Hessel, Franz

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HESSEL, FRANZ (1880–1941), German writer, translator, and publisher. The son of a Jewish banker, Hessel grew up in Berlin and studied literature in Munich. After 1900 he participated in the literary circle of Munich, publishing the Schwabinger Beobachter together with Franziska zu Reventlow and the poems Verlorene Gespielen (1905). Together with Karl Wolfskehl he attended the 1903 Zionist Congress in Basel, yet remained rather aloof from it. Between 1906 and 1914 he lived mostly in Paris, writing stories (Laura Wunderl, 1908) and novels (Der Kramladen des Gluecks, 1913) which were mostly set in Munich and opposing bourgeois capitalism with aesthetical models of life like the flaneur and also posing the question of Jewish identity. This is still the case in his Paris and Berlin novels Pariser Romanze (1920), Heimliches Berlin (1927), Spazieren in Berlin (1929), and his short prose (Teigwaren leicht gefaerbt, 1926, Nachfeier, 1929, Ermunterung zum Genuss, 1933), which analyze the social and material space of urban life. During the years of the Weimar Republic Hessel worked for the publisher Ernst Rowohlt, editing the literary journal Vers und Prosa (1924) and translating Stendhal, Balzac, Casanova, and (together with Walter *Benjamin) Proust. In 1938 he fled to Paris and southern France. In 1940 he was imprisoned in a camp and died soon after the liberation in Sanary-sur-Mer.


M. Fluegge, Letzte Heimkehr (1989); idem, Gesprungene Liebe (1993); J. Plath, Liebhaber der Groβstadt (1994); M. Opitz, Geniesse froh, was du nicht hast. Der Flaneur Franz Hessel (1997); M.L. Nieradka, Der Meister der leisen Toene. Biografie des Dichters Franz Hessel (2003).

[Andreas Kilcher (2nd ed.)]

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Hessel, Franz

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