German-American poet and short story writer ,Charles Bukowski, addressed the ordinary lives of poor Americans in most of his works. Since his death, he has been the subject of many critical books and articles. His stories have inspired several films like Tales of Ordinary Madness, Crazy Love, and Factotum.
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.
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.
German singer-songwriter and poet Till Lindemann is best-recognised as the lead vocalist and lyricist of the German heavy-metal band Rammstein and for the musical project Lindemann that he fronted. Roadrunner Records listed him among "50 Greatest Metal Frontmen of All Time". He has also published two books of poetry, In stillen Nächten and Messer, and featured in minor roles in movies.
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.
Assia Wevill was an aspiring German poet and domestic-partner of English poet Ted Hughes. She escaped the Nazis at the start of the Second World War and eventually settled in the UK, where she got romantically involved with Hughes. She killed herself and her daughter the same way Hughes's first wife, Sylvia Plath, had killed herself six years earlier.
Heinrich Heine was a German poet, literary critic, and writer. He is known internationally for his lyric poetry, which was popularized by composers like Franz Schubert and Robert Schumann who adapted Heine's lyric poetry into art songs. Heinrich Heine's radical political views forced the German authorities to ban his works, which only added to his popularity.
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.
Poet and philosopher Friedrich Leopold, better known as Novalis, was a significant figure of German Romanticism. He narrated the loss of his 15-year-old fiancé to tuberculosis in his Hymns to the Night. He himself died of the disease a few years later. He was also well-versed in natural sciences.
12 W. G. Sebald
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.
13 Nelly Sachs
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.
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.
16 Herta Müller
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.
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.
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.
21 Hugo Ball
Author, poet and dramatist Hugo Ball was also a harsh social critic and a staunch pacifist. Known for his works like Critique of German Intelligence and The Flight from Time, he left Germany during WWI to settle down in neutral Switzerland, eventually becoming famous as the founder of the Dada movement and a pioneer in the development of sound poetry.
Middle High German poet Ulrich von Liechtenstein is remembered for his tales of virtues of knights. Born into a noble family, he was initially a page to a lady and was later knighted, too. The movie A Knight’s Tale uses Liechtenstein’s name, though the character isn’t historically similar to Liechtenstein.
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.
24 Ernst Toller
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.
Part of German folklore, Middle High German poet and minnesinger Tannhäuser was well-traveled and had also participated in the Sixth Crusade. His poems used the leich style and were probably parodies of the traditional genre. His life inspired ballads such as Danhauser and Richard Wagner’s three-act opera Tannhäuser.
Philipp Mainlander was unfortunately born out of marital rape and was later forced by his father to train to be a merchant. However, while working in Italy, he devoted himself to writing. His works include the iconic The Philosophy of Redemption. He eventually committed suicide by hanging.
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.
Part of the German avant-garde movement and a prominent Dadaist, poet and artist Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven is best remembered for her sound poetry and her posthumously published book Body Sweats. It is believed the famous urinal Fountain sculpture thought to be a work of Marcel Duchamp was actually created by Elsa.
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.
Better known as the father of Rammstein lead singer Till Lindemann, Werner Lindemann was a children’s poet and author. Born to farmers, Werner grew up to join the German Army and then dabbled in editing and freelance writing. He lived at the Drispeth Artist's Colony, founded by him.
Renowned German author, journalist, and satirist Kurt Tucholsky is best remembered for his cabaret songs. He initially studied law and participated in World War I before moving to France and Sweden. The Nazis revoked his German citizenship for his communist ideals. He committed suicide, though some believe he accidentally overdosed.
Lyric poet Stefan George was a significant part of the 19th-century German Aestheticism. While studying in Paris, he was influenced by Symbolists. He established the George-Kreis school of literature and launched its popular journal, Blätter für die Kunst. He also exhibited homosexual tendencies in his love poems dedicated to Maximin.
One of Israel’s most significant poets, Yehuda Amichai was born to Jewish parents in Germany and later moved to Jerusalem, where he fought for the British Army during World War II. His works, such as Now and in Other Days, carry themes of war, Jewish history, and the philosophy of life.
German artist and poet Wilhelm Busch is best remembered for pioneering the illustrations known as Bilderbogen, believed to have inspired the modern-day comic strip format. A qualified mechanical engineer, he later deviated to art. His best-known work remains Max und Moritz, which influenced The Katzenjammer Kids.
38 Hanns Johst
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.
Considered the first German female poet and historian Hrosvitha was a Benedictine nun for most of her life. Her writings provided a woman’s perspective of the history of her era. Her works include narrative poems on Christian legends and comedies with Christian themes written in Latin.
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
Apart from being a Benedictine monk, Rabanus Maurus was also a talented author and is remembered for his 22-volume encyclopaedia On the Natures of Things. He enriched German language and literature and this gained the nickname Teacher of Germany. His works also include translations and commentaries.