Gisela Elsner

Gisela Elsner (2 May 1937 - 13 May 1992) was a German writer. She won the Prix Formentor in 1964 for her novel Die Riesenzwerge (The Dwarf Giant, Rowohlt, (Gallimard), 1961).


Elsner was born in Nuremberg, Middle Franconia. In 1959 she went to Vienna to study philosophy, Germanic letters and drama. Then she lived as a freelance writer in various places: Lake Starnberg, Frankfurt, from 1963 to 1964 in Rome, from 1964 to 1970 in London, then in Paris, Hamburg, New York and finally in Munich.

She was among the members of Group 47, which also included Günter Grass[1][2] and Heinrich Böll.

The touch ban

In her 1970 novel Berührungsverbot (The touch ban or The prohibition of contact), several couples try to transcend the limits of the bourgeois sexual mores of their middle-class background by engaging in group sex orgies. In Switzerland a journal that published excerpts from the novel was seized, and in Austria it was attacked as harmful to children.[3]


Elsner described herself as a Leninist. She was a long lasting member of the German Communist Party.[4]


Elsner committed suicide by jumping out of a window, in Munich, in May 13, 1992.[5]


A dramatized film about her life, No Place to Go, was made by her son Oskar Roehler.


  1. Gunter Grass, The Art of Fiction No. 124 Interviewed by Elizabeth Gaffney for The Paris Review , issue 119, summer 1991.
  2. Günter Grass Books and Writers ( Page saved by the Wayback Machine.
  3. "Das Berührungsverbot"
  4. Georg Fülberth: KPD und DKP 1945–1990. Zwei kommunistische Parteien in der vierten Periode kapitalistischer Entwicklung. Distel-Verlag, Heilbronn 1990 p. 131
  5. Christine Künzel (Hrsg.): Die letzte Kommunistin. Texte zu Gisela Elsner. konkret Literatur Verlag, Hamburg 2009. p. 22

Further reading

  • Christine Flitner: Frauen in der Literaturkritik. Elfriede Jelinek und Gisela Elsner im Feuilleton der Bundesrepublik Deutschland. (= Frauen in der Literaturgeschichte, Bd. 3) Pfaffenweiler 1995.
  • Oskar Roehler: Die Unberührbare, Köln 2002
  • Dorothe Cremer: „Ihre Gebärden sind riesig, ihre Äußerungen winzig“. Zu Gisela Elsners Die Riesenzwerge; Schreibweise und soziale Realität der Adenauerzeit. Herbolzheim: Centaurus Verlag, 2003.
  • Martina Süess: Wenn Otto sich vertilgt. In: WOZ Die Wochenzeitung, 3. Juli 2008, Online-Version.
  • Christine Künzel (Hrsg.): Die letzte Kommunistin. Texte zu Gisela Elsner. (= konkret texte 49) Hamburg: konkret Literatur Verlag, 2009. ISBN 978-3-930786-56-5
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