Regarded as the greatest literary figure in Germany's modern era, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a statesman and writer. Apart from writing poetry and prose, he also wrote treatises on color, anatomy, and botany. Thanks to his literary genius, Goethe was made part of the Duke's privy council in Weimar and he implemented several reforms at the University of Jena.
German-born Swiss poet, novelist, and painter Hermann Hesse received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1946. He explored individuals’ search for authenticity, self-knowledge, and spirituality in his works. An intense and headstrong person from childhood, he developed an early interest in reading. He started writing as a young man and became an influential author in the German-speaking world.
Bohemian-Austrian poet and author Rainer Maria Rilke is best remembered for his numerous poetry collections and his only novel, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge. His works contain metaphors, contradictions, and elements drawn from Greek mythology. Though most of his works were in German, he had also written in French.
German novelist Erich Maria Remarque is best remembered for his landmark novel All Quiet on the Western Front. Born in the late 1890s, he was conscripted into the German Imperial Army during World War I. His wartime experiences later motivated him to write what would become his seminal work. He also authored many other poignant novels.
Günter Grass was a German novelist, illustrator, graphic artist, poet, playwright, and sculptor. A much revered and decorated writer, Grass was honored with the prestigious Nobel Prize in Literature in 1999. Over the course of his illustrious career, Günter Grass won many other awards, including the Georg Büchner Prize and the Hermann Kesten Prize.
E. T. A. Hoffmann was a German author, jurist, artist, composer, and music critic. His stories served as an inspiration and laid the foundation for The Tales of Hoffmann by Jacques Offenbach. The Nutcracker by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky is also based on Hoffmann's The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. Hoffmann is among the most influential authors of the Romantic Movement.
German author Karl May is best remembered for his travel and adventure tales, which narrate stories set in the Middle East and other lands. His best-known works include The Treasure in the Silver Lake. He developed his love for literature after reading voraciously while in prison for fraud.
American actor/writer George Nader is best known for his iconic films such as Sins of Jezebel and Congo Crossing. With his 6’1” frame, the actor mostly earned "beefcake" roles. Though not openly gay, he lived with his partner Mark Miller. An eye injury later forced him to retire from acting.
Nobel Prize-winning German author Heinrich Böll refused to join the Nazi youth wing and became a bookseller’s apprentice instead. However, he fought for the German Army later. He is best remembered for his works such as The Clown and The Silent Angel, revolving around themes of war.
Named to Time 100 in 2015, Cornelia Funke is a German children’s author who soared to fame with her best-selling novels The Thief Lord and Dragon Rider before achieving international fame with her Inkheart novel series. She has previously been a social worker, a board-game designer, and an illustrator.
Four-time Nobel Prize-nominated German author Erich Kästne is best remembered for his children’s books such as Emil and the Detectives. Initially aspiring to be a teacher, he later had stints as a journalist and a freelance author. A leading satirist, he contributed to Die Weltbühne and also headed PEN.
Born in Germany, W. G. Sebald later studied in Switzerland and England. He gained fame with his non-chronological tales of people traumatized by the ravages of war. His novels such as Vertigo and The Emigrants deal with themes of decay and memory. He died while driving around Norwich.
Best known for his adventure tales and chronicles of rural Mexican society, German author B. Traven was a living enigma, as his real name remains unknown. Some believe he was the German revolutionary Ret Marut. His work The Treasure of the Sierra Madre was later made into an Academy Award-winning film.
Dissatisfied with his army career, Heinrich von Kleist had also studied law and math but quit studies later to devote himself to writing. Part of German Romanticism, he penned iconic plays such as The Schroffenstein Family and Hermann’s Battle. He eventually shot himself and his lover Henriette in a murder-suicide.
Jean Paul was a German writer best remembered for his humorous stories and novels. While many of his fans hold him in high regard, his critics treat his work with indifference. Due to such a disparity, Paul holds an unusual position in German literary history. Robert Schumann admired Jean Paul's works, which served as an inspiration to the former's Papillons.
The pioneer of German realist fiction, Theodor Fontane started as a journalist before venturing into a writing career at the ripe age of 58. He had also briefly been an apothecary, following in his father’s footsteps. His novels such as Effi Briest talk about the plight of women.
Nobel Prize-winning German author Gerhart Hauptmann initially trained and worked as a sculptor but later deviated to poetry and drama. Known for works such as The Weavers and Before Dawn, he is considered one of the pioneers of literary naturalism. His novel Atlantis inspired a Danish silent movie.
Alfred Doblin was a German novelist, essayist, and doctor. He is considered one of the most important figures of German literary modernism. A prolific writer with a career spanning more than half a century, he wrote novels, dramas, screenplays, and radio plays across a range of genres. Despite the popularity he once enjoyed, he is believed to be under-recognized.
Best known for his bestselling novel Tyll, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and is also being made into a Netflix series, German author Daniel Kehlmann is the son of TV director Michael Kehlmann and actor Dagmar Mettler. His other notable works include Measuring the World and Fame.
Nobel Prize-winning author Herta Müller grew up under the dictatorial regime of Nicolae Ceaușescu in Romania. She was fired from her first job for not co-operating with the Romanian secret police. Her works, such as Oppressive Tango and The Passport, mirror the oppression of Germans she has witnessed in Romania.
Christa Wolf was a German novelist. She studied literature at the University of Leipzig and began working for the German Writers' Union. She eventually became an editor for a publication and started writing novels as well. The novels Der geteilte Himmel and Kassandra are among her most important works. She was a recipient of the Nelly Sachs Literature Prize.
German playwright Hanns Johst was an ardent supporter of the Nazi Party. His works were influenced by Expressionism. His play Schlageter was staged on Hitler’s 44th birthday to celebrate his victory after the Nazis rose to power. He also led the German poetry academy and writer’s union.
German-born novelist and playwright Peter Weiss was forced to move to England, Switzerland, and Czechoslovakia, to avoid Nazi persecution, and eventually moved to Sweden and took up Swedish citizenship. Initially a painter and photographer, he later turned to filmmaking. His best-known works include the play The Investigation and the novel The Aesthetics of Resistance.
German Romantic lyricist Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff is best remembered for his epic poem Robert und Guiscard, which highlights the French Revolution. His prose works such as Memoirs of a Good-for-Nothing, revolving around themes such as love, too, gained him fame. He also worked in the civil services
Siegfried Lenz was a German writer best remembered for his novels, essays, and short stories. He also served as a soldier in Nazi Germany's navy during World War II. He then went on to establish himself as a notable writer, winning prestigious awards like the International Nonino Prize and the Goethe Prize.
Gustav Freytag was a German playwright and novelist best remembered for his 1852 comedy The Journalists which is regarded as one of the 19th century's best German comedies. It is still counted among the most successful German comedies of all time. A respected playwright, Freytag is credited with developing a dramatic structure called Freytag's pyramid which is widely used today.