Durs Grünbein is the author of six previous volumes of poetry and a collection of essays. His work has been awarded many major German literary prizes, including the highest, the Georg-Büchner-Preis, which he won at age 33. Grünbein’s collections of poetry include Grauzone morgens and Schädelbasislektion. In 1995, he received the Peter Huchel Prize for Poetry. He has also published several essay collections and new translations of plays from antiquity, among them Aeschylus’ The Persians, and Seneca’s Thyestes. His work, which also includes contributions to catalogues and a libretto for opera, has been translated into many languages. He has lived in Berlin since 1985.
Born in Dresden, a ‘deathtrap for angels’, Durs Grünbein is the most significant poet to have emerged from the old East.
Born in Dresden, a ‘deathtrap for angels’, Durs Grünbein is the most significant poet to have emerged from the old East. His poems have a remarkable quality of contemplation, which enables them to shrug off pathos and irony, and so to reveal their personal and political depths. Unromantic, contained, but always moving and moved, he is ever alert to history’s ‘sudden nearness’ and brings it to us as mirror, window and trapdoor. Michael Hofmann’s translations are live-action engagements of one poet with another – of languages reacting, competing, consoling and teasing – and propose new answers to old questions about whether poetry can travel this well or at all.
by Durs Grünbein
Now listen to this: in the obituary they wrote about me
In my lifetime, they said I was so sweet-natured
That they wanted to keep me as a pet.
It makes me ill to hear them drooling
About my loyalty, my affection, my trustworthiness around children.
Tripe! There’s a term for everything alien.
Looks as though time has caught up with me.
And my voice is swimming in the confession:
“I was half zombie, half enfant perdu …”
Perhaps eventually space gulped me down
Where the horizon closes up.
My double can look after me from here on in.
My orneriness is puked out, plus the question:
Do pets have lighter brains?
Copyright © 2005 by Durs Grunbein / Translation and preface 2005 by Michael Hofmann