Benn, Gottfried

Benn, Gottfried

Benn, Gottfried, 1886-1956, German poet and critic, a physician. His early verse and poetic dramas, such as Der Vermessungsdirigent [the surveyor] (1919), were strongly expressionistic and even nihilistic. His later poems, among them the collection Statische Gedichte (1948), and his autobiography, Doppelleben [double life] (1950), reflect his ambivalent though ultimately negative reactions to the National Socialist era. Benn's essays on aesthetics and politics are well known, and his fictional works, including Der Ptolemäer (1949), are more philosophical prose than tales.

See Primal Vision, (1961) his selected writings; studies by J. M. Ritchie (1973) and R. Alter (1976).

(born May 2, 1886, Mansfeld, Ger.—died July 7, 1956, Berlin) German poet and essayist. He received military medical training and was made medical supervisor of jail inmates and prostitutes in occupied Brussels during World War I. His early poems, including those in Fleisch (1917; “Flesh”), contain allusions to degeneracy and medical aspects of decay. Because of his Expressionism and despite his right-wing views, he was penalized during the Nazi era. He regained literary attention with Statische Gedichte (1948; “Static Poems”) and the reappearance of his old poems. A broad selection of his poetry and prose was published in English as Primal Vision (1961).

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