Hermann Burger

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Hermann Burger (born July 10, 1942 in Menziken ; † February 28, 1989 in Brunegg ; resident in Burg AG ) was a Swiss writer , journalist and Germanist .


Hermann Burger spent his childhood in a middle-class house in Menziken. The father was an insurance inspector and sculptor, the mother a home economics teacher. He had two younger siblings. Artistic talents showed up early on, in addition to writing, painting and drawing, also in the musical field; as a teenager, Burger played three instruments in a jazz combo . After graduating from the old canton school in Aarau , he studied architecture (for four semesters), then German and art history at the University of Zurich . After receiving his doctorate in 1973 with Emil Staiger (with a dissertation on Paul Celan ) and his habilitation (with a study on contemporary Swiss literature), he worked from 1975 as a private lecturer in German literature at the ETH Zurich and as a feature editor for the Aargauer Tagblatt . Since 1987 he has been a member of the German Academy for Language and Poetry .

Burger married the lawyer Anne Marie Carrel in 1967 and had two sons with her, Hermann (* 1975) and Matthias (* 1976). In 1989 he died from an overdose of medication at his residence in the porter's house at Brunegg Castle .

Literary work

Hermann Burger was interested in the outsiders of society, whom he appreciates as loners . Burger shared this fate with his characters - be it as a musically highly talented and at the same time very sensitive child who suffered from his mother relationship, which was perceived as extremely cold, or as a writer suffering from severe depression , for whom writing was a life-sustaining process.

Already in his prose debut Bork , the author gave voices to the most varied of marginalized existences - albeit still in very traditional diction. Bork, from the eponymous story, is a speechless outsider, so here, from the perspective of a first-person narrator, a ward called "Bork" is reported, whose name is supposed to testify to its direct descent from a poplar. The situation is different, however, with the central character from the prose play Der Büücherarr . Even though the somewhat different fool - whose fate is not to be taught by the books, but to be eaten by them in the literal sense - only occasionally communicates his fate verbatim to the actual first-person narrator of this short prose himself, this character already has Language, of course not just about one and certainly not about your own. The book lover threatens to drown in languages ​​that have been archived in printer-black letters in order to archive experiences, insights and views of the world of the always other. As an early figure, unlike those polyhistorically educated owls who will follow, he has a strategy against the murderous book attack on his body and soul: he sleeps over them with the “dead” knowledge they have acquired. One can say that in this figure of the unhappy and at the same time incredibly educated book madman, the many verbose failing loners from Hermann Burger's later virtuoso-artistic prose are mapped out.

Burger's literary work - primarily prose - was characterized by extremely conscientious research. In order to be able to write the story Diabelli , he took the magical oath, whereby he was particularly fascinated by the fact that he should describe the tricks of the magician Diabelli in a credible manner without breaking the oath. On the linguistic level, Burger was no less professional. In order to develop his style, he copied entire passages of literary works (such as by Thomas Mann ) at a young age and filled the sentences that were unchanged in terms of the sentence scheme with his own content.

The characters in his novels and stories try to present their life situation - mostly that of a sick person - in a linguistically virtuoso way, in love with the details of the content. The addressee is very often a higher authority, for example the "Inspector's Conference " in his 1976 debut novel Schilten : The village school teacher had to report to the conference about the lessons and the progress of the schoolchildren, but always spoke with enormous expertise of the cult of the dead, cemeteries and abdications . The intellectual models for this novel are Franz Kafka and Thomas Bernhard . Burger consciously mixes reality and fiction, and in the course of his work it becomes increasingly clear that he is essentially writing about himself, about his own suffering.

With Schilten , the author discovers or in the gradual execution of his own texts through several versions, the letter scheme as the central structure, which allows the failure to be communicated to the individual protagonists in an incredibly rich language. The teacher Schildknecht from this novel opens, as it were, a long series of voiceless people gifted with languages ​​so rich in effects and as richly colorful as fireworks. These letter writers, who write letters to recipients who may not even exist in angular, angular and very long sentences and never actually get an answer - and are so "cursed" for a monologue - have names like Diabelli, alias Graziani, alias, for example Mondelli, who claims of himself in the magician's story named after him, that he lost himself through all kinds of tricks, or Ambros Umberer, who uses a number of Bible quotations to write to a «General World Councilor President» - in the story The Shot on the Pulpit , The title already alludes to the great writer from Switzerland who wrote the novella The Shot from the Pulpit . The fate of these characters, which their author happily did not share - although he may not have been aware of this - can best be described with the title of a smaller contribution by Hermann Burger. Schildknecht is already "the man who consists only of words".

Of course, he writes in a way about himself and his own suffering, composing puzzles from sentences that make people feel insecure, precisely because fiction and factuality are amalgamated here. Hermann Burger also always provided his writing with reflections on the writing. In the volume of essays The Gradual Production of the Idea in Writing , which emerged from the poetics lecture that Hermann Burger gave at the University of Frankfurt am Main , there is not only the above statement that the young author tried to copy styles like the painters and therefore tried to fill entire pages like a grass , a man, etc. There, Burger also reports on his technique, which was at times highly amusing, of combining what really existed and invented, which was reproduced in the gesture of what actually existed, in such a way that it was no longer easily distinguishable is. It is precisely this technique that always turns Burger's prose into experiments in the philosophy of language and language play, which often doubt that one can really adequately reflect, even write, about one's own suffering. Because the language of the other is always already there when the individual steps on the scene to conquer his own language. It was no coincidence that when he gave the title of his poetics lecture, Burger once again alluded to a great writer - this time to Kleist and his contribution On the Gradual Manufacture of Thoughts While Talking . Since Hermann Burger's estate - including his first novel, Lokalbericht (1970) , which was unpublished during his lifetime - is archived in the Swiss Literary Archives (SLA) in Bern, it is now possible to research how the author researched and how he occasionally helped reality a little so that it can be put at the service of his fiction.

The novel The Artificial Mother , published in 1982, was dedicated to his wife and its first edition was dedicated to “For Anne Marie”. In 1988 there was a change from long-time publisher S. Fischer to Suhrkamp Verlag .

Burger's last work, the novel Brenner , shows a protagonist wrapped in cigar smoke - Burger was not only a descendant of cigar producers, but also a passionate cigar smoker - reminisces about life. The first volume has 25 chapters, corresponding to the number of cigars in a box. Each chapter bears the brand name of a particular cigar. In the second chapter, the author's imminent suicide is unmistakably announced: The red Ferrari is being bought because “saving, stinging, hamstering” no longer makes sense for a man whose time will almost certainly run out. Burger's divorce and his grief over breaking contact with his two children are also clearly discussed. His last landlord was the emeritus historian Jean Rudolf von Salis (= "Jérôme von Castelmur-Bondo" in Brenner ). The last months of his life and a résumé of his 46-year-old life are described in this novel with great attention to detail and with (encrypted) names of all the important people in his life.

In the Tractatus logico-suicidalis , also published in 1988 (still by S. Fischer) - based on Ludwig Wittgenstein's well-known Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus - he wrote 1046 aphorisms about the sentence: Death is given, please find out the cause of life.

His early sponsor, the literary critic Marcel Reich-Ranicki , wrote in an obituary a few days after his death on March 3, 1989: “Hermann Burger was an artist who always went all out, who never spared himself. He was a person with a great longing for happiness. German literature has lost one of its most original language artists. "

Regarding his writing style, Reich-Ranicki wrote: "Oscillating between a sometimes hyperthrophic eloquence and a sometimes terrifying speechlessness, he articulated his attitude towards life".

For Hermann Burger himself, writing was primarily a "form of existence" and not just an "activity", as he mentions in the last, appropriately titled chapter of his poetics lecture, writing as a form of existence . The question, which his prose never ceases to pose, remains: whose form of existence is writing? Is it that of the author, that of his (individual and / or collective) unconscious, of humanity or, in the end, the form of existence of writing, of the book? In Bork there is a story with the meaningful title The Readers on the Sturgeon , which once again deals with the powerlessness of the individual and the power of the book archives in a humorous way. There a professional reader comes to the customers' homes and reads for them Hölderlin , Schiller , Novalis and of course Goethe . The trained profile reader needs three hours for his Wilhelm Meister . The aim, however, as it is said on the last page, "is that the books read each other themselves. It is literature that is constantly producing new literature, it should also consume it » .



Single issues

  • Smoke signals. Poems. Artemis, Zurich 1967.
  • Bork. Prose pieces. Artemis, Zurich 1970.
  • Paul Celan. In search of the lost language. Dissertation. Artemis, Zurich 1974.
  • Shields. School report for the attention of the inspectors' conference. Artemis, Zurich 1976.
  • Diabelli. Stories. (Collection S. Fischer, Volume 9). S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1979, ISBN 3-596-22309-1 .
  • Kirchberg idylls. Poems. (Collection S. Fischer, Volume 14). S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1980, ISBN 3-596-22314-8 .
  • Small world in colorful pictures. Naive painting by Elisabeth Hostettler and texts by Hermann Burger. AT Verlag, Aarau-Stuttgart 1982, ISBN 3-85502-153-8 .
  • The artificial mother. Novel. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1982.
  • A man made of words. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1983, ISBN 3-596-22334-2 .
  • Typefaces of nature. Color photographs by Eckhard Hennig, texts by Hermann Burger. AT Verlag, Aarau-Stuttgart 1985, ISBN 3-85502-243-7 .
  • The gradual creation of the idea while writing. Frankfurt poetics lecture. (Collection S. Fischer, Volume 48). S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1986, ISBN 3-596-22348-2 .
  • Blankenburg. Stories. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1986.
  • As an author on the sturgeon. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1987.
  • The shot at the pulpit. A story. Ammann, Zurich 1988, ISBN 3-250-10102-8 .
  • Tractatus logico-suicidalis. About suicide. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1988, ISBN 3-10-009618-5 .
  • The puck. Stories (afterword by Adolf Muschg ). Reclam, Stuttgart 1989, ISBN 3-15-008580-2 .
  • Brenner (laid out in four volumes):
    • First volume: Brunsleben. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1989, ISBN 3-518-40157-2 .
    • Second volume: Menzenmang . Chapters 1–7 (= fragment from the estate ). Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1992, ISBN 3-518-40477-6 .
  • The laughing artist. Edited from the estate by Magnus Wieland and Simon Zumsteg . Edition Voldemeer, Vienna 2009, ISBN 978-3-211-95983-1 .
  • Local report. Edited from the estate by Simon Zumsteg. Edition Voldemeer, Zurich, 2016, ISBN 978-3-11-048187-7 .

Work edition


in chronological ascending order

  • Uli Däster et al .: Scene as a motif. Materials for Hermann Burger's novel «Schilten». Artemis, Zurich 1977, ISBN 3-7608-0449-7 .
  • Gerda Zeltner : The I without guarantee. Contemporary authors from Switzerland. (Essays on EY Meyer , Erica Pedretti , Otto F. Walter , Max Frisch , Gerhard Meier and Hermann Burger). Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1980, ISBN 3-518-04743-4 .
  • Benita Cantieni : Swiss writer personally. Interviews. Huber, Frauenfeld / Stuttgart 1983, ISBN 3-7193-0883-9 , pp. 96-110.
  • Monika Großpietsch: Between the arena and the dead field. Art and loss of self in the life and work of Hermann Burger. Königshausen and Neumann, Würzburg 1994, ISBN 3-88479-879-0 ( dissertation Uni Mainz 1993).
  • Claudia Storz : Burger's childhoods. An approach to Hermann Burger. Nagel & Kimche, Zurich 1996, ISBN 3-312-00216-8 .
  • Christian Schön: Hermann Burger: Writing as Therapy. A study of life and work. Ibidem, Stuttgart 1997, ISBN 3-932602-01-3 .
  • Andreas Urs Sommer : Literature and Redemption. A foray through Hermann Burger's literary work. In: Swiss Monthly Issues for Politics, Economy and Culture , Volume 78, Issue 10, October 1998, p. 31ff, ISSN  0036-7400 ( online ).
  • Markus Kleinert: Suicide discourse with Jean Améry and Hermann Burger. On Jean Améry's “hand to yourself” and Hermann Burger's “Tractatus logico-suicidalis”. Ibidem, Stuttgart 2000, ISBN 3-89821-002-2 .
  • Marie-Luise Wünsche: Letter collages and deconstructions. «Grus» - Hermann Burger's artistic writing technique. Aisthesis, Bielefeld 2000, ISBN 3-89528-266-9 .
  • Patrick Heller: Brenner. In: Patrick Heller: «I am the one who writes it». Shaped indirectness in five novels of German Switzerland 1988–1993. Peter Lang, Bern 2002, ISBN 3-906768-65-1 ( dissertation Uni Basel 1996/97).
  • Gerrit Bartels: Smoked down. Hermann Burger's unfinished novel “Brenner”. In: Martin Mittelmeier (Hrsg.): Unwritten works. Luchterhand, Munich 2006, ISBN 978-3-630-62110-4 , pp. 166-185
  • Simon Zumsteg: Enrollment systems 1836/1980. Allegories of writing by Eduard Mörike and Hermann Burger. In: Deutsche Vierteljahrsschrift für Literaturwissenschaft und Geistesgeschichte , No. 80, 2006, pp. 486–513, ISSN  0012-0936 .
  • Franziska Kolp (Ed.): Hermann Burger. In: Quarto . Journal of the Swiss Literary Archives (SLA), Issue 23 (January 2007), ISSN  1023-6341
  • Erika Hammer: “Making the silence ring”. Language crisis and poetological reflections with Hermann Burger (= Poetica series , volume 95). Kovač, Hamburg 2007, ISBN 3-8300-3043-6 . (Dissertation University of Pécs , Hungary, 2005.)
  • Markus Bundi, Klaus Isele (eds.): Salü, Hermann. In memoriam Hermann Burger. Edition Isele, Eggingen 2009, ISBN 978-3-86142-459-8 .
  • Magnus Wieland, Simon Zumsteg (eds.): Hermann Burger - on the twentieth anniversary of his death. Edition Voldemeer, Zurich 2010, ISBN 978-3-7091-0049-3 .
  • Simon Zumsteg: ‹poeta contra doctus›. The perverse poetology of the writer Hermann Burger. Edition Voldemeer, Zurich 2011, ISBN 978-3-7091-0165-0 .
  • Magnus Wieland, Simon Zumsteg: Hermann Burger's “Local Report”. From archive fiction to archive edition. In: Germanistik in der Schweiz , No. 9 (2012), pp. 91–109, ISBN 978-3-033-03520-1 .
  • Simon Aeberhard: Hermann Burgers suicidal poetology. On the performance of testamentary speech acts. In: Günter Blamberger, Sebastian Groth (ed.): Economy of the victim. Literature under the sign of suicide. Fink, Paderborn 2013, pp. 275-296, ISBN 978-3-770-55611-3 .
  • Simon Aeberhard: The artificial mother tongue. Hermann Burger's dialectical etymogles. In: Simon Aeberhard, Caspar Battegay, Stefanie Leuenberger ( eds. ): DialÄktik. Swiss-German literature between dialect and standard language. Chronos, Zurich 2014, pp. 155–175, ISBN 978-3-034-01193-8 .
  • Anja Gerigk: Raumwende (n) in the novel. Hermann Burger's “Schilten” as an intermedia critique of the spatial turn. In: Robert Krause, Evi Zemanek (eds.): Text architectures. The architecture of literature. de Gruyter, Berlin / Boston 2014, ISBN 978-3-110-30762-7 , pp. 237-251.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Pino Dietiker, Swiss National Library: The omnitalent Hermann Burger. Retrieved August 29, 2019 .
  2. Biographical note at sla-foerderverein.ch, accessed on August 12, 2019.
  3. Book review in the show 52 best books on Swiss radio on the occasion of the new edition on the 25th anniversary of Burger's death (March 9, 2014) .
  4. Marcel Reich-Ranicki: My history of German literature. From the Middle Ages to the present. Deutsche Verlags Anstalt, Munich 2014, p. 509.