19 April, 2017

Siegfried Lenz


Siegfried Lenz was a German writer of novels, short stories and essays, as well as dramas for radio and the theatre. In 2000 he received the Goethe Prize on the 250th Anniversary of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's birth.

Siegfried Lenz was born in Lyck, East Prussia; now Ełk, Poland, the son of a customs officer. After graduating in 1943, he was drafted into the Kriegsmarine.

At the University of Hamburg he studied philosophy, English, and literary history. His studies were cut off early when he became an intern for the daily newspaper Die Welt, where he served as an editor from 1950 to 1951. It was there he met his future wife, Liselotte whom he married in 1949.

In 1951, Lenz used the money he had earned from his first novel Habichte in der Luft to finance a trip to Kenya. During his time there, he wrote about the Mau Mau Uprising in his short story "Lukas, sanftmütiger Knecht". After 1951 Lenz worked as a freelance writer in Hamburg, where he joined the Group 47 group of writers. Together with Günter Grass, he became engaged with the Social Democratic Party and championed the Ostpolitik of Willy Brandt.

In 2003, Lenz joined the Verein für deutsche Rechtschreibung und Sprachpflege (Society for German Spelling and Language Cultivation) to protest the German orthography reform of 1996.

He died at the age of 88 on 7 October 2014 in Hamburg.


After his death, a previously unpublished novel, Der Überläufer (The Turncoat), which Lenz had written in 1951, was published. Unwelcome in the cold-war era, this novel about a German soldier who defects to Soviet Union forces, was found among his effects.

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