Hans Magnus Enzensberger was born in Kaufbeuren, Germany on November 11, 1929. He studied literature and philosophy at universities in Erlangen, Freiburg, Hamburg, and the Sorbonne in Paris, receiving his doctorate in 1955 for his thesis about Clemens Brentano’s poetry.
Enzensberger worked as a radio and magazine editor before deciding to embark on a freelance writing career. He became the founder of a quarterly called Kursbuch in 1965 and of a monthly called TransAtlantik in 1980. After spending more than 10 years abroad in Norway, Italy, Russia, the United States, and Cuba, Enzensberger returned to Germany in 1969 and settled first in Berlin and then in Munich, where he now lives.
Enzensberger’s main literary work is in poetry and essay, supplemented by excursions into theatre, film, opera, radio drama, reportage, and translation, with one or two novels and several books for children thrown in.
From 1985 – 2005, Enzensberger directed his own Frankfurt publishing imprint, the prestigious Die Andere Bibliothek, under which he produced a book of his choosing every month. The imprint now contains over 250 titles.
Enzensberger’s own works have been translated extensively into English and more than 40 other languages. Enzensberger has also translated extensively from European languages, mainly in the genres of poetry and drama.
Enzensberger’s poetry collections include: Poems (1966), Poems for People Who Don’t Read Poems (1968), Selected Poems (1968), Poems of Hans Magnus Enzensberger (1968), Mausoleum (1977), The Sinking of the Titanic (1980), and Lighter Than Air: Moral Poems (2000).
The recipient of many honours for his literary works including the 1963 Georg-Büchner-Preis, the 1985 Heinrich-Böll-Preis, the 1993 Erich-Maria-Remarque-Friedenspreis, the 1998 Heinrich-Heine-Preis, and the 2002 Prince of Asturias Communications and Humanities award, Hans Magnus Enzensberger is considered to be modern Germany’s most important poet.
by Hans Magnus Enzensberger
Choose among the errors
given to you
but choose right.
Might it not be wrong
to do the right thing
at the wrong moment
to do the wrong
at the right moment?
One false step
never to be made good.
The right error
should you miss it
may never come again.
Copyright © 1999/2002, Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Lighter than Air: Moral Poems, translated by David Constantine (Bloodaxe Books)