Review of the best according to the editorial board. On the selection criteria. This material is subjective, does not constitute advertising and does not serve as a purchase guide. Before buying, you need to consult with a specialist.
The German school of thinkers and philosophers has significantly influenced culture – and especially literature. Almost every book published by the German writer has a deep metaphor and a serious moral message. And it doesn't matter whether we are talking about practically philosophical works or about the direction of young adult, especially popular among modern German authors.
Therefore, reading literature from German writers is a great way to expand your horizons or understand something about human nature. And for those who want to get acquainted with the most famous authors in Germany, we have compiled a rating of the most popular. It included 15 German writers – from classical to modern, from representatives of the art school to the authors of children's and youth books.
To compile a rating of the 15 most famous German writers, data from second-hand online stores were used. The more purchases and saves an author has, the higher his position in the top.
Review of the most famous German writers
|Review 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 frivolous genre – with detective novels about a private detective. Such a start looks at least extraordinary. The writer himself is a doctor of sciences, professor, a successful lawyer specializing in constitutional law. No one expected him to start with pulp fiction.
But the novels about a private detective were only the beginning of a literary career. The popularity of Bernhard Schlink was brought by a book called 'The Reader'. It came out in 1995 – and almost immediately made it to The New York Times bestseller list.
The popularity of the 'Reader' was deservedly so. In the novel, the writer raised rather complex and often taboo topics, such as the question of guilt, the relationship between a teenager and an adult woman, and Nazism. However, critics argue that The Reader is a book about forgiveness. And they are partly right. Although, of course, one of the characters in the book is guilty of a crime against humanity.
A lawyer by training and vocation, Bernhard Schlink often raises questions of guilt and guilt in his books. Even in the first, 'tabloid' novels, these concepts are viewed through the prism of the uncertainty of the past. But sometimes he considers other issues as well, referring in stories to love, a woman's place in the world, power and greatness.
Cornelia Funke is a German writer famous for her novels for children and adolescents. At the time of this writing, she had a little more than 40 books, five of which were filmed. Cornelia Funke is best known for the Inkheart trilogy, the first book of which served as the basis for the Hollywood blockbuster of the same name.
The work of Cornelia Funke is highly appreciated by literary critics. So, for the 'King of Thieves' she received two American awards. It was also appreciated by the Guardian, calling it the most important representative of children's literature. And in 2005, the Times named Cornelia Funke the most influential German woman on the planet.
Cornelia Funke's favorite genre is fantasy. However, the series of books 'Wild Chickens' is written in the genre of classic children's literature and tells about the company of girls, their growing up and their relationship with other people. The King of Thieves, despite some fantastic assumptions, also tells the story of boyish friendships and adventures.
This understanding of children's life came to Cornelia Funke for a reason. Prior to the release of the first book, she worked in social services. Her responsibilities included caring for disabled children. And the writer noted that kids really appreciate fascinating stories that help to distract from an unpleasant reality. Therefore, her books are partly escapist – one wants to 'escape' into the described plots and worlds.
Otfried Preusler, a German writer who worked in the second half of the 20th century, cannot boast of a large bibliography. For almost six decades of work, he has published only a little less than a dozen books. But at the same time, he is very famous in the post-Soviet space.
His books first appeared in the post-Soviet space in the early 90s. These children's fairy tales, which were simultaneously immersed in the fantasy world, amused and raised questions important for every child, were very fond of boys, girls and their parents. Otfried Preusler's creative debut is the book The Little Water One, published in 1956.
Negative characters, traditional for German, Slavic and urban mythology – water, ghosts and Baba Yaga – appear positive in Proisler's books. This approach sets him apart from other children's writers. In addition, he significantly influenced further works of art – it was no longer possible to frighten a child with ghosts or Baba Yaga.
After the death of Otfried Preusler in 2013, his relatives published the writer's memoirs. And this is far from children's literature. During the Second World War, the writer was imprisoned in Soviet captivity – and in his memoirs he talked about his experiences.
Kerstin Geer is a modern German writer who is known for her books in the genre of teenage fiction (more precisely, the so-called young adult direction) and women's literature. The most popular piece is 'Timeless'. This is a trilogy about time travel, aimed at girls and at one time became the basis for the films of the same name.
While geared towards young girls, Kerstin Gere's literature does not prioritize the fantastic assumption. The main attention in the books is paid to the experiences of the heroines taking place against the background of historical events. Due to some cliches, critics do not speak very positively about the works of Kerstin Geer, and also note the too explicit use of common techniques of teenage fiction, but, nevertheless, this did not prevent the Timeless trilogy from becoming incredibly popular not only in Germany, but also for its limits.
However, this German writer can boast not only of teenage fiction. Her bibliography contains novels based on works and cosmology created by J.R.R. Tolkien. However, only a few books outside of the Timeless trilogy have been translated into Russian (or even English).
Patrick Süskind is one of the brightest and most famous representatives of German postmodernism. His most popular novel is' Perfume. The Story of a Murderer 'has been translated into 47 world languages, and the total circulation is over 12 million copies. A scandalous film was also made based on the book.
However, local popularity came to the German writer a little earlier – with the release of his monologue play '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 essential elements of their lives for work, productivity and success.
Thanks to 'Contrabass', Patrick Süskind became famous as a playwright. He became the author of not only theatrical works, but also screenplays. In the future, he also turns to the life of the 'little man'. For example, this topic is raised in the story 'The Dove' and is partially touched upon in 'The Tale of Mr. Sommer'.
Perfume, in turn, is the author's second published work. And it was this that brought him worldwide popularity. In addition to the actual film adaptation, it also became the basis for a rock opera and served as a source of inspiration for the bands Rammstein, 'Aria' and 'Maity'.
Heinrich Böll is one of the most famous Germanic writers. Not only a successful writer (in 1972 he received the Nobel Prize), but also a translator, playwright and songwriter, he was recognized both at home and around the world.
Both German and world fame came to Heinrich Böll in the early 1960s, after the release of two novels – Billiards at half past nine and Through the Eyes of a Clown. The first is devoted to criticism of Nazism and expresses the author's almost pacifist point of view. Böll hates war and everything connected with it. And the novel “Through the Eyes of a Clown” criticizes religion and church institutions.
Critics were positive about the work of Heinrich Böll. They noted that the author in his works very accurately captures reality and is not afraid to demonstrate 'awkward' topics, including those related to criticism of German nationalism; and skillfully creates characters – their characters become textured, detailed and very realistic.
In his last works, Heinrich Böll criticizes state mechanisms that invade the lives of ordinary citizens. Both 'The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum …' and 'The Caring Siege' are dedicated to this. In the novels, the writer points out the danger not only of the state, but also of the press – and often does not separate one from the other too much.
Michael Ende is one of the most screened children's writers of the second half of the 20th century. However, the literature behind his authorship can hardly be called 'suitable exclusively for a child'. The stories that Michael Ende tells in his books will also appeal to adults, as they carefully balance on the verge of children's perception and rather serious life problems.
Perhaps the most famous work of Michael Ende is 'The Endless Story'. However, it gained popularity mainly due to numerous adaptations (three films, a TV series and even a computer game). The plot and imagery of the 'Endless Story' are saturated with elements of Germanic mythology, Aleister Crowley's occultism and even escapism, and the structure of the book itself implies the presence of a 'work in a work', which greatly complicates the perception. Therefore, it is extremely difficult to call this novel children's literature.
But here is 'Magic Punch', which became the basis for the animated series 'Wunshpunch' – this is quite children's literature. A dark fairy tale that will especially appeal to boys and girls over 12 years old. The rest are also unlikely to be able to unravel all the symbolism that the author hides with a 'second layer'.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is not just one of the most famous German writers. He is literally the creator of a new literary genre – the so-called 'educational novel'.
The 'educational novel' is a special direction in the literature of the Enlightenment, which implies a detailed description of the moral, spiritual and psychological formation of the protagonist. The genre arose with the release of the work 'The Teaching Years of Wilhelm Meister' by Goethe, in which the hero radically changes his views during his life. If at the beginning of the novel the character is an art fan who dreams of becoming an actor, then at the end, after several years of 'apprenticeship', he is imbued with the 'prose of life' and acquires new, already much more mundane goals.
But Goethe's most famous work is, of course, the tragedy Faust, a monumental work that took over 60 years to complete. It has been translated into almost all world languages, repeatedly screened and staged in the form of theatrical plays. 'Faust' was written throughout Goethe's life – and therefore literally reflects all the metamorphoses of the author's work, starting as a dramatic work, and ending as a collection of fabrications in which the writer tries to understand the nature of politics, philosophy and natural sciences. At the same time, the second part of the tragedy was written during the time of romanticism, therefore, it is full of complex, obscure and difficult to recognize metaphors.
Thomas Mann is a German writer who is particularly famous for his epic novels. His prose is intellectual, in style continuing the thoughts of famous Russian authors. Like Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, whom Thomas Mann calls his teachers, the author writes slowly, filling the novels with many descriptions, details and details.
But if with stylistics Thomas Mann imitates novels of the 19th century, then filling his work is closer to prose of the 20th century – when, in fact, he wrote. In his works, the author does not hesitate to raise bold, expressionistically heated themes.
In most of Thomas Mann's works, an important theme is the approach of death. The way people feel it, how they experience it, what they feel at the same time. In the novels, questions of the proximity of the infernal world are also observed, supplemented by the anticipation of the collapse of the usual world order with all possible consequences.
In 1929 Thomas Mann won the Nobel Prize in Literature. The jury singled out his novel 'Buddenbrooks' separately. In this work, the writer tells about the life and fall of the family of the same name of wealthy merchants. In part, 'Buddenbrooks' is an autobiographical work. The novel describes four generations of the family and captures a period of both formation and decline.
Hermann Hesse is a German writer who critics have called the last representative of the era of romanticism. And no wonder. In the years 1896-1962, when Hermann Hesse was working, young authors were already exploring the features of modernism and postmodernism in their novels with might and main, while this writer preserved the traditions of classical German literature, working in the same direction as Goethe and Schiller.
Elements of romanticism can be traced in almost all, even in the later works of Hesse. In his novels, the characters confront the world around them, go on trips or try to find themselves. In addition, the author often disguises one genre as another. And this is especially evident in his most famous, truly main work – the novel 'The Glass Bead Game', for which Hermann Hesse received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1946.
In this philosophical essay disguised as a surreal novel, Hesse describes the cultural collapse of society. The Glass Bead Game takes place in a future where people have lost the ability to critically judge the authority of statements. And as a result, philosophy becomes the subject of controversy among journalists, artists began to talk about economics, and any piece of art has become only an object of entertainment for the public.
The author also does not hesitate to use really complex expressive techniques. For example, in the same 'Glass Bead Game' language is subject to mathematical rules. As a result, it becomes difficult to understand, and also refers to Leibniz's concepts and ideas of synergetics.
Gunther Grass is a German writer who became famous for his attempts to study the nature of Nazism. And he touches this delicate subject for a reason. Before the eyes of the writer, the moral fall of the whole city of Danzig (now called Gdansk) took place, and the author himself voluntarily served in the Wehrmacht.
Gunther Grass also voluntarily admitted this, but only in 2006. According to him, he went to serve in the Wehrmacht only in order to escape from his parental home, from his hometown, where, as he believed, he was in a “social trap.” In addition, the writer honestly admitted that he had succumbed to the action of Nazi propaganda, which instilled heroic, patriotic ideas in the minds of young people.
The first works of the author were published after the Second World War. The writer began with small plays and poems, periodically “hitting” the theater of the absurd. And in 1959, Gunther Grass published the novel Tin Drum, which brought him fame and popularity, including outside Germany.
'Tin Drum' is a vivid example of the work of Gunther Grass. Using techniques such as the 'unreliability of the narrator' and the abundance of short forms, the writer tells ironic and dark parables. However, through this prism, the author explores real phenomena and events.
Gunther Grass' talent was recognized by the Nobel Committee – in 1999 the author received the Literature Prize.
It is probably not entirely correct to call Anne Frank a 'German writer'. This girl deliberately did not release a single book. Nevertheless, her 'Diary of Anne Frank', published after her death, significantly influenced world culture, history and even politics.
Anne Frank was a native of Germany. She was born in 1929 in Frankfurt am Main. However, 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 was sent with her family to Auschwitz.
Anne Frank's Diary is a collection of notes that the girl began keeping in June 1942. In it, she criticized Nazism and talked about the war crimes committed by the supporters of the Nazi regime against the Jews. Anne Frank's Diary is not quite literature, it is a full-fledged historical document, it tells about persecution and oppression, one of the evidence of the Holocaust.
Anne Frank's notes are about life in the Vault. About herself, her relatives, other inhabitants of this shelter. The notes cease on August 1, 1944 – three days before the Gestapo gunned down the inhabitants of the shelter. And only a few months before Anne Frank died of typhoid fever, which she contracted in one of the Nazi concentration camps.
Anne Frank's Diary has been translated into several languages, including Russian, and has become the basis for a number of theatrical performances and films.
Franz Kafka is not only one of the most famous German writers, but, in principle, a key figure in the literature of the 20th century. In his disturbing, difficult to read and understand works, he touches on the issues of fear, fear of authority, power, power and the world around him.
Most of Kafka's works are built on the same plotline. They tell the story of a man faced with surreal, incomprehensible difficulties. In the 'Metamorphosis' the main character, for some unknown reason, turns into such a disgusting insect that even his family shuns him – and suffers from a sense of guilt that he can no longer provide for his family. In The Trial, the central character is arrested for an unknown reason – and throughout the novel he, traveling the world of surreal bureaucracy, tries to find out the reason or at least the verdict. In the unfinished 'Castle' the main character arrives at the surreal Village, where he tries to at least hold on.
Kafka's novels are characterized by themes of alienation. His characters lose contact with society or do not find it (as presented in 'America' and 'The Castle'). In addition, the author touches upon issues of absurdity, existential issues, feelings of guilt and anxiety.
It should be noted that during his lifetime Franz Kafka published only a few short collections of stories. The main part of his work saw the light only after the death of the writer – thanks to the decision of his executor, who found the manuscripts and drafts.
Erich Maria Remarque
Erich Maria Remarque is one of the most famous writers of the so-called 'lost generation'. Born between the two World Wars, they were sent to the front at a very young age and quickly learned death. This became the leitmotif of their work.
And the most famous work of Erich Maria Remarque – “All Quiet on the Western Front” – vividly demonstrates the life and behavior of the “lost generation”. Let it tell about the times of the First World War. The main character of the novel is 19-year-old German Paul Beumer, who went to the Western Front and there faced the realities of military life, not as 'rosy' as the German propaganda portrayed them.
All Quiet on the Western Front turned out to be such an antiwar novel that at first the NSDAP in 1930 banned the screening of the film adaptation of the work, and with the coming of the Nazis to power, the book itself fell out of favor. Together with other works by Remarque, copies of it were seized from shops and libraries (including private ones) and publicly burned.
The rest of the work of Erich Maria Remarque, with the exception of Dream Shelter, also somehow touches on the theme of war. For example, in Three Comrades, the heroes are haunted by memories of their combat past. And in his last lifetime novel, A Night in Lisbon, the author openly criticizes Nazism, demonstrating how noticeably he influenced 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 work differs markedly from the works of other writers of that time. In his works, you can find elements of satire and sarcasm, although general mythology and cosmology are impressive – reality is mythologized, intersecting with the heavenly and supernatural worlds, mixing with them – and each phenomenon has both an ordinary and an unusual side.
Hoffmann in his work was not limited to literature. He is known as both a composer and an artist. But in the modern world, Hoffmann's popularity was brought by two of his dark tales – The Nutcracker and The Sandman.
At first glance, the “sand man” has nothing to do with the sand man – a character in folk legends. But only on further examination can one notice the deep symbolism and an additional level of mythology of the work. The story itself, which is considered significant for Hoffmann and defining his work, tells the story of Nathaniel, a man who loses his mind after looking through a telescope. But the main symbol of the work is a girl doll. Later he 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 clearly demonstrates the features of Hoffmann's work. As the plot of this 'story within a story' develops, the two worlds – reality and fantasy – intersect. Characters who were human become dolls, and doll toys become people. In addition, Hoffmann uses the technique of an 'unreliable storyteller' – the girl Marie, who tells about her adventures in a magical land, has a fever. So it is not clear whether to trust her.
The Nutcracker became especially popular after Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky wrote a ballet based on this tale. Also, Alexander Dumas the father made his reworking of the work. Many cartoons and movies have been released on the Nutcracker.
Attention! This rating is subjective and does not constitute an advertisement and does not serve as a purchase guide. Before buying, you need to consult with a specialist.