Hans Magnus Enzensberger

Hans Magnus Enzensberger (born 11 November 1929 in Kaufbeuren) is a German author, poet, translator and editor. He has also written under the pseudonym Andreas Thalmayr.

Hans Magnus Enzensberger
Hans Magnus Enzensberger in Warsaw, 2006.
Born (1929-11-11) 11 November 1929
Pen nameAndreas Thalmayr
Genrespoetry, essay, novel


Enzensberger was born in 1929 in a small town in Bavaria and is the eldest of four boys.[1] He is part of the last generation of intellectuals whose writing was shaped by first-hand experience of the Third Reich.[2] The Enzensberger family moved to Nuremberg, the ceremonial birthplace of National Socialism, in 1931.[1] Julius Streicher, the founder and publisher of Der Stürmer, was their next-door neighbour. Hans Magnus joined the Hitler Youth in his teens, but was expelled soon afterwards. "I have always been incapable of being a good comrade. I can't stay in line. It's not in my character. It may be a defect, but I can't help it."[1]

Enzensberger studied literature and philosophy at the universities of Erlangen, Freiburg and Hamburg, and at the Sorbonne in Paris, receiving his doctorate in 1955 for a thesis about Clemens Brentano's poetry.[3] Until 1957 he worked as a radio editor in Stuttgart. He participated in several gatherings of Group 47. Between 1965 and 1975 he lived briefly in the USA and Cuba[4] and edited the magazine Das Kursbuch.[5] Since 1985 he has been the editor of the prestigious book series Die Andere Bibliothek, published in Frankfurt, and now containing almost 250 titles.[6] Together with Gaston Salvatore, Enzensberger was the founder of the monthly TransAtlantik.[7] His own work has been translated into more than 40 languages.[3]

Enzensberger is the older brother of the author Christian Enzensberger.[8]

He lives in Munich.


Enzensberger has a sarcastic, ironic tone in many of his poems.[9] For example, the poem "Middle Class Blues" consists of various typicalities of middle class life, with the phrase "we can't complain" repeated several times, and concludes with "what are we waiting for?". Many of his poems also feature themes of civil unrest over economic and class based issues. Though primarily a poet and essayist, he also makes excursions into theater, film, opera, radio drama, reportage, translation. He has written novels and several books for children (including The Number Devil, an exploration of mathematics) and is co-author of a book for German as a foreign language (Die Suche). He also invented and collaborated in the construction of a machine which automatically composes poems. It was used during the 2006 Football World Cup to commentate on games.[10][11]

With Irene Dische he wrote the libretto for Aulis Sallinen's fifth opera The Palace.[12]

In 2009, Enzensberger received a special Lifetime Recognition Award given by the trustees of the Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry,[3] which also awards the annual Griffin Poetry Prize.

Honors received

Published works

  • Verteidigung der Wölfe, Poems, 1957
  • Viele schöne Kinderreime, 777 poems for children, 1962
  • Einzelheiten, Essays, 1962
  • Politik und Verbrechen, Essays, 1964
  • Deutschland, Deutschland unter anderem, political commentary, 1967
  • Das Verhör von Habana, Prose, 1970
  • Constituents of a Theory of the Media, 1970
  • Der kurze Sommer der Anarchie. Buenaventura Durrutis Leben und Tod, Prose, 1972
  • Gespräche mit Marx und Engels, 1970
  • Palaver. Politische Überlegungen, Essays, 1974
  • Mausoleum. 37 Balladen aus der Geschichte des Fortschritts, Poems, 1975
  • Polit. Brosamen, Essays, 1982
  • Ach, Europa! Wahrnehmungen aus sieben Ländern, Prose, 1987
  • Mittelmass und Wahn, Essays, 1989
  • Zukunftsmusik, Poems, 1991
  • Die Tochter der Luft, Drama, 1992
  • Die Große Wanderung, Essays, 1992
  • Zickzack, Essays, 1997
  • Der Zahlenteufel, Novel, 1997
  • Wo warst du, Robert?, Novel, 1998
  • Leichter als Luft: Moralische Gedichte, Poems, 1999
  • Schreckens Maenner: Versuch ueber den radikalen Verlierer (5th ed.), Essay, 2006
  • Einzelheiten I & II, Essays, 2006
  • Gedichte 1950-2005, Poems, 2006
  • Im Irrgarten der Intelligenz / Ein Idiotenführer', Essay, 2007
  • Hammerstein oder der Eigensinn, Biography, 2008

Bibliography (English)

  • Poems for People Who Don't Read Poems, 1968
  • Politics and Crime, 1974
  • The Consciousness Industry: On Literature, Politics and the Media, 1974
  • The Havana Inquiry, 1974
  • Mausoleum: Thirty-Seven Ballads from the History of Progress, 1976
  • Raids and Reconstructions: Essays on Politics, Crime, and Culture, 1976
  • The Sinking of the Titanic: A Poem, 1978
  • Critical Essays, 1982
  • Dreamers of the Absolute: Essays On: Politics, Crime and Culture, 1988
  • Europe, Europe: Forays Into a Continent, 1989
  • Political Crumbs, 1990
  • Mediocrity and Delusion: Collected Diversions, 1992
  • Selected Poems, 1994
  • Civil Wars: From L.A. to Bosnia, 1994
  • Civil War, 1994
  • Zig Zag: The Politics of Culture and Vice Versa, 1997
  • The Number Devil, 1997
  • Selected Poems, 1999
  • Esterhazy: The Rabbit Prince, 2000 (with Irene Dische and Michael Sowa)
  • Lighter Than Air: Moral Poems, 2000
  • Where Were You, Robert? also known as Lost in Time, 2000
  • The Silences of Hammerstein, 2009
  • Unlikely Progeny, 2010 (under the pseudonym Linda Quilt)
  • A History of Clouds: 99 Meditations, 2010
  • Fatal Numbers: Why Count on Chance, 2011
  • Brussels, the Gentle Monster: or the Disenfranchisement of Europe, 2011
  • Mr. Zed's Reflections, 2015
  • Anarchy’s Brief Summer: The Life and Death of Buenaventura Durruti, 2018


  • "Tour of the City". Telos 29 (Fall 1976). New York: Telos Press.


  1. Oltermann, Philip (May 15, 2010). "A life in writing: Hans Magnus Enzensberger". The Guardian. Retrieved August 3, 2014.
  2. Contemporaries include Günter Grass (born in 1927), Martin Walser (1927) and Jürgen Habermas (1929).
  3. "Griffin Poetry Prize Lifetime Recognition Award profile". Archived from the original on April 10, 2010.
  4. Blaustein, George (November 26, 2018). "A New Translation of an Anti-Heroic German Doorstopper of 1968" via www.newyorker.com.
  5. "Über das Kursbuch". Archived from the original on June 1, 2014. Retrieved August 3, 2014.
  6. ""Andere Bibliothek": Hans Magnus Enzensberger will kündigen" (in German). Der Spiegel. Retrieved August 3, 2014.
  7. "Zeitschriften". www.literaturportal-bayern.de.
  8. "Interview mit Hans Magnus Enzensberger" (in German). Retrieved August 3, 2014.
  9. Schmid, Helge (November 1999). "Mit englischer Behendigkeit Hans Magnus Enzensberger als Nachdichter" (in German). literaturkritik.de. Retrieved August 3, 2014.
  10. "Press Release: The Artistic and Cultural Programme of the Federal Government for the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany". Retrieved May 9, 2017.
  11. "Warum man einen Poesie-Automaten baut..." (in German). Archived from the original on July 17, 2006. Retrieved May 9, 2017.
  12. "Some Thoughts on The Palace by Aulis Sallinen, 1995. At the Music Finland site". Archived from the original on January 22, 2016.

Further reading

  • Martin Fritsche: Hans Magnus Enzensbergers produktionsorientierte Moral. Konstanten in der Ästhetik eines Widersachers der Gleichheit. Dissertation, Technische Universität Berlin; Peter Lang, Bern u. a. 1997, 264 S., gebunden, ISBN 3-906757-91-9. (Zur politischen Haltung, politischen Polemik und Provokation im Werk Enzensbergers.)
  • Rommerskirchen, Theo: Hans Magnus Enzensberger. In: viva signatur si! Remagen-Rolandseck 2005, ISBN 3-926943-85-8.
  • Barbey, Rainer: Unheimliche Fortschritte. Natur, Technik und Mechanisierung im Werk von Hans Magnus Enzensberger. Dissertation, Universität Regensburg; Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2007, 248 S., gebunden, ISBN 978-3-89971-345-9, Inhaltsverzeichnis (PDF), Einleitung (PDF).
  • Francisco Adolfo Aristizábal Cuervo: Der Dichter als Übersetzer: Auf Spurensuche: Hans Magnus Enzensbergers Übersetzungsmethode(n). Tectum Verlag, 2008, ISBN 978-3-8288-9697-0.
  • Park, Hyun Jeong: „Das Ende der Welt ist vielleicht nur ein Provisorium“. Ökologisch-postapokalyptisches Denken im lyrischen und essayistischen Werk Hans Magnus Enzensbergers. Diss, Universität München, Aisthesis, Bielefeld 2010, ISBN 978-3-89528-747-3.
  • Hans Magnus Enzensberger und die Ideengeschichte der Bundesrepublik, mit einem Essay von Lars Gustafsson. Universitätsverlag Winter, 2010, ISBN 978-3-8253-5758-0
  • Clayton, Alan J.: Writing with the Words of Others: Essays on the Poetry of Hans Magnus Enzensberger. Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 2010, 272 S., ISBN 978-3-8260-4308-6.
  • Text+Kritik: Hans Magnus Enzensberger, hrsg. von Heinz Ludwig Arnold, Edition Text+Kritik, dritte Auflage, ISBN 978-3-86916-083-2
  • Marmulla, Henning: Enzensbergers Kursbuch. Eine Zeitschrift um 68. Matthes & Seitz, Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-88221-624-0.
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