the beginning of the novel the character is an admirer of art who dreams of becoming an actor. But at the end, after several years of an “apprenticeship”, he penetrates the “prose of life” and acquires new, much more mundane goals.
But Goethe’s most famous work is, of course, the tragedy Faust, a monumental work that took more than 60 years to complete. It has been translated into nearly every language of the world, has been adapted many times, and has been produced as plays. “Faust” was written throughout Goethe’s life – and so literally reflects all the metamorphosis of the author’s work, beginning as a dramatic work and ending as a collection of fabrications in which the writer tries to understand the nature of politics, philosophy and the natural sciences. The second part of the tragedy was written in the time of Romanticism, and is therefore filled with metaphors that are difficult to understand and difficult to recognize.
Thomas Mann was a German writer who was especially famous for his epic novels. His prose is intellectual, stylistically continuing the thoughts of famous Russian authors. Like Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, whom Thomas Mann calls his teachers, the author writes leisurely, filling his novels with lots of descriptions, details and details.
But if stylistically Thomas Mann imitates the novels of the 19th century, in its content his work is closer to the prose of the 20th century – when, in fact, he wrote. In the works, the author does not shy away from raising bold, expressionistic, heated themes.
In most of Thomas Mann’s works, an important theme is the approach of death. The way people experience it, how they experience it, how they feel about it. In the novels, one also observes issues of the closeness of the infernal world, supplemented by anticipation of the collapse of the familiar world order with all the possible consequences.
Thomas Mann won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1929. The jury singled out his novel The Buddenbrokes. In this work, the writer recounts the life and downfall of a family of wealthy merchants of the same name. In part, The Buddenbrooks is an autobiographical work. The novel describes four generations of the family and captures a period of both formation and decline.
Herman Hesse was a German writer whom critics called the last representative of the Romantic era. And no wonder. In 1896-1962, when Hermann Hesse was writing, young authors were already exploring the peculiarities of modernism and postmodernism in their novels, while the writer was keeping the traditions of German classical literature, writing in the same direction as Goethe and Schiller.
Elements of romanticism can be seen in almost all, even in the later works of Hesse. In his novels, the characters confront the world around them, go on journeys, or try to find themselves. In addition, the author often masks one genre as another. And it is especially evident in his best-known work, the novel Bead Game, for which Herman Hesse received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1946.
In this philosophical essay disguised as a surrealist novel, Hesse describes the cultural collapse of society. The action of “The Glass Bead Game” takes place in a certain future where people have lost the ability to critically judge the authority of statements. And as a result, philosophy became a subject of controversy among journalists, artists began to argue about economics, and any specimen of art became merely an object of public entertainment.
Günther Grass is a German writer, famous for his attempts to explore the nature of Nazism. And this is such a delicate subject, he touches not just for fun. The moral decline of the entire city of Danzig (now called Gdansk) took place before the eyes of the writer, and the author himself volunteered to serve in the Wehrmacht.
Gunter Grass also willingly admitted to this, but only in 2006. In his own words, he only joined the Wehrmacht in order to escape his parents’ home, his hometown, where he believed he had become “socially trapped. In addition, the writer honestly admitted that he succumbed to the effects of Nazi propaganda, which instilled heroic, patriotic ideas in the minds of young people.
His first works were published after the Second World War. The writer began with small plays and poems, occasionally “hitting” in the theater of the absurd. And in 1959, Günter Grass published his novel The Tin Drum, which brought him fame and popularity – even beyond Germany’s borders.
“The Tin Drum” is a prime example of Günter Grass’s work. Using techniques such as “narrator unreliability” and an abundance of brief forms, the writer tells ironic and somber parables. But through this prism the author explores real-world phenomena and events.
The talent of Gunter Grass was recognized by the Nobel Committee – in 1999 the author received the Prize for Literature.
It is probably not quite correct to call Anne Frank a “German writer. This girl deliberately did not produce a single book. Nevertheless, her “Diary of Anne Frank,” published after her death, greatly influenced world culture, history, and even politics.
Anne Frank was a native German. She was born in 1929 in Frankfurt-am-Main. But she was Jewish, and after Hitler came to power, she and her family were forced to leave for the Netherlands. But there, too, the girl was found – and sent with her family to Auschwitz.
“The Diary of Anne Frank” is a collection of notes that the girl began keeping in June 1942. In it, she criticized Nazism and recounted the war crimes committed by supporters of Hitler’s regime against the Jews. “The Diary of Anne Frank” is not really literature, it is a full-fledged historical document, telling the story of persecution and oppression, one of the evidence of the Holocaust.
Anne Frank’s writings tell the story of life in the Asylum. Of herself, her relatives, the other inhabitants of this hiding place. The notebook ends on August 1, 1944, three days before the Gestapo shot the asylum seekers. And only months before Anne Frank dies of typhoid fever, which she contracted in a German Nazi concentration camp.
“The Diary of Anne Frank” has been translated into several languages, including Russian, and became the basis for a number of theater productions and films.
Franz Kafka is not only one of the most famous German writers, but in principle a key figure in twentieth-century literature. In his disturbing, hard to read and perceive works, he touches on issues of fear, fear of authority, power, authority, and the world around.
Most of Kafka’s works follow the same storyline. They tell the story of a man faced with surreal, incomprehensible difficulties. In “The Metamorphosis,” the protagonist, for some unknown reason, turns into such a disgusting insect that even his family shuns him – and suffers from guilt for no longer being able to provide for his family. In “The Trial,” the central character is arrested for an unknown reason — and throughout the novel, as she travels through a world of surreal bureaucracy, she tries to find out the reason, or at least the sentence. In the unfinished “The Castle,” the protagonist arrives in a surreal Village, where he tries to at least keep.
Kafka’s novels are characterized by themes of alienation. Its characters lose contact with society or do not find it (as presented in “America” and “Castle”). In addition, the author touches on questions of the absurd, existential issues, feelings of guilt and anxiety.
It is worth noting that in his lifetime Franz Kafka published only a few short collections of short stories. The bulk of his work saw the light only after the death of the writer – thanks to the decision of his executor, who found manuscripts and drafts.
Erich Maria Remarque
Erich Maria Remarque is one of the most famous writers of the “lost generation. Born between the two World Wars, they were sent to the front at a very early age and quickly experienced death. This became the leitmotif of their work.
And Erich Maria Remarque’s most famous work, On the Western Front Without Change, vividly demonstrates the life and behavior of the “lost generation”. Even though it’s about the times of the First World War. The protagonist of the novel – the 19-year-old German Paul Baumer, who went to the Western Front and there faced the realities of military life, not as “rosy” as they were painted by German propaganda.
“On the Western Front without Change was so anti-war that the NSDAP banned screenings in 1930, and when the Nazis came to power, the book fell out of favor. Together with other works by Remarque, copies were confiscated from stores and libraries (including private ones) and publicly burned.
The rest of Erich Maria Remarque’s work, with the exception of “Dreamshelter,” also touches on the theme of war in one way or another. For example, in “Three Comrades,” the characters are haunted by memories of the fighting past. And in his last lifetime novel, A Night in Lisbon, the author openly criticizes Nazism, showing how significantly it has affected the state of Europe.
Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann
Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann is one of the brightest representatives of classical German romanticism, even if his works differ considerably from those of other writers of his time. Elements of satire and sarcasm can be found in his writings, although the overall mythology and cosmology are both impressive – reality is mythologized, intersecting with the heavenly and supernatural worlds, mixing with them – and each phenomenon has both ordinary and unusual sides.
Hoffmann in his work was not limited to literature. He is known both as a composer and as an artist. But in the modern world Hoffmann’s popularity was brought by his two dark fairy tales, The Nutcracker and The Sandman.
“The Sandman” at first glance has nothing in common with the Sandman, the character of folk legends. But it is not until later examination that one notices the profound symbolism and the additional level of mythology of the work. The story itself, which is considered a landmark for Hoffmann and defines his work, tells of Nathaniel, a man who loses his mind after looking through a spyglass. But the main symbol of his work is a girl doll. Later it is found in a large number of works by other writers.
“The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” although it is a children’s fairy tale, also vividly demonstrates the features of Hoffmann’s creativity. As the plot of this “story within a story” develops, the two worlds of reality and fantasy intersect. Characters who used to be human become dolls, and toy dolls turn into human beings. In addition, Hoffmann uses the trick of the “unreliable narrator” – the girl Marie, who narrates her adventures in a magical land, has a fever. So it’s unclear whether she should be trusted.
“The Nutcracker” became especially popular after Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky wrote a ballet based on this fairy tale. Alexandre Dumas the father also made his own reworking of the work. The Nutcracker was the basis for many cartoons and films.