Lenz, Siegfried 1926–
Lenz, Siegfried 1926–
PERSONAL: Born March 17, 1926, in Lyck (now Elk), East Prussia, Germany (now Poland); father, a civil servant; married 1949; wife's name Liselotte. Education: Attended University of Hamburg. Politics: German Social Democrat.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Hoffmann und Campe, Harvestehuder Weg 42, 20149 Hamburg, Germany.
CAREER: Die Welt, Berlin, Germany, feuilleton editor, 1949–51; freelance novelist, short story writer, dramatist, travel writer, and critic, 1951–. Conducted Australian lecture tour, 1968; University of Houston, visiting lecturer, 1969. Social Democratic Party, campaign speaker, 1965–; accompanied Chancellor Willy Brandt to Warsaw for the signing of the German-Polish treaty, 1970. Military service: German Navy, beginning 1943; served in the Baltic Sea; became British prisoner of war who worked as a translator.
MEMBER: Free Academy of Arts, Hamburg.
AWARDS, HONORS: Rene Schickele Prize, 1952; Gerhart Hauptmann Prize, 1961; Literature Prize, City of Bremen, Germany, 1962; prize of German Free Masons for Literature, 1970; honorary doctorate, University of Hamburg, 1976; Thomas Mann Prize, City of Lübeck, Germany, 1985; Friedenspreis des deutschen Buchhandeis, 1988; honorary doctorate, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, 1993; Goethe Prize, Frankfurt, Germany, 1999; International Book Prize of Corine, 2002; Goethe Gold Medal, 2003; honorary doctorate, University of Erlangen.
PUBLISHED IN ENGLISH; NOVELS, EXCEPT AS NOTED
Das Feuerschiff (short stories), Hoffmann und Campe (Hamburg, Germany), 1960, translation of title novella by Michael Bullock published as The Lightship, Hill & Wang (New York, NY), 1962.
Stadtgespräche, Hoffmann und Campe (Hamburg, Germany), 1963, translation by Michael Bullock published as The Survivor, Hill & Wang (New York, NY), 1965.
Deutschstunde, Hoffmann und Campe (Hamburg, Germany), 1968, translation by Ernst Kaiser and Eithne Wilkins published as The German Lesson, Macdonald (London, England), 1971, Hill & Wang (New York, NY), 1972.
Das Vorbild, Hoffmann und Campe (Hamburg, Germany), 1973, translation by Douglas Parmee published as An Exemplary Life, Hill & Wang (New York, NY), 1976.
Heimatmuseum, Hoffmann und Campe (Hamburg, Germany), 1978, translation by Krishna Winston published as The Heritage, Hill & Wang (New York, NY), 1981.
Der Verlust, Hoffmann und Campe (Hamburg, Germany), 1981, translation by Ralph R. Read published as The Breakdown, Fjord (Seattle, WA), 1986.
Exerzierplatz, Hoffmann und Campe (Hamburg, Germany), 1985, translation by Geoffrey Skelton published as The Training Ground, Holt (New York, NY), 1991.
The Selected Stories of Siegfried Lenz, edited and translated by Breon Mitchell, New Directions (New York, NY), 1989.
Contributor to books, including the autobiographical essay "Myself for Example" in Motives, edited by Richard Salis, Wolff, 1975.
Es waren Habichte in der Luft (novel), Hoffmann und Campe (Hamburg, Germany), 1951.
Duell mit dem Schatten (novel), Hoffmann und Campe (Hamburg, Germany), 1953.
So leicht fängt man keine Katze, Agentur des Rauhen Hauses (Hamburg, Germany), 1954.
Der einsame Jäger, Rufer (Gütersloh, Germany), 1955.
So zärtlich war Suleyken: Masurische Geschichten (short stories), Hoffmann und Campe (Hamburg, Germany), 1955.
Das Kabinett der Konterbande (nonfiction), Hoffmann und Campe (Hamburg, Germany), 1956.
Das schönste Fest der Welt: Hörspiel (play), Hans Bredow Institute (Hamburg, Germany), 1956.
Der Mann im Strom (novel), Hoffmann und Campe (Hamburg, Germany), 1957.
Jäger des Spotts: Geschichten aus dieser Zeit (short stories), Hoffmann und Campe (Hamburg, Germany), 1958, published as Jäger des Spotts; und andere Erzählugen, edited by Robert H. Spaethling, Norton (New York, NY), 1965.
Brot und Spiele (novel), Hoffmann und Campe (Hamburg, Germany), 1959.
(Editor) Julius Stettenheim, Wippchens charmante Scharmützel, erträumt von Julius Stettenheim, in Erinnerung gebracht von Siegfried Lenz und Egon Schramm: Satiren, Hoffmann und Campe (Hamburg, Germany), 1960.
Zeit der Schuldlosen; Zeit der Schuldigen (two radio plays; former first broadcast in 1960), Hans Bredow Institut (Hamburg, Germany), 1961, new edition edited by Albert R. Schmitt published with English-German vocabulary and introduction by the author, Appleton-Century-Crofts (New York, NY), 1967, stage adaptation of both plays combined into a single play and published as Zeit der Schuldlosen: Drama (first produced in 1961), Kiepenheuer und Witsch (Cologne, Germany), 1962.
Stimmungen der See (short stories, with autobiographical postscript), Reclam (Stuttgart, Germany), 1962.
Der Hafen ist voller Geheimnisse: Ein Feature in Erzählungen und zwei masurische Geschichten (short stories), Matthiesen (Lübeck, Germany), 1963.
Das Gesicht: Komödie (play), Hoffmann und Campe (Hamburg, Germany), 1964.
Lehmanns Erzählungen oder So schoen war mein Markt: Aus den Bekenntnissen eines Schwarzhändlers (short stories), Hoffmann und Campe (Hamburg, Germany), 1964.
Der Spielverderber (short stories), Hoffmann und Campe (Hamburg, Germany), 1965.
(With Dieter Seelmann) Flug über Land und Meer: Norder—Schleswig-Holstein—Ostsee, Westermann (Brunswick, Germany), 1967, published as Wo die Möwen schreien: Flug über Norddeutschlands Küsten und Lander, Christians (Hamburg, Germany), 1976.
Haussuchung: Hörspiele (radio plays; contains Das schönste Fest der Welt, Die Enttæuschung, Das Labyrinth, and Haussuchung), postscript by Heinz Schwitzke, Hoffmann und Campe (Hamurg, Germany), 1967.
Leute von Hamburg: Satirische Portræts, Hoffmann und Campe (Hamburg, Germany), 1968.
Die Augenbinde (play), Rowohlt (Reinbek, Germany), 1969, also published with Nicht alle Förster sind froh: Ein Dialog as Die Augenbinde; Nicht alle Förster sind froh: Ein Dialog, Rowohlt (Reinbek, Germany), 1970.
Lente von Hamburg, Hoffmann und Campe (Hamurg, Germany), 1969.
Beziehungen: Ansichten und Bekenntnisse zur Literatur (essays), Hoffmann und Campe (Hamurg, Germany), 1970.
Gesammelte Erzählungen, postscript by C.A.H. Russ, Hoffmann und Campe (Hamburg, Germany), 1970.
Lotte soll nicht sterben, EMC (Copenhagen, Denmark), 1970, published as Lotte macht alles mit, Lenz (Munich, Germany), 1978.
Versaeum nicht den Termin der Freude, Visel (Memmingen, Germany), 1970.
Die Herrschaftssprache der CDU, Wählerinitiative Nord (Kiel, Germany), 1971.
So war es mit dem Zirkus: Fünf Geschichten aus Suleyken (stories for children), Hoffmann und Campe (Hamburg, Germany), 1971.
Verlorenes Land—Gewonnene Nachbarschaft: Die Ostpolitik der Bundesregierung, Wählerinitiative Nord (Kiel, Germany), 1971.
Der Amüsierdoktor (play), Eggebrecht, 1972.
Der Geist der Mirabelle: Geschichten aus Bollerup (fiction), Hoffmann und Campe (Hamburg, Germany), 1975.
Einstein überquert die Elbe bei Hamburg (short stories), Hoffmann und Campe (Hamburg, Germany), 1975.
Die frühen Romane (contains Es waren Habichte in der Luft, Der Mann in Strom, Brot und Spiele, and Stadtgespräch), postscript by Klaus Günther Just, Hoffmann und Campe (Hamburg, Germany), 1976.
Einstein überquert die Elbe bei Hamburg: Geschichte in 3 Sätzen, Hoffmann und Campe (Hamburg, Germany), 1976.
Elfenbeinturm und Barrikade: Schriftsteller zwischen Literatur und Politik, Hoffmann und Campe (Hamburg, Germany), 1976.
Die Wracks von Hamburg: Hoerfunk-Features, Stalling (Hamburg, Germany), 1978.
(Author of text) Liselotte Lenz, Waldboden: Sechsunddreißig Farbstiftzeichnungen, Knaus (Hamburg, Germany), 1979.
(With Dieter Seelmann) Himmel, Wolken, weites Land: Flug über Meer, Marsch, Geest und Heide, Christians (Hamburg, Germany), 1979.
Drei Stücke, Hoffmann und Campe (Hamburg, Germany), 1980.
Elfenbeinturm und Barrikade: Erfahrungen am Schreibtisch (fiction), Hoffmann und Campe (Hamburg, Germany), 1983.
Ein Kriegsende, Hoffmann und Campe (Hamburg, Germany), 1984.
Der Verzicht, Edition Tiessen (Neu-Isenburg, Germany), 1985.
Der Anfang von etwas (short stories), Reclam (Leipzig, Germany), 1986.
Das serbische Mädchen (short stories), Hoffmann und Campe (Hamburg, Germany), 1987.
(Editor) Ben Witter, Schritte und Worte: Zeitgeschichte in Augenblicken, Hoffmann und Campe (Hamburg, Germany), 1990.
Die Klangprobe (novel), Hoffmann und Campe (Hamburg, Germany), 1990.
Über das Gedächtnis: Reden und Aufsätze, Hoffmann und Campe (Hamburg, Germany), 1992.
Die Auflehnung (novel), Hoffmann und Campe (Hamburg, Germany), 1994.
Es waren Habichte in der Luft (novel), Hoffmann und Campe (Hamburg, Germany), 1996.
Ludmilla (short stories), Hoffmann und Campe (Hamburg, Germany), 1996.
Über den Schmerz (essays), Hoffman und Campe (Hamburg, Germany), 1998.
Arnes Nachla[Beta], (novel), Hoffmann und Campe (Hamburg, Germany), 1999.
Mutmassungen über die Zukunft der Literatur: Drei Essays, Hoffmann und Campe (Hamburg, Germany), 2001.
Fundbüro (novel), Hoffmann und Campe (Hamburg, Germany), 2003.
Zaungast, Hoffmann und Campe (Hamburg, Germany), 2004.
Work represented in anthologies, including "Das Wrack," and Other Stories edited by C.A.H. Russ, Heinemann (London, England), 1967; Fuenfzehn Autoren suchen sich selbst: Modell und Provokation, edited by Uwe Schultz, List (Munich, Germany), 1967; Das Wunder von Striegeldorf: Geschichten compiled by Fritz Bachmann, Hirschgraben (Frankfurt, Germany), 1970; Gespräche mit Manes Sperber und Leszek Kolakowski, edited by Alfred Mensak, Hoffmann und Campe (Hamburg, Germany), 1980; and Auf Verlegers Rappen: Von Büchermachern und Buchverkæufern, edited by Hans Jordan, Ehrenwirth (Munich, Germany), 1986.
ADAPTATIONS: Der Mann im Strom was filmed in 1968; stories in So zärtlich war Suleyken were also adapted for film.
SIDELIGHTS: Siegfried Lenz is a prolific writer who has published novels, short stories, literary criticism, travel books, and some interesting pen-portraits of the people of Hamburg. He was a member of the influential writers' association Group 47, and since the 1960s has been active as a political journalist and broadcaster, supporting the Social Democratic Party. Lenz resists coloring his fiction and plays with his political views; however, he has been attacked on this score by some activists. His literary non-engagement is conscious and deliberate; as Brian Murdoch and Malcolm Read said in their book Siegfried Lenz, the key to his work is relativism—"he considers himself a witness to the world, and the German past, but never its judge."
Lenz was drafted into the German navy in 1943, when he was seventeen. Prior to the end of World War II he resided in a British camp for prisoners of war, where he served for a time as an interpreter. Released in 1945, Lenz resumed his education at the University of Hamburg. In the chaos of postwar Germany, he was only able to finance his studies by selling his blood and dealing in the black market. Lenz intended to become a teacher; but while a student in Hamburg, Lenz began contributing to the newspaper Die Welt and realized he enjoyed journalism. In 1949, he left the university to join the Die Welt editorial staff. Lenz became a freelance writer in 1951, when his first novel was published. Since then he has become one of the most popular and successful writers in Germany. "He has helped to shape the path of German literature," commented Hans Wagener in a Dictionary of Literary Biography essay, reporting that "since 1968 most of Lenz's books have been on the German bestseller lists."
"Lenz's fictional works are written in a realistic style. He rarely experiments with form; he generally tells a straightforward story and creates a vivid atmosphere through the use of precisely observed details; he is particularly noted for his descriptions of the sea. Although he is not an avant-garde writer, his stories and novels are never just superficial entertainment: they always make a statement about the way the world is and the way it should be and present the reader with situations that require moral decisions," summarized Wagener, specifying: "In the 1950s and 1960s Lenz's uncompromising moral standpoint manifested itself in parables of guilt and atonement; in the 1970s and 1980s his work became less obviously didactic and more psychological in character." "Lenz neither insults his readers nor forces his ideas upon them; instead," wrote Wagener, "he tries to persuade them gently with rational arguments … he makes them realize that right and wrong cannot always be distinguished in a clear-cut manner." "In confronting his readers with extreme situations or questionable decisions," concluded Wagener, "he … stimulates [their] thinking in a truly democratic manner, questioning prejudice and political dogmatism."
Murdoch and Read suggested that Lenz is concerned with the themes of duty and "the Grenzsituation, the borderline situation, requiring a decision that may well be a wrong one. He is concerned too, however, with perspective, with the impossibility of objective truth, something which he returns to time and again in his novels and short stories…. The notion of the witness and his responsibility recurs frequently in his work." Lenz has borrowed themes and habits of style from a variety of other writers who include Hemingway, Faulkner, Dostoevsky, and Camus as well as German authors such as Wolfgang Borchert and Heinrich Boell. Hemingway's influence, in particular, has been seen in Lenz's taut and anaphoric style, in his preoccupation with the testing "moment of truth," and in his fondness for the "loser," trapped by circumstances in a "borderline" situation where there is no right answer.
All of these elements were present in Lenz's first three novels, of which perhaps the most admired was Der Mann im Strom. It is about deep-sea divers who operate out of the Hamburg harbor, and centers on one diver, Hinrichs, who loses his job because he makes a mistake—a mistake that involved getting older. According to Wagener, "the problems of an aging worker in a modern industrial economy constitute the main theme of the book, which becomes overly didactic. In contrast to the conscientious Hinrichs, the young people, such as his daughter Lena's boyfriend Manfred, try to make money quickly in dishonest ways; the inexperienced Manfred drowns while trying to steal batteries form an old submarine." Unlike Lenz's two earlier novels, which some critics claimed were marred by overblown descriptive writing and false aphorisms, Der Mann im Strom showed a new mastery of narra-tive method and characterization, and was praised for its tension, its reserved, serious quietness and its specific realism. The novel was adapted for the screen and filmed in 1958.
Lenz's fourth novel, Brot und Spiele, presents Buchner, a famous long-distance runner who is a loser—a fallen idol who fails to survive the moment of truth. As Buchner runs his heroic last race, his sometimes unscrupulous career is recalled by a life-long friend. Like many of Lenz's stories, the novel is a parable, whose message, according to Murdoch and Read is that "men are pursued by external forces that they do not have the wit to recognize as the furies, and everyone is a victim." "In Lenz's opinion," analyzed Wagener, "sports have been corrupted by the constant desire to achieve new records. His ideal is the person who has a normal profession and participates in sports during his spare time. He criticizes the fickleness of the sports clubs, the sponsors, and the public who make an athlete into a hero and then drop him as soon as he no longer fulfills their wishes and dreams."
Stadtgespräche, related Wagener, "is part of the contemporary discussion about collective guilt which Lenz has addressed in several of his works." Stadtgespräche, translated into English and published in the United States as The Survivor, studies the complex tensions in a Norwegian town during the German occupation. Forty-four hostages are to be shot unless a young Resistance leader surrenders to the Nazis. The leader is ready to do so, but is assured that his importance as a symbol is worth more than the lives of the hostages. After the war, however, nothing looks quite the same. In The Modern German Novel, H.M. Waidson called the work "a serious, subtle treatment of social relationships in a situation of anguished abnormality, presented in terms of understatement and open-minded concern." However, the novel, as Wagener observed,"has several weaknesses, among them the vagueness of time and place, the theoretical nature of many of the discussions, and the construction of an extreme situation. In his next novel, Deutschstunde, Lenz was able to correct these flaws."
Deutschstunde, one of Lenz's most admired and successful novels, was first published in 1968. The book was translated into English, and in 1972 it was released in the United States as The German Lesson. According to Lenz, Deutschstunde presents a conflict between power and art. Murdoch and Read indicated that the novel addresses other things as well: it is also "an investigation of the German past and its relationship to the present," revealing in the microcosm of a single quiet village the "social and mental attitudes upon which Nazi ideology was based and accepted." Hugely successful in Germany, where it was adapted as a memorable film, Deutschstunde was also warmly praised in its English translation.
The story of Deutschstunde follows Siggi Jepson, a youth in a German reform school. Siggi is told to write a short composition on "The Joys of Duty." He finds it almost impossible to begin, but when he does, the essay turns into a long reminiscence and meditation on the circumstances that turned him into a compulsive art thief. Siggi had grown up in a small community on the German-Danish border. His father had been the village policeman, the very embodiment of unthinking devotion to duty. The policeman, ignoring the claims of friendship, does his best to enforce a ruling against a local artist, forbidding the artist to paint because his Expressionist style displeases the Nazi authorities. Siggi, who is drawn to and influenced by the artist, hides his paintings to protect them from his father. Later, in moral confusion and breakdown, he begins to steal and hide the work of other painters. In the end, having written all this down, Siggi remains with unanswerable questions. There is a suggestion, nevertheless, that Siggi has taken a step forward—that when people are rigid and certain in their attitudes they are inevitably and dangerously in the wrong, and that Siggi's radical doubt and self-questioning is the highest freedom.
Das Vorbild "continue[s] the direction of Deutschstunde in [that Lenz turns] away from the Third Reich toward criticism of contemporary West German society," commented Wagener. The tyranny of moral certainty is an important theme in Das Vorbild, translated and published in United States as An Exemplary Life. In the story, three pedagogues meet in Hamburg and try to agree on a suitable biography for inclusion in a school reader. Each favors a different paragon, their choice reflecting the special circumstances of the educator's own life—his or her own prejudices and weaknesses. "The committee's proposals are rejected by the pompous publisher, for whom they do not meet the standards of fashionable educational theories," recounted Wagener, interpreting: "By introducing many exemplary figures, including some from the narrative frame, and then discarding most of them, Lenz wishes to demonstrate that there are no longer any universally acceptable role models for today's youth. He wants to teach his readers to look critically at their environment and develop criteria for evaluating other people in the same manner as his three experts." Deutschstunde had a relatively cool reception; some reviewers found it ambiguous, didactic, and ponderous.
Heimatmuseum "should appeal most favorably to those intimately familiar with the German-Polish area it so vividly describes," reported Thomas Hajewski in World Literature Today. Focusing on the meaning of the novel's title, Heimatmuseum, Times Literary Supplement contributor S.N. Plaice wrote: "The Nazis appropriated the word ['Heimat'] for ideological purposes … it was not long before the word … no longer implied sentimental feelings towards one's own homeland, but rather patriotic feelings towards the 'völkisch' element of the rural past, a reverence for all things that purported to be of ethnic German origin." Plaice noted "the unappealingly general title of The Heritage" given to the American publication: "This sacrifices the two central ideas of the book at a stroke, for Lenz must surely have intended the museum not only as a metaphor for the whole ideology of 'Heimat,' but also as a metaphor for his own novel … an anecdotal, folkloristic and historical archive of the vanished culture of Lenz's native province, which was wholly incorporated into Poland at the end of the Second World War."
Heimatmuseum is narrated by Zygmunt Rogalla, a rugmaker and museum caretaker who, at the start of the novel, is hospitalized for burns he received in a fire. Rogalla started the fire to burn the museum he took care of for the better part of his life. During the vast majority of this long "spoken memoir," Rogalla speaks retrospectively, while still confined to his hospital bed, in a narrative that eventually explains his act of arson and "relates his former life in the Masurian town of Lucknow to a silent listener, Witt," recounted Plaice. As Salman Rushdie observed in the New York Times Book Review, "Rogalla restores to us the history of his lost homeland, neither sentimentalized nor distorted, made neither quaint nor risible; the heritage is given back its innocence, because, as Rogalla knows, 'in our memory things lead a purer existence.'" Rogalla's "ultimate realization," explained Plaice, "is that the only way of making relics of the past safe from present exploitation is to destroy them. But the extension of this paradox is that Lenz has preserved the relics of the Masurian past in his own Heimatmuseum, the novel, and written a work that cannot disguise its nostalgia for a lost homeland and for a vanished epoch of regional German culture."
Heimatmuseum "is not without flaws," recognized Hajewski. "Yet," concluded Hajewski, "the clarity with which Lenz describes events from the Masurian past and his undeniable gift for storytelling … demonstrate that the main problems with this novel lies more in format and structure rather than in literary relevance or content." "The constant asides to Witt are tediously artificial and intrusive upon a narrative that really needs no framework," stated Plaice. Hajewski blamed the format for "tend[ing] to opaque the work and presage the less-than-optimistic 'moral' of the novel" and giving "a ritualistic tone which only anesthetizes the reader further." "[The problems associated with format] show up glaringly in translation," noted Plaice. When Heimatmuseum was translated into English as The Heritage it was shortened, which, according to Rushdie, was "a shame" not only because it led to "occasional jerkiness" and "unresolved mysteries," but also because it was "like arbitrarily removing some exhibits from a museum." That withstanding, wrote Rushdie, The Heritage is "a genuinely fabulous tale." "Lenz's novel," proclaimed Rushdie, "is a colossal achievement [which] … contains a seemingly endless parade of striking images and characters who seem larger than life precisely because they are so beautifully rooted in life."
A more recent novel, Exerzierplatz, addresses the theme of "rebuilding life in Germany on the basis of a militaristic past," identified Wagener. The novel was first published in 1984, and seven years later an English translation was released in the United States as The Training Ground. In the work, Lenz writes about the Zellers, a family that "flees from East Prussia after World War II and builds a new life … [supported by creating] a large tree nursery on a devastated drill ground in which the remnants of the past are physically present," described Wagener. The family patriarch, Zeller, believes that Bruno, his assistant and the story's narrator, "is more deserving than his sons" and "wants to leave one third of the land [to Bruno] after his death," stated Wagener, who remarked that "at times … Bruno's style of narration appears to be more sophisticated than his background would warrant." Believing that "the naive Bruno … represents the natural way of behaving, like Zeller, only on a less sophisticated level," Wagener described Bruno as "good natured, hardworking, loyal, and unsuspecting; consequently, he easily falls victim to the strong and scheming members of society."
Lenz's first collection of short stories had appeared in 1955 as So zärtlich war Suleyken. He wrote these affectionate and humorous sketches of life in an imaginary Masurian village in order to provide his wife with a portrait of the world he grew up in. The Suleyken tales have been among the most popular of Lenz's writings, and have been adapted as films and reissued in illustrated gift editions. Later Lenz looked with a similarly indulgent eye at the inhabitants of Bollerup, a town in North Germany. These unsentimental, sometimes ironical, but always sympathetic evocations of a vanishing way of life have little in common with Lenz's other short fiction, most of which contain grimly objective realism resembling what is presented in his novels. Lenz's first volume of "stories for our time" was Jäger des Spotts: Geschichten aus dieser Zeit, containing fourteen short stories with a variety of backgrounds—international athletics, Kenya at the time of Mau Mau, the Arctic, and Sardinia as well as modern Germany.
In an essay about Lenz's short stories, C.A.H. Russ refers to the tale called "Stimmungen der See," the title story in a collection published in 1962. It deals with the clandestine attempt of three men to cross the Baltic but it is not easy, as Russ said in Der Schriftsteller Siegfried Lenz, "to decide whether the action occurs during the war or afterwards, whether, in other words, the fugitives are trying to escape from the Nazi police state or from communist East Germany. Now what Lenz is doing in 'Stimmungen der See' is to concentrate on psychological tensions set against the background of the sea that he knows and describes better than any other German writer of our time…. The story's historical point of departure is, in the final analysis, irrelevant to its timeless themes: tension between the generations, the interplay of hope and fear, and man's cruelty to man." It seems to Russ that Lenz possesses in generous measure the writer's traditional skills—great narrative drive and readability, an ear for dialogue, and an eye for the detail which establishes character or atmosphere.
In addition to his recognition as a novelist and author of short fiction, Lenz has enjoyed success as a dramatist. Zeit der Schuldlosen, broadcast as a radio play in 1960, illustrates Lenz's belief that there is no such thing as an "innocent bystander"—that those who fail to intervene against injustice share the guilt of the unjust. Nine men are rounded up at random and imprisoned together with a young revolutionary who has tried to assassinate the country's dictator. They will be freed only if they can learn the name of the revolutionary's accomplices, or persuade him to abandon his cause. The young man is eventually murdered, and the nine "innocent" men are released. A second radio play, Zeit der Schuldigen, shows what happens after the revolution has succeeded, when the nine are arrested again and ordered, on pain of death, to identify the young man's murderer. In 1961 the two radio plays were combined as a stage play, Zeit der Schuldlosen, which has been very widely performed. Though some critics have found it excessively abstract and didactic, it has impressed others as what one writer called brilliant, aggressive questioning of guilt by a German playwright following World War II. Lenz's later stage plays have been less successful, but his radio plays are generally admired and are said to have the virtues of his short stories, including narrative drive and a strong sense of character.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Ahl, Herbert, Literarische Portraits, Langen, 1962.
Arnold, Heinz Ludwig, editor, Siegfried Lenz, Text und Kritik (Munich, Germany), 1976, 2nd edition, 1982.
Brassmann, Winfried, Siegfried Lenz: Sein Werk als Beispiel für Weg und Standort der Literatur in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Bouvier (Bonn, Germany), 1976, 2nd edition, 1978.
Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 27, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1984.
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 75: Contemporary German Fiction Writers, Second Series, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1988.
Ekkerhart, Rudolph, editor, Protokoll zur Person, List (Munich, Germany), 1971.
Garten, H.F., Modern German Drama, Methuen (New York, NY), 1964.
Halverson, Rachel J., Historiography and Fiction: Sigfried Lenz and the "Historikerstreit," P. Lang (New York, NY), 1990.
Lenz, Siegfried, Beziehungen: Ansichten und Bekenntnisse zur Literatur, Hoffmann und Campe (Hamburg, Germany), 1970.
Mandel, Siegfreid, Group 47, Southern Illinois University Press (Carbondale, IL), 1973.
Mensak, Alfred, editor, Über Phantasie: Siegfried Lenz, Gespräche mit Heinrich Boell, Günter Grass, Walter Kempowski, Pavel Kohout, Hoffmann und Campe (Hamburg, Germany), 1982.
Murdoch, Brian, and Malcolm Read, Siegfried Lenz, Wolff (London, England), 1978.
Reber, Trudis, Siegfried Lenz, Colloquium Verlag (Berlin, Germany), 1973.
Ronald Hayman, editor, The German Theatre, Barnes & Noble (New York, NY), 1973.
Russ, C.A.H., editor, Der Schriftsteller Siegfried Lenz, Hoffmann und Campe (Hamburg, Germany), 1973.
Salis, Richard, editor, Motives, Wolff (London, England), 1975.
Schludermann, Brigitte, Viktor G. Doerksen, Robert J. Glendinning, and Evelyn Scherabon-Firchow, editors, Deutung und Bedeutung: Studies in German and Comparative Literature Presented to Karl-Werner Maurer, Mouton (The Hague, Netherlands), 1973.
Schwarz, Wilhelm Johannes, Der Erzähler Siegfried Lenz, Francke (Munich, Germany), 1974.
Siegfried Lenz: Ein Prospekt, Hoffmann und Campe (Hamburg, Germany), 1966.
Thomas, R. Hinton and Keith Bullivant, Literature in Upheaval, Manchester University Press (Manchester, England), 1974.
Wagener, Hans, Siegfried Lenz, Beck (Munich, Germany), 1976.
Waidson, H.M., The Modern German Novel, University of Hull (Hull, England, 1971.
America, June 19, 1965, review of The Survivor, p. 886.
American Libraries, June, 1972, review of The German Lesson, p. 682.
Atlantic Monthly, February, 1972, review of The German Lesson, p. 110.
Booklist, April 15, 1965, review of The Survivor, p. 786; June 1, 1972, review of The German Lesson, p. 847; July 15, 1974, review of Das Vorbild, p. 1232; January 15, 1976, review of Der Geist der Mirabelle: Geschichten aus Bollerup, p. 676; November 15, 1976, review of An Exemplary Life, p. 451; May 15, 1981, review of The Heritage, p. 1213.
Books and Bookman, February, 1972, review of The German Lesson, p. 62; March, 1977, review of An Exemplary Life, p. 26.
Choice, September, 1972, review of The German Lesson, p. 820; February, 1977, review of An Exemplary Life, p. 1603; January, 1982, review of The Heritage, p. 631.
Contemporary Review, January, 1972, review of The German Lesson, p. 46.
Economist, December 18, 1976, review of An Exemplary Life, p. 131.
Encounter, May, 1972, review of The German Lesson, p. 71.
Europe, April, 1998, Wanda Menke-Gluckert, "Siegfried Lenz," p. 45.
Hudson Review, autumn, 1972, review of The German Lesson, p. 505.
Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 1971, review of The German Lesson, p. 1228; August 15, 1976, review of An Exemplary Life, p. 919; April 1, 1981, review of The Heritage, p. 451.
Library Journal, April 15, 1965, review of The Survivor, p. 1932; December 1, 1971, review of The German Lesson, p. 4030; August, 1976, review of An Exemplary Life, p. 1658; August, 1981, review of The Heritage, p. 1566.
Listener, March 9, 1972, review of The German Lesson, p. 314; March 10, 1977, review of An Exemplary Life, p. 318.
Modern Language Journal, October, 1965, review of Jäger des Spotts; und andere Erzählugen, p. 396.
Modern Language Review, July, 1969, review of "Das Wrack," and Other Stories, p. 720.
Nation, April 3, 1972, review of The German Lesson, p. 439.
National Observer, May 27, 1972, review of The German Lesson, p. 21.
National Review, June 9, 1972, review of The German Lesson, p. 646.
New Leader, May 15, 1972, review of The German Lesson, p. 9; December 6, 1976, review of An Exemplary Life, p. 9.
New Statesman, December 3, 1971, review of The German Lesson, p. 796; November 12, 1976, review of An Exemplary Life, p. 684.
Newsweek, April 10, 1972, review of The German Lesson, p. 92.
New York Times, April 5, 1972, review of The German Lesson, p. 43; June 4, 1972, review of The German Lesson, p. 22; May 31, 1979; February 5, 1984, review of The Heritage, p. 34;
New York Times Book Review, February 23, 1969; April 9, 1972, review of The German Lesson, p. 5; December 3, 1972, review of The German Lesson, p. 76; December 12, 1976, review of An Exemplary Life, p. 7; July 19, 1981, Salman Rushdie, review of The Heritage, p. 6; February 5, 1984, review of The Heritage, p. 34.
Observer (London, England), November 28, 1971, review of The German Lesson, p. 34; August 16, 1981, review of The Heritage, p. 23.
Publishers Weekly, March 27, 1967, review of The Lightship, p. 64; November 8, 1971, review of The German Lesson, p. 46; January 31, 1972, review of The German Lesson, p. 245; September 27, 1976, review of An Exemplary Life, p. 74; April 17, 1981, review of The Heritage, p. 49; September 27, 1991, review of The Training Ground, p. 44.
Saturday Review, March 18, 1972, review of The German Lesson,, p. 71.
Spectator, January 8, 1972, review of The German Lesson, p. 45.
Times Educational Supplement, November 16, 1979, review of Das Feuerschiff, p. 42.
Times Literary Supplement, December 28, 1967, review of Haussuchung: Hörspiele, p. 1260; March 27, 1969, review of Deutschstunde, p. 317; November 19, 1971, review of The German Lesson, p. 1439; December 14, 1973, review of Das Vorbild, p. 1547; April 29, 1977, review of Einstein überquert die Elbe bei Hamburg p. 538; August 14, 1981, S.N. Place, review of The Heritage, p. 928; January 15, 1982, review of Der Verlust, p. 63.
Virginia Quarterly Review, winter, 1982, review of The Heritage, p. 20.
Washington Post Book World, May 7, 1972, review of The German Lesson, p. 10.
World Literature Today, summer, 1965, review of Das Gesicht: Komödie, p. 320; summer, 1979, Thomas Hajewski, review of Heimatmuseum, p. 497; spring, 1982, review of Der Verlust, p. 327; spring, 1995, Ulf Zimmermann, review of Die Auflehnung, p. 348; summer, 2000, Jeffrey Adams, review of Arnes Nachla[Beta], p. 637; spring, 2002, Hans H. Rudnick, review of Mutmassungen über die Zukunft der Literatur: Drei Essays, p. 251.