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.
Lenz’ 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.