Benn, Gottfried

Benn, Gottfried

(gôt`frēt bĕn), 1886–1956, German poet and critic, a physician. His early verse and poetic dramas, such as Der Vermessungsdirigent [the surveyor] (1919), were strongly expressionistic and even nihilistic. His later poems, among them the collection Statische Gedichte (1948), and his autobiography, Doppelleben [double life] (1950), reflect his ambivalent though ultimately negative reactions to the National Socialist era. Benn's essays on aesthetics and politics are well known, and his fictional works, including Der Ptolemäer (1949), are more philosophical prose than tales.

Bibliography

See Primal Vision, (1961) his selected writings; studies by J. M. Ritchie (1973) and R. Alter (1976).

Benn, Gottfried

 

Born May 2, 1886, in Mansfeld; died July 7, 1956, in West Berlin. German writer and art theoretician.

Benn participated in World War I as a doctor, and in World War II he served in the ranks of Hitler’s army. The first collections of his poems, Morgue (1912) and Sons (1913), marked the beginning of German expressionist poetry. In his poetry Benn drew deformed pictures of life and death in a big city. The collections Flesh (1917), Rubbish (1919), and Splintering (1925) are inspired by the same pessimism. In 1933, Benn tried to cooperate with the Nazis, but he soon realized the inhumanity of their ideology, and from 1935 the Nazi press began to persecute him. After 1945, his absolute hostility toward the world became sharper, as is apparent in his collections Static Verses (1948) and Distillation (1953) and in his surrealistic prose piece Ptolemäer (1949). Benn’s essays Must Poetry Improve the World? (published in 1957) expresses his mood of hopelessness, whereas art has become for Benn a sort of absolute.

WORKS

Gesammelte Werke, vols. 1–4. [Wiesbaden, 1958–60.]
Den Traum alleine tragen. Wiesbaden [1966].
Doppelleben [Munich, 1967.]

REFERENCE

Lohner, E. Gottfried Benn: Bibliographie, 1912–1956. Wiesbaden, 1958.

I. L. ZAKHAROV

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