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 playwright, poet, and theater director, Bertolt Brecht, is best known for co-writing the play, The Threepenny Opera, with Kurt Weill. Growing up in war-torn Germany in the early 20th century, he had a difficult life. A hardcore Marxist, he lived in exile during the Nazi period. He returned to Germany after the war and established a theater company.
Friedrich Schiller was a German poet, physician, philosopher, playwright, and historian. Schiller is best remembered for his friendship with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and the two discussed issues concerning aesthetics. Schiller's discussions with Goethe paved the way for a period, which came to be known as Weimar Classicism. Friedrich Schiller is also widely regarded as Germany's most prominent classical playwright.
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.
German anti-Semitic völkisch poet, playwright, journalist, publicist, and political activist Dietrich Eckart, one of Adolf Hitler's earliest mentors who Hitler acknowledged as the spiritual co-founder of Nazism, founded German Workers' Party, the precursor of Nazi Party. Eckart was the original publisher of the Nazi Party newspaper Völkischer Beobachter, and lyricist of Sturmlied, the de facto anthem of the Sturmabteilung.
Part of the Young Germany movement, German dramatist and author Georg Büchner was a revolutionary and a master of Expressionist plays. Born to an army doctor, he studied medicine but also simultaneously participated in pamphleteering for social issues. He is remembered for works such as Danton’s Death and Woyzeck.
German lyric poet and dramatist Friedrich Hölderlin was a significant figure of German Romanticism. Initially pushed to join a Christian ministry by his mother, he later ditched the idea and was inspired by Greek mythology. He later suffered from schizophrenia and spent 36 years in a tower, later named the Hölderlinturm.
Rainer Werner Fassbinder was a German actor, filmmaker, and playwright. He grew up in the aftermath of World War II and had a tough childhood. He sought solace by watching films and took acting lessons. He began his career in theater and eventually entered films as well. He is considered a prominent figure of the New German Cinema movement.
Nelly Leonie Sachs, internationally noted German-Swedish poet and dramatist, wrote conventional romantic poems until the rise of Nazism brought about a drastic change in her life. Forced to flee to Sweden, she began writing about the grief and yearnings of her fellow Jews, concurrently translating German works into Swedish and vice-versa. She won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1966.
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing was a noted German dramatist, critic, and author, remembered especially for his contribution towards liberating German theatre from the influence of its classical and French counterpart. Known for such literary masterpieces like Miss Sara Sampson; Emilia Galotti; Minna von Barnhelm; Nathan the Wise; Laocoön; Hamburg Dramaturgy, he is now considered an outstanding representative of the Enlightenment era.
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.
German playwright and author Ernst Toller is best remembered for his Expressionist plays and his Marxism. Though he served the German Army initially, he suffered a physical breakdown soon and quit, propagating peace instead. His best-known play, Man and the Masses, was written in prison.
One of the rare female Expressionist authors, Else Lasker-Schüler is best remembered for plays such as Die Wupper. Known for her bohemian and eccentric lifestyle, she fled the Nazis and moved first to Switzerland and then to Jerusalem. Owing to her extravagant expenses, she died in poverty.
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.
Born into an affluent family, Hermann Broch sold his family’s textile factory to focus on studying physics, math, and philosophy. Mostly known for his literary works such as The Sleepwalkers, he had ventured into writing only after 40. He was imprisoned by the Nazis and later fled to the U.S.
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.
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 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
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.
Erich Mühsam was a German anti-militarist anarchist essayist, poet, and playwright. He was born into an Orthodox Jewish family. He was rebellious by nature and aspired to be a writer from a young age. He eventually became involved in communist and anarchist politics. His well-known works include Die Eigenen and Im Nachthemd durchs Leben. He was murdered in 1934.
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.
Sibylle Berg is a German-born Swiss author and playwright considered one of the most famous and influential writers and playwrights in the German-speaking world. She writes novels, essays, fiction, and plays, and her books have been translated into 30 languages. She is non-binary and a popular figure in the LGBTQAI+ community. She is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards.
Widely regarded as one of the most prominent poets of the German baroque, Andreas Gryphius was one of the first significant contributors to the development of German poetry and language. Such was his enormous success that no German dramatic writer had gained such popularity before him, nor did he have worthy successors until about mid-18th century.
Martin Mosebach is a German writer best known as the author of the non-fiction book The 21 - A Journey into the Land of Coptic Martyrs. Besides non-fiction, he also writes novels, stories, theater and radio plays, and film scripts. He is the recipient of multiple prestigious awards, including the Georg Büchner Prize and the Kleist Prize.