German language winners of the Literature Nobel Prize

Herta Müller in 2011

Herta Müller, recipient of the 2009 Nobel Prize for Literature

German language authors from a range of European countries have produced a huge number of important works throughout the centuries. Since first being awarded in 1901, the prestigous Nobel Literature Prize has been awarded to a a range of German language authors. From Theodor Mommsen to Herta Müller, here is an overview over those presented with the famous award for their German language works.

1902: Theodor Mommsen (1817–1903)

Theodor Mommsen Enlarge image Theodor Mommsen (© picture-alliance/ dpa) Born to German parents in Garding in the Duchy of Schleswig in 1817, Theodor Mommsen was a German classical scholar. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1902 for being "the greatest living master of the art of historical writing, with special reference to his monumental work, A History of Rome. This body of work was published in three volumes in 1854, 1855, and 1856 and examines Roman history until the end of the Roman republic.

1908: Rudolf Eucken (1846–1926)

Rudolf Eucken Enlarge image Rudolf Eucken (© picture-alliance/ dpa) Rudolf Eucken was born in 1846 in Aurich, then in the Kingdom of Hanover. The German philosopher received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1908 "in recognition of his earnest search for truth, his penetrating power of thought, his wide range of vision, and the warmth and strength in presentation with which in his numerous works he has vindicated and developed an idealistic philosophy of life".

1910: Paul Heyse (1830–1914)

Paul von Heyse Enlarge image Paul von Heyse (© picture-alliance/ dpa) Born the son of a professor of philology in Berlin in 1830, Paul von Heyse was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1910 "as a tribute to the consummate artistry, permeated with idealism, which he has demonstrated during his long productive career as a lyric poet, dramatist, novelist and writer of world-renowned short stories". The German poet made the acquaintance of various famous German philosophers and writers during his studies in Berlin and Bonnand and was active in the German Revolution of 1848.

1912: Gerhart Hauptmann (1862–1946)

Gerhart Hauptmann Enlarge image Gerhart Hauptmann (© picture-alliance/ dpa) German novelist and dramatist Gerhart Hauptmann is one of the most famous representatives of literary naturalism. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1912 "primarily in recognition of his fruitful, varied and outstanding production in the realm of dramatic art". Originally a sculptor, Hauptmann focused on writing after moving to Berlin. His most important work is the sociocritical drama The Weavers, initially completed in Silesian dialect and which was briefly prohibited after its first performance.

1919: Carl Spitteler (1845–1924)

Carl Spitteler Enlarge image Carl Spitteler (© Picture Alliance) The Swiss poet Carl Spitteler was born in 1845 in Liestal. He worked as a teacher in various countries and published his first work Prometheus and Epimetheus under the pseudonym Feliz Tandem, which means Finally Happy. He was suggested for the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1914 but the outbreak of World War I prevented the award ceremony. In 1919, he was awarded the Nobel Prize, in particular for his epic Olympian Spring which deals with human concerns for the universe in combination with fantastical, religious and mythological elements.

1929: Thomas Mann (1875–1955)

1929 - Thomas Mann Enlarge image "Principally for his great novel, Buddenbrooks, which has won steadily increased recognition as one of the classic works of contemporary literature" Thomas Mann became the fifth German to be awarded the Nobel Prize in 1929. (© picture-alliance/ dpa) Thomas Mann was born in 1875 in Lübeck. After publishing various essays and short novels he worked as an editor for the satirical magazine Simplicissimus. One of his most famous and critically acclaimed works, Buddenbrooks (published in 1901), earned him the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1929. Mann emigrated to the US in 1933, where he taught at Princeton University before being extrodited to Switzerland for being a communist.

1946: Hermann Hesse (1877–1962)

Hermann Hesse Enlarge image Hermann Hesse (© Picture Alliance) German writer Hermann Hesse is also famous for his paintings. He was born in 1877 in the small German town of Calw and later emigrated to a small town in Switzerland where he wrote his most famous books, Siddharta (1922) and Steppenwolf (1927). During World War II he openly opposed the Nazi-Regime and was a first contact for many emigrating artists. Hesse received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1946 "for his inspired writings which, while growing in boldness and penetration, exemplify the classical humanitarian ideals and high qualities of style".

1966: Nelly Sachs (1891–1970)

Nelly Sachs Enlarge image Nelly Sachs (© Picture Alliance) Writer and poet Nelly Sachs, was born in Berlin in 1891 and moved to Sweden with her mother in 1940, later receiving Swedish citizenship. Exploring her own Jewish roots and the political events of the 1930s, she started writing poems early on. In 1966 she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature "for her outstanding lyrical and dramatic writing, which interprets Israel's destiny with touching strength". Her writings about the horrors of the Holocaust are considered one of its best testimonies.

1972: Heinrich Böll (1917–1985)

Heinrich Böll Enlarge image Heinrich Böll (© picture-alliance/ dpa) One of the most famous and most read post-war writers in Germany, Heinrich Böll started publishing his first works after 1945 and joined a conference of the Gruppe 47, a famous group of post-war writers in Germany, in 1951. In 1972 Böll was the first German author to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature in 43 years (Nelly Sachs was regarded as Swedish) "for his writing which through its combination of a broad perspective on his time and a sensitive skill in characterisation has contributed to a renewal of German literature".

1999: Günter Grass (1927–2015)

Günter Grass Enlarge image Günter Grass (© picture-alliance/ dpa) Born in 1927 in Gdańsk, Günter Grass started writing in the late 1950s, drawing on his war and post-war experiences. Grass, "whose frolicsome black fables portray the forgotten face of history" published his most famous novel The Tin Drum in 1959 and was presented with the Nobel Prize in Literature forty years later.

2004: Elfriede Jelinek (*1946)

Elfriede Jelinek Enlarge image Elfriede Jelinek (© picture-alliance/ dpa) Elfriede Jelinek was born in 1946 in Austria and started writing while living in complete isolation. Her work is filled with sarcastic rage against social and political problems in Austrian society. Elfriede Jelinek was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2004 "for her musical flow of voices and counter-voices in novels and plays that with extraordinary linguistic zeal reveal the absurdity of society's clichés and their subjugating power".

2009: Herta Müller (*1953)

Herta Müller Enlarge image Herta Müller (© picture-alliance/ dpa) German author Herta Müller was born in 1953 in Nitzkydorf, Romania and moved to Germany in 1987. She has worked as a professor in Germany, Switzerland, England and the United States. In her work, she has criticised intellectual cowardice. Herta Müller, "who, with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed", received the Nobel Peace Prize in Literature in 2009.  

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