Benn, Gottfried

Benn, Gottfried
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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▪ German writer
born May 2, 1886, Mansfeld, Ger.
died July 7, 1956, Berlin

      German poet and essayist whose expressionistic (Expressionism) pessimism and conjurations of decay in the period immediately after World War I gradually mellowed into a philosophy of pragmatism. He was perhaps the most significant poet in post-World War II Germany.

      The son of a Lutheran clergyman, Benn studied theology at the University of Marburg, then transferred to the academy there for military-medical instruction and became a specialist in venereal and skin diseases. He took medical jobs on cruise ships, got to know the Mediterranean (a frequent setting in his poems), and as a German officer in World War I was made medical supervisor of jail inmates and prostitutes in occupied Brussels.

      Degeneracy and medical aspects of decay are important allusions in his early poems, which also were shadowed by the death of his first wife (1914) and the suicide of an actress friend. His first and third collections of verse were fittingly titled Morgue (1912) and Fleisch (1917; “Flesh”).

      Because of his expressionism and despite his right-wing political views, the Nazi regime penalized him both as a writer and as a physician; in 1937, publication was forbidden to him. To escape harassment, he rejoined the army.

      Benn regained literary attention with Statische Gedichte (1948; “Static Poems”) and the simultaneous reappearance of his old poems. While busily writing, he remained a practicing physician until he was 68. His gradual loss of cynicism is richly reflected in the autobiography Doppelleben (1950; “Double Life”). A broad selection of his poetry and prose in English translation was published under the title Primal Vision (1961).

Additional Reading
Augustinus P. Dierick, Gottfried Benn and His Critics (1992); Mark William Roche, Gottfried Benn's Static Poetry (1991).

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Universalium. 2010.

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  • Gottfried Benn — (2 May 1886 ndash; 7 July 1956) was a German essayist, novelist and expressionist poet. A doctor of medicine, he became an early admirer, and later a critic, of the National Socialist revolution. Benn had a literary influence on German verse… …   Wikipedia

  • BENN (G.) — BENN GOTTFRIED (1886 1956) Aujourd’hui reconnu comme l’un des tout premiers poètes allemands de ce siècle, Gottfried Benn est également l’auteur d’une œuvre d’essayiste et de prosateur considérable. La réflexion théorique nourrit toute la… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Gottfried — (as used in expressions) Benn Gottfried Bürger Gottfried August Ehrenberg Christian Gottfried Gottfried von Strassburg Herder Johann Gottfried von Leibniz Gottfried Wilhelm Freiherr baron von Leibniz * * * …   Universalium

  • Gottfried — (as used in expressions) Benn, Gottfried Bürger, Gottfried August Ehrenberg, Christian Gottfried Herder, Johann Gottfried von Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm Strassburg, Gottfried von …   Enciclopedia Universal

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