Gottfried Benn

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

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.


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


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


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Swiss writer and painter Friedrich DE-rrenmatt, on the other hand, celebrated her as the "savior of the German language in barbaric times." Poet Gottfried Benn called her "the greatest lyricist Germany has ever had."
The painful rendering of a double-faced Giinter Grass quadruples in torment when discovering the deeply psychic division of Gottfried Benn, whose autobiographical Doppelleben grossly underestimates the consequences of a life ruptured by history and circumstance.
Thirty-four chapters cover the following: Klaus Merz, Gottfried Benn, Lorenzo Calogero, Friedrich H|lderlin, Alfredo de Palchi, Sandro Penna, Patricia Cavalli, Kiki Dimoula, Manolis Xexakis, Tsvetanka Elenvoka, Benjamin Fondane, George Szirtes, Emil Hakl, Yves Bonnefoy, and Vicente Alexixandre.
A case in point takes up Senes's antepenultimate chapter, dedicated to German expressionist poet Gottfried Benn. Here, Senes dedicates one of his most extensive sections to reviewing not Benn's poetry but his essays on art and philosophy, and concludes that the artist is "aquel hombre anomalo (solitario, fatalista, triste, obsesivo, espiritual) que, ante una vida vacia de sentido, pesada y esteril propone--y siente--que la unica justificacion del mundo es entenderlo como fenomeno estetico" (144).
Certainly Hitler attacked dadaism, cubism and futurism, yet at the same time Mies van der Rohe and Gropius were being encouraged to seek Nazi patronage, and Gottfried Benn, the ultra-modernist poet, remained a member of the elite Prussian Academy of Art.
Susan Ray, Beyond Nihilism: Gottfried Benn's P0stmodernist Poetics (Bern: Peter Lang, 2003), reviewed in MLR, 100 (2005), 1149-51), it is harder to find an introduction to his poetry for English-speaking readers.
This anthology is full of intriguing references to modern European literary and artistic figures, including such stars of the cultural Right as Louis-Ferdinand Celine, Gottfried Benn, and T.S.
Gottfried Benn, who established his reputation as an Expressionist poet with his 1912 lyric cycle Morgue und andere Gedichte, counts as one of the most scandalous amongst German Expressionists: Critics deemed his poems, which revolved around bodies in decay disgusting, perverted, and brutal.