8 German Classics or Novels You Must Read

German novels have been existent for almost 350 years and it is no doubt that they have been producers of quality literature through time. Germans have tackled almost all topics you could think, from history, philosophy, and even the aspects of being human. Reading them are surely worth your time since you would be able to learn a lot from the famous classics they have produced. Here is a comprehensive list of some German novels you should consider taking time to read.
The Quest for Christa T

The Quest for Christa T (1968) by Christa Wolf

This novel was a living evidence of Wolf’s own metafictional exploration. The novel was a compilation of sorts, letters, diaries, and other forms of written material that helped her discover a doppelganger that she claims to be haunting her. Upon discovering her own self, she was also able to conclude how the society both forms and denies the identities of the people in it. It also depicted how certain types of governance could harm the societies inside it. The plot may seem simple and common but the learnings you could get from this novel would exceed your expectations.

Transit (1942) by Anna Seghers

This novel provided a bit of an adventure by focusing the story on European refugees who wanted to escape from Nazi Germany and Vichy France by travelling through Marseille. As the title implies, the novel explains how the transit of these refugees went all the way to the south of France. Sometimes, the title attributed to this novel is “Transit Visa” as the story also featured how the characters managed to obtain the visas and paperwork they needed to be able to live.
The-Glass-Bead-Game

The Glass Bead Game (1943) by Herman Hesse

Among the few German authors who had a different focus on the literature they wrote was Hesse. This novel explored art and literature. The main character was Joseph Knecht who has been able to live thrice but he does not see what his purpose in life is. While tackling this, the novel was also able to assess the place of art in the society at that time and how important it was for art to be physically present so it could be validated indeed as an art.

After Midnight (1937) by Imgard Keun

The Nazi party rose during the 1930s and no doubt, a lot of authors have used them as a subject to their novels. It was a famous subject matter as their presence have been dominant back then. This novel is a love story, focusing on forbidden love where the focus is on a young woman living in Germany experiencing the cruelty of the German government. Just to release her works which was forbidden in Germany, Keun even sought for her own exile. Eventually, this novel has made its way back to Germany and has become a blockbuster.

The Sleepwalkers (1932) by Hermann Broch

Broch was an Austrian and this work contains a trilogy. This novel was considered to be one of the masterpieces of modern German prose. The interesting thing about this novel is how Broch provided a look at the society from a viewpoint of someone who is deemed insignificant. The novel gives the idea that sometimes, history brings unpredictable changes which leaves everybody unprepared.
Katharina Blum

The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum (1974) by Heinrich Boll

This novel was based on a true story during the height of sensationalized tabloid journalism in the west side of Germany. It depicted how media or the public in general has the power to destroy individual people’s lives. Katharina Blum is the protagonist in the story and at some point, she took home a man after going to a party. Later on, she faced murder charges of a journalist who was snooping around them. Indeed, the story showed how ruthless the industry of journalism is just to produce news that would need the guarantee to be read.

Berlin Alexanderplats (1929) by Alfred Doblin

This novel was set in Berlin and made use of several forms of print media from newspapers to street signs, and even pop music. This novel actually contributed to the booming of multimedia in the 20th century. It is said to be one of the most influential German novels in the world as it combined cinematic montage with playful narration and an honest view of what life is.
The Tin Drum

The Tin Drum (1959) by Gunter Grass

This novel is claimed to be the most highly acclaimed novel of post-war Germany. This novel is actually the first installment among the trilogy that he produced. The story focuses on a German family before who lived before World War II. The point of view in the novel is from Oskar, who was a young man confined in an asylum for the insane. The part of Germany in focus was Danzig. Somehow, this novel also served as a social commentary while Germany was focusing on its efforts to reconstruct its economy. Grass asks, “Who will have the willingness to look back?”

The Works of a Literary Giant, Sigfried Lenz

German writer Siegfried Lenz died just last week. He was considered as one of the literary giants in the post-war Germany. Lenz have written a total of 14 novels and 120 short stories. His work has been read by about 25 million readers from around the world since they were translated in more than 20 languages.

As a tribute to Lenz, let us look at his life and work.

siegfriedLenz’ creative genius probably came from his experience since he was drafted to become part of the Navy of Germany when he was 17. It was his stint with the Navy that opened his eyes to the harrowing battles that happened in Baltic Sea. He also went into hiding and was briefly taken as a prisoner by the British forces. Lenz, after leaving prison went to Hamburg, where he survived by taking part in the Black Market and by donating blood.

His flair for writing was probably honed in school since he studied history of literature, English philosophy and philosophy.

Lenz first novel entitled Es warren Habichte in der Luft was published in1951. The novel was about a Finnish village teacher and his prosecutors. He published his second novel Duell met dem Schatten, two years after. The novel was about an aged German officer who had to deal with his guilt by recalling the past that happened in Africa.

Lenz had to wait around 15 years before he published his third novel in 1968 which he gave a title of the Deutschstunde. This novel talked about the conditions of pre and post-Third Reich. The novel was a best seller for how many years.

At the time the third novel was published, he was already known as an author who was popular for writing about conflict and atmosphere while engaging readers to think about moral issues.

It is said that his works were written as a way to push individuals to strive hard for a democratic society where citizens are free and socially aware. But Lenz talent also lies in being able to write thought provoking novels without any preaching about ideology.

Lenz published a collection of short stories in 1958, Der Jäger des Spotts where he paid tribute to the influence of some authors to his work like Hemingway, Faulkner, Dostoevsky and Camus.

This great literary figure have also published other collections of stories such as Das Feuerschiff in 1960, Stimmungen der See in 1962, Der Spielverderber in 1965, and 10 years after, Einstein überquert die Elbe bei Hamburg.

His other novels include Der Mann im Strom that was published in 1957 and tackled the problems of unemployment. In 1959, he finished Brot und Spiele, a novel that focused on the moral corruption pervasive in the world of sports.

Lenz was a master of creating work that provokes as well as warn readers of certain moral issues or problems that plague the society.

One his story was Novelle Das Feuerschiff where he succeeded in warning readers about the constantly present threats by evil powers. The story talked about the taking over of escaped gangster of an unarmed lightship, and the plot thickened when the captain was faced by a tough decision which cost him his life.

Lenz also raised moral issues in his novel Stadtgespräch in 1963. The novel was about a Scandinavian country that had a resistance movement that needed to either surrender to the conquerors so that it can save 44 people who were being held hostage.

Lenz kept writing novels and even Television films such as Ein Kriegsende in 1984. Many of his literary works were adapted for television films, and some became stories and plays. He also has a wide collection of discussions and essays that were printed.

Lenz, given his writing prowess was given several awards including the Free Hanse City of Bremen prize in 1961, Thomas Mann Prize, Andreas Gryphius Prize and Friedenspreis des deutschen Buchhandels in 1988.