Uwe Johnson

From Academic Kids

Uwe Johnson (July 20, 1934 - February 22, 1984) was a German writer, editor, and scholar.

Johnson was born in Kammin (now Kamien Pomorski, Poland). At the end of World War II in 1945, he fled with his family to Mecklenburg; his father died in a Soviet internment camp (Fünfeichen). The family eventually settled in Güstrow, where he attended John-Brinckman-Oberschule 1948-1952. He went on to study German philology, first in Rostock (1952-54), then in Leipzig (1954-56). His Diplomarbeit (undergraduate thesis) was on Ernst Barlach. Due to his lack of political support for the Communist regime of East Germany, he was suspended from the University June 17, 1953, but was later reinstated.

Beginning in 1953, he worked on the novel Ingrid Babendererde, rejected by various publishing houses and unpublished during his lifetime.

In 1956, his mother left for West Berlin. As a result, he was not allowed to work a normal job in the East. Unemployed for political reasons, he translated Herman Melville's Israel Potter: His Fifty Years of Exile (the translation was published in 1961) and began to write the novel Mutmassungen über Jakob, again rejected by several publishing houses, before being published in 1959 by Suhrkamp in West Berlin. Johnson himself moved to the West at this time. There, he promptly became associated with Gruppe 47, which Hans Magnus Enzensberger once described as "the Central Café of a literature without a capital." [1] (

During the early 1960s, he continued to write and publish fiction, but supported himself largely as a translator, mainly of from English-language works, and as an editor. He travelled to America in 1961; the following year he was married, had a daughter, received a scholarship to Villa Massimo, Rome, and won the International Publishers' Formentor Prize.

1964 - for the Berliner Tagesspiegel, Reviews of GDR television programmes boycotted by the West German press (published under the title "Der 5. Kanal", "The Fifth Channel", 1987)

In 1965, he travelled again to America and edited Bertolt Brecht's Me-ti. Buch der Wendungen. Fragmente 1933-1956 (Me-ti: the Book of Changes. Fragments, 1933-1956). From 1966 through 1968 he worked in New York City as a textbook editor at Harcourt, Brace & World. During this time (in 1967 he began work on his masterwork, the Jahrestage and edited Das neue Fenster (The new window), a textbook of German-language readings for English-speaking students learning German.

On January 1, 1967 protestors from his own West Berlin apartment building founded Kommune 1. Johnson first learned about it by reading it in the newspaper. Returning to West Berlin in 1969, he became a member of the West German PEN Center and of the Akademie der Künste (Academy of the Arts). In 1970, he published the first volume of his masterwork, the Jahrestage (Anniversary). Two more volumes were to follow in the next three years, but the fourth volume would not appear until 1983.

Meanwhile, in 1972 he became Vice President of the Academy of the Arts and had a lectureship on Max Frisch's Tagebuch 1966-1971. In 1974, he moved to Sheerness-on-Sea on the English Channel Island of Sheppey; shortly after, he broke off work on Jahrestage due to partly to health problems and partly to writer's block.

This was not a completely unproductive period. He published some shorter works and continued to do some work as an editor. In 1977, he was admitted to the Darmstädter Akademie für Sprache und Dichtung (Darmstadt Academy for Speech and Writing); two years later he informally withdrew. In 1979 he gave a series of Lectures on poetics at the University of Frankfurt (published posthumously as Begleitumstände. Frankfurter Vorlesungen).

In 1983, the fourth volume of Jahrestage was published, but he broke off a reading tour due to health reasons. Johnson died February 22, 1984 in Sheerness-on-Sea in England. His body was not found until March 13 of the same year. At the time of his death, he had been planning a one-year stay in New York City.




  • Mutmassungen über Jakob (1959, Presumptions about Jakob)
  • Das dritte Buch über Achim (1961, The third book about Achim)
  • Translator of Herman Melville's Israel Potter: His Fifty Years of Exile (1961)
  • Translator of Das Nibelungenlied from Middle High German (1961)
  • Translator of John Knowles's A Separate Peace (1959) as In diesem Land (1963)
  • Karsch, und andere Prosa (1964, Karsch, and other prose)
  • Zwei Ansichten (1965 Two opinions)
  • Editor of Bertolt Brecht's Me-ti. Buch der Wendungen. Fragmente 1933-1956 (Me-ti: the Book of Changes. Fragments, 1933-1956) (1965)
  • Editor of Das neue Fenster, a textbook of German-language readings for foreign students (1967)
  • Editor of textbook for the documentary film "A Summer in the City" (1968?)
  • Jahrestage. Aus dem Leben von Gesine Cresspahl, Volume I (1970, further volumes 1971, 1973, 1983; Anniversary: from the life of Gesine Cresspahl)
  • Eine Reise nach Klagenfurt (1974, A trip to Klagenfurt)
  • Berliner Sachen, Aufsätze (1975, Berlin things, essays)
  • Editor of Max Frisch Stich-Worte (1975, Max Frisch Reference)
  • Editor (together with Hans Mayer) of Das Werk von Samuel Beckett. Berliner Colloquium (1975, The work of Samuel Beckett: Berlin Colloquium)
  • Von dem Fischer un syner Fru (Of the fisherman and his wife; the German-language title is in dialect): a fairy tale by Philipp Otto Runge with seven pictures by Marcus Behmer, and a retelling and afterword by Uwe Johnson (1976)
  • Editor of Verzweigungen. Eine Autobiographie by journalist Margret Boveri (1977, Branchings: an Autobiography)
  • "Ein Schiff" ("A Ship") in: Jürgen Habermas (Editor) Stichworte zur "Geistigen Situation der Zeit" (References on "The spiritual situation of the time", Volume 1000 from the publisher Suhrkamp (1979)
  • "Ein unergründliches Schiff" ("An unfathomable ship") in: Merkur 33 (1979)
  • Skizze eines Verunglückten (Sketch of an accident victim, 1982)
  • Begleitumstände. Frankfurter Vorlesungen (1986 -- posthumous; Attendant Circumstances: Frankfurt lectures)
  • Ingrid Babendererde. Reifeprüfung 1953 (1992 -- posthumous; Ingrid Babendererde: Final Exam 1953; the "Reifeprüfung" is an examination in German schools, taken at the end of a course of study, and which one must pass to graduate.)

External links


  • Raimund Fellinger (Editor): Über Uwe Johnson. Frankfurt/Main, 1992.
  • Rainer Gerlach and Matthias Richter (Editor): Uwe Johnson. Frankfurt/Main, 1984.
  • Grambow, Jürgen: Uwe Johnson. Reinbek bei Hamburg, Johnson

ja:ウーヴェ・ヨーンゾン no:Uwe Johnson


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