Keller, Gottfried

Keller, Gottfried

(gôt`frēt), 1819–90, Swiss novelist, poet, and short-story writer. His vital, realistic, and purposeful fiction gives him a high place among 19th-century authors. Chief among his works is the "educational" novel, Der grüne Heinrich (1854–55; tr. Green Henry, 1960), which he later revised. It is considered one of the outstanding works of the 19th cent. A number of short stories are included in People of Seldwyla (1856–74; tr. 1929); among them is the highly regarded tale which was the basis of Delius's opera A Village Romeo and Juliet.


See J. M. Lindsay, Gottfried Keller: Life and Works (Am. ed. 1969).

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Keller, Gottfried


Born July 19, 1819, in Zürich; died there July 15, 1890. Swiss author, writing in German.

Keller studied in Munich at the Academy of Arts from 1840 to 1842. He began his literary career in 1846 as a writer of political verse. During a stay in Germany between 1848 and 1855, he became acquainted with L. Feuerbach’s materialist philosophy, which influenced his outlook. In 1855 he published the novel Green Henry, written in the tradition of the 18th-century Bildungsroman, whose protagonist is an artist who seeks to find his way in the midst of a cruel struggle for existence. A realistic portrayal of bourgeois relations merges with illusions of an idyllic unity of nations. In Zürich he published the collections of novellas The People of Seldwyla (vols. 1–2, 1856–74), Seven Legends (1872), Zürich Novellas (1878), and Epigram (1881).

A true educator, Keller seeks to influence the reader by fostering civic consciousness and a humanistic outlook. In the novellas of his first collection he attacks philistinism. Romantic ardor, vivid imagery, and gentle humor mark his artistic style. The collection Seven Legends, a passionate hymn to life, shows his hatred of religious mysticism. The stories in Zürich Novellas, based on historical material, evoke Swiss customs and society, affirming petit bourgeois democratic ideals. The works of the 1880’s, written during the crisis of Swiss democracy, reveal a narrowing of Keller’s social outlook, for example, Epigram and the novel Martin Salander (1886), depicting life in Switzerland.


Sämtliche Werke, vols. 1–8. Berlin, 1958.
In Russian translation:
Novelly. Moscow-Leningrad, 1952.
Zelenyi Genrikh. Moscow, 1958.


Bannikova, N. P. “Tvorchestvo Gotfrida Kellera i stanovlenie metoda kriticheskogo realizma vo vtoroi polovine XIX veka.” In Literatura Shveitsarii. Moscow, 1969.
Gotfrid Keller: Biobibliograficheskii ukazatel’. Moscow, 1965.
Lukács, G. Gottfried Keller. Berlin, 1947.
Drews, R. G. Keller: Dichter, Politiker und Patriot. Berlin, 1953.
Wiesmann, L. G. Keller. Frauenfeld-Stuttgart, 1967.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Green Henry Autobiographical novel by Keller, Gottfried, first published in German as Der grune Heinrich in 1854-55 and completely revised in 1879-80.