Siegfried Lenz

Born in East Prussia, Siegfried Lenz (1917–2014) was one of Germany’s foremost writers. Best known for The German Lesson, his stories and novels rank in popularity as well as critical esteem alongside those of Günter Grass and Heinrich Böll. Lenz was awarded the prestigious Friedenpreis of the German Book Trade in 1988.

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The German Lesson

Fiction by Siegfried Lenz

Translated from the German by Ernst Kaiser Eithne Wilkins

In this quiet and devastating novel about the rise of fascism, Siggi Jepsen, incarcerated as a juvenile delinquent, is assigned to write a routine German lesson on the “The Joys of Duty.” Overfamiliar with these joys, Siggi sets down his life since 1943, a decade earlier, when as a boy he watched his father, a constable, doggedly carry out orders from Berlin to stop a well-known Expressionist artist from painting and to seize all his “degenerate” work.…
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Selected Stories of Siegfried Lenz

Siegfried Lenz is one of West Germany’s foremost writers, ranking in popularity as well as critical esteem with Günter Grass and Heinrich Böll. In the United States, his stature is based primarily on the novel The German Lesson—a modern classic reissued by New Directions in 1986—but he is also considered a master of the short story, perhaps the best of his postwar generation. The Selected Stories of Siegfried Lenz, edited and translated by Breon Mitchell, is the first comprehensive gathering of the writer’s short fiction ever to appear in English.…
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If ever the Third Reich was pictured in microcosm, with its prejudices against people not rooted in the land, and its tiny spasms of nationalistic fervor that added up to an irrational howl in final sum, then Lenz has done it—has surpassed it.
—Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, New York Times
Remarkable, earnest, and important.
The Nation
Mordantly witty, despairing, impassioned, this is one of the most deeply imagined and thought-provoking novels from Germany in years.
Library Journal
The book I have been waiting ever since the end of World War II for a German author to write.
—Kay Boyle
The German Lesson marks a double triumph: a book of rare depth and brilliance, to begin with, presented in an English version that succeeds against improbable odds in conveying the full power of the original.
—Ernst Pawel, New York Times Book Review
West German writer Lenz’s best stories rank with those of Günter Grass.
Publishers Weekly
Like W. G. Sebald at his best, Lenz solicits the reader’s grief through lexical restraint.
The New Yorker
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