Thursday, June 11, 2015
Selected poems of Johannes Bobrowski and Horst Bienek
Bobrowski was born on 9 April 1917 in Tilsit in East Prussia. In 1925, he moved first to Rastenburg, then in 1928 on to Königsberg, where he attended the Gymnasium. One of his teachers was Ernst Wiechert. In 1937, he started a degree in art history in Berlin. As a member of the Confessing Church, Bobrowski had contact with the German resistance against National Socialism. He was a lance corporal for the entire Second World War in Poland, France and the Soviet Union. In 1943 he married Johanna Buddrus.
From 1945—1949 Bobrowski was imprisoned by the Soviet Union, where he spent time working in a coal mine. On his release, he worked as an editor in Berlin, first for the Altberliner Verlag, a children’s publisher run by Lucie Grosner, and then from 1959 for the Union Verlag publishing house. His work was influenced by his knowledge of Eastern European landscapes and of the German, Baltic and Slavic cultures and languages, combined with ancient myths. In 1964, Bobrowski became a member of the PEN Club.
Bobrowski died as a result of a perforated appendix in East Berlin on 2 September 1965. Since 1992, the Foundation for Prussian Maritime Trade has donated funds towards the Johannes Brobowski Medal.
Midstream: A poem by Johannes Bobrowski
Drifting down with the rafts,
in the lighter grey of the strange
shore, in a
splendour, which withdraws, in the grey
of slanting surfaces, light
shot at us from mirrors.
The Baptist's head
lay on its torn brow,
a hand with loose bluish
the ragged hair.
When I loved you, restless
your heart, the food on the beating
fire, your mouth, which opened,
open, the river
was a rain and flew
with the herons, leaves
fell and filled its bed.
We bent over numbed
fish, the cricket's song,
clad in scales, crossed
the sand from the foliage
of the bank, we had come
to sleep, Noman
circled the bed, Noman
extinguished the mirrors, Noman
will wake us
in our time.
Horst Bienek (May 7, 1930, Gleiwitz – December 7, 1990, Munich) was a German novelist and poet.
Born in Gleiwitz, Germany (today Gliwice, Poland), Bienek was forced to leave there in 1945, when Germans were expelled from Silesia. He resettled in the eastern part of Germany. For a time, he was a student of Bertolt Brecht. In 1951, he was arrested by NKVD and sentenced in a show trial to 25 years of labour for "anti-Soviet incitement" and alleged espionage on behalf of the United States, and sent to a Gulag concentration camp in Vorkuta. When he was released as the result of an amnesty in 1955, he settled in West Germany.
Bienek was the winner of numerous prizes, including the Nelly Sachs Prize in 1981. His best-known work is the four-volume series of novels dealing with the prelude to World War II and the war itself, Gleiwitz, Eine oberschlesische Chronik in vier Romanen.