Reiner Kunze

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Reiner Kunze at a reading in Schorndorf (2012)

Reiner Kunze (* 16th August 1933 in . Oelsnitz / Erzgeb ) is a German writer , literary translator and DDR - Dissident .


Reiner Kunze is the son of a miner and a kettler . From 1947 he attended an advanced class that enabled working class children to attend a higher education. Two years later he was proposed by the principal of his school as a candidate for the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED). In 1951 he passed his Abitur in Stollberg .

In 1950 he met Ingeborg Weinhold in Stollberg, whom he married in 1954. The marriage ended in divorce in 1960.

Kunze studied philosophy and journalism at the Karl Marx University in Leipzig . After the state examination in 1955, he worked as a research assistant at the journalism faculty of the Karl Marx University (also known as the "Red Monastery") in Leipzig. After serious political disputes, Kunze resigned from the university in 1959 without completing his doctorate.

He published his first poems in 1953 in the magazine neue deutsche literature . At first Kunze oriented himself towards socialist realism , later he began to distance himself increasingly from the ideas of the SED. His first volume of poetry appeared under the title Birds over the Dew .

After leaving university, he temporarily worked as an assistant fitter in heavy engineering.

In 1961 he met the doctor Elisabeth Littnerová, who came from a German-Czech family, and after a long period of writing letters, he met personally. They married, and in 1962 Elisabeth Kunze moved from Czechoslovakia to the GDR, where she began to work as an orthodontist in Greiz / Thuringia . Reiner Kunze worked as a freelance writer in Greiz and in a farmhouse in Leiningen only 15 km away. Through his wife and during longer stays in Czechoslovakia, he came into contact with Czech artists, made friends among them and later translated works by over sixty Czech and Slovak poets to date. Many of them, including the poetically influential Jan Skácel , paved the way as a translator to become known in the German-speaking world. In 1968 Kunze resigned from the SED in protest against the crackdown on the Prague Spring by the Warsaw Pact troops . As a result, the State Security created a file on him under the code name “Lyrik”, which grew to many thousands of pages by the end of the GDR and documents the “disruptive measures” against him in the east and west.

Reiner Kunze in the Martinskirche in Memmingen for the award ceremony of the second Memminger Freedom Prize 1525 on March 20, 2009

The publication of the volume of poems Sensible Ways - Forty-eight Poems and a Cycle met resistance in the Politburo of the SED and in the GDR Writers' Association . It became increasingly difficult for Kunze to publish his works. His friend Heinz Knobloch was able to get him small orders for reviews in the weekly mail up until 1974 - not without personal risk . Reviews appeared there from 1969 to 1974 under the pseudonyms "Jan Kunz" and "Alexander Ludwig". When the children's book The Lion Leopold: Fast Fairy Tales, Fast Stories was published in the Federal Republic of Germany in 1970 , Kunze was subject to administrative penal proceedings, as was the case with the book Sensible Ways , and the author's copies were confiscated.

In 1976 his prose volume The Wonderful Years in the Federal Republic was published. In it he sharply criticized the GDR system. The manuscript had been secretly brought to the Federal Republic. Because of his dissenting attitude, Kunze was expelled from the GDR Writers' Association on October 29, 1976 in Weimar by decision of the Erfurt / Gera district association, which amounted to a professional ban. A GDR edition of the book Der Löwe Leopold , which was to appear in the same year, was not delivered, 15,000 copies ready for sale were crushed.

On April 7, 1977, Kunze applied for expatriation from the GDR because of the threat of several years in prison for himself and his wife. The application was approved within three days, and on April 13, Kunze and his relatives relocated to West Germany.

In 1978 he wrote the screenplay for the film The Wonderful Years . In 1981 he published his first volume of poetry after moving to the west of Germany, On Your Own Hope .

In 1990, Kunze was one of the first victims to see his Stasi files . He published excerpts from the documents, which comprised twelve files with a total of around 3,500 sheets, in the documentation “Cover name poetry”. The documents showed that a family friend, Ibrahim Böhme , later chairman of the GDR SPD, was a long-time unofficial employee of the Ministry for State Security . The documentation fueled the discussion about the question of whether the Stasi files should be accessible.

Reiner Kunze is a critic of the 1996 spelling reform . On the basis of the Frankfurt Declaration on the Spelling Reform of 1996, he signed the Frankfurt Appeal for the Spelling Reform in 2004 . So he turned in many individual contributions ( Lit .: inter alia FAZ) and in his memorandum The Aura of Words against the spelling reform. Reiner Kunze also appeared publicly against "language genderism". In this regard, Kunze is quoted as follows in the "Passauer Neue Presse": "Language genderism is an aggressive ideology that is directed against the German language culture and the world literary heritage that has emerged from this culture."

He lives as a freelance writer in Erlau , Obernzell near Passau .


Signature of Reiner Kunze in 1986

Reiner Kunze is a member of the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts , the German Academy for Language and Poetry , the Free Academy of the Arts Rhein-Neckar and the Saxon Academy of the Arts , the PEN center for German-speaking authors abroad . From 1975 to 1993 he was a member of the Akademie der Künste (Berlin) , from which he and many colleagues left in protest against the en bloc takeover of the members of the East Berlin Academy of the Arts. Kunze is an honorary member of the Collegium Europaeum Jenense of the Friedrich Schiller University Jena , the Saxon Literature Council, the Free German Association of Authors , the Hungarian Writers' Association, the Czech PEN Center and the New Fruit Bringing Society in Köthen / Anhalt - Association for the Maintenance of the German Language .

Awards and honors

Elisabeth and Reiner Kunze in May 2017 in Oelsnitz in the Ore Mountains

In his honor, Kunze's hometown of Oelsnitz donated a Reiner Kunze Prize , which was awarded for the first time in 2007.

Works (selection)

  • The future is at the table. Poems. Together with Egon Günther , Mitteldeutscher Verlag , Halle (Saale) 1955.
  • Birds over the dew. Love poems and songs . Mitteldeutscher Verlag, Halle (Saale) 1959.
  • Questions of lyric creation . VEB Verlag Language and Literature, Halle an der Saale 1960. ( Contributions to contemporary literature , issue 18.)
  • But the nightingale cheers: Cheerful texts , Mitteldeutscher Verlag, Halle (Saale) 1962.
  • Dedications. Poems. Hohwacht Verlag, Bad Godesberg 1963.
  • The good morals. Feature sections . Together with Heinz Knobloch . Mitteldeutscher Verlag, Halle (Saale) 1964.
  • Sensitive ways . Poems. 1969.
  • The lion Leopold. Almost fairy tales, almost stories . 1970.
  • Room volume . Poems. 1972.
  • Letter with a blue seal . Poems. Philipp Reclam jun., Leipzig 1973.
  • The wonderful years . Prose. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1976, ISBN 3-10-042003-9 . Fischer paperback 1978, ISBN 3-596-22074-2 . ( No. 1 on the Spiegel bestseller list from May 2 to August 24, 1977 )
  • on your own hope . Poems. 1981.
  • Wound clover . Translations of poems by Jan Skácel . 1982.
  • from: twenty-one variations on the theme of “die post” . With woodcuts by Alfred Pohl . Hauzenberg 1983.
  • conversation with the blackbird. Anthology: early poems, sensitive paths, room volume . 1984.
  • life of each one . Poems. 1986, including the poem Pleading Thought at Your Feet .
  • The white poem . Essays. 1989.
  • Code name "Poetry". A documentation . Fischer-Taschenbuch-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1990.
  • Where sleep goes to sleep. Poems for children . 1991.
  • On the sunny slope. Diary of a year . S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1993, ISBN 3-10-042014-4 . (autobiographical prose)
  • Where there is freedom ... Conversations 1977–1993 . S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1994, ISBN 3-10-042015-2 .
  • Stones and songs. Namibian notes and photos . 1996.
  • a day on this earth . Poems. 1998.
  • The intellectuals as a danger to humanity or the power and impotence of literature . Conversation between Günter Kunert and Reiner Kunze. Landesbank SH art foundation, Kiel 1999. (without ISBN)
  • The kiss of the koi . Prose and photos. 2002.
  • The aura of words. Memorandum on the spelling reform . Radius, Stuttgart 2004. (New edition with interim balance. 1st edition 2002.) ISBN 3-87173-303-2
  • Where we have the salt at home. Re-seals . 2003.
  • The poets' roads . Conversation about Peter Huchel and poetry with Mireille Gansel. 2004.
  • All that remains is your own forehead . Selected speeches. Radius, Stuttgart 2005.
  • linden night . Poems. - 2007.
  • Man in the word. Three poems for children and thirty answers to questions from Jürgen P. Wallmann . Edition Toni Pongratz 100, Hauzenberg 2008.
  • The language that the language speaks . Speech. Edition Toni Pongratz 103. Hauzenberg 2009.
  • 20th Century Poetry: My 24 Saxon Poets , Ed. Gerhard Pötzsch , 2 CDs, Militzke Verlag Leipzig 2009, ISBN 9783861899358
  • What is the bee doing at sea? Poems for children with pictures by Horst Sauerbruch. Fischer Schatzinsel, S. Fischer, 2011
  • When there is another turning point. Be a writer in Germany . Lecture. Edition Toni Pongratz 110, Hauzenberg 2011.
  • The wonderful years , reading with Winfried Glatzeder , director: Petra Meyenburg , 115 min., Mp3-CD, MDR 2003 / Der Audio Verlag 2015
  • When a turning point comes again ... Reiner Kunze on entering old age. Dedicated poems from 50 years, Ed. Benedikt Maria Trappen with woodcuts by Heinz Stein , private print, Gelsenkirchen 2012
  • “Make art (literature) as good as possible, Brigitte, that's our task” , letters to Brigitte Reimann , in: Neue Rundschau 2017/4, Frankfurt, ISBN 978-3-10-809112-5 .
  • the lesson with yourself . Poems. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2018, ISBN 978-3-10-397376-1 .

Photo solo exhibitions and a. in Berlin, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt a. M., Gotha, Judenburg, Landshut, Obernzell, Offenburg, Passau a. Wurzburg.

Reiner Kunze's poetry and prose have been published in other European and non-European countries (including Argentina, Brazil, Japan, Korea and the USA), translations into 30 languages ​​in over 60 individual editions.

Foundation and planned museum

In 2006 the Kunze couple established a foundation into which they contributed their assets. After the deaths of Elisabeth and Reiner Kunze, a board of trustees made up of literary scholars and exhibition organizers will convert the house into a museum that will help future generations to understand Germany's recent history. Letters, film clips, photos, confiscation notices, Stasi documents and much more from Kunze's personal possession will be included in the collection and, as a whole, will paint a “picture of German-German life”.


  • Niels Beintker: On sensitive paths, Reiner Kunze's poetic measurements of the Danube valley. BR 2nd first broadcast on July 3, 2010.
  • Reiner Kunze - the fate of a German poet. A film by Leonore Brandt, MDR 2008.
  • Young-Ae Chon: in song however - in the globalized world. On the Korea poems by Reiner Kunze. In: New Rundschau. 120th year 2009, issue 3.
  • Christian Eger: Bohemian Villages. Seven Variations on the Poet Reiner Kunze and No Life Without Trauma. A conversation with Reiner Kunze. Special print from the hearing, No. 210/2003.
  • Christian Eger: civility of the heart. In: palm tree. 17th year, 2009, 2nd issue.
  • The writer Reiner Kunze. A film by Siegrid Esslinger. BR 1994.
  • Heiner Feldkamp: poetry as dialogue. Basic lines in Reiner Kunze's work. Roderer, Regensburg 1994, ISBN 3-89073-740-4 (= theory and research. Literary studies. 25. Theory and research. 308.)
  • Philipp W. Hildmann : Home in the portable fatherland. Attempt via Reiner Kunze. In: Home and Foreign. Presence in withdrawal. Festschrift for Hanna-Barbara Gerl-Falkovitz. Verlag Text & Dialog, Dresden 2015. pp. 355–364.
  • Herlinde Koelbl : Reiner Kunze. In: Im writing at home. How writers go about their work. Photographs and conversations. Knesebeck, Munich 1998, pp. 42–47, ISBN 3-89660-041-9 (photo documentation that portrays the author at his workplace and in his personal environment and in an interview both the basis of his vocation and the framework conditions and individual approach in the creation of his Represents works.)
  • Roman Kopřiva: Elective relatives: Reiner Kunze and Jan Skácel. In: Germans and Czechs. History - culture - politics. Edited by Walter Kosglich, Marek Nekula, Joachim Rogall. Verlag CH Beck, Munich 2001, ISBN 3-406-45954-4 , pp. 678-691.
  • Roman Kopřiva: At the limit of what can be translated. Inside and outside in some Skácel redesigns by Reiner Kunze. In: Studia minora facultatis philosophicae Universitatis Brunensis R 7, 2002. pp. 119-137. -Bibliographical information and full text of the study
  • Roman Kopřiva: What does the poet give us? Laudation for Reiner Kunze on the occasion of the award of the art prize for German-Czech understanding 2002. In: Stifter Jahrbuch. New series 17. Adalbert Stifter Verein, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-9808097-3-0 . Pp. 22-28.
  • Roman Kopřiva: Internationalism of the Poets. Insights into Reiner Kunzes and Jan Skácel's literary interrelationships. With some references to world literature. Thelem / web Universitätsverlag & Buchhandel /, Dresden 2013, ISBN 978-3-942411-90-5 (= work on modern German literature, 29.)
  • Edwin Kratschmer , Ulrich Zwiener (Ed.): The blue comma. On Reiner Kunze's life and work. Thuringian publishing house and database for the humanities Dr. Bettina Preiss, Weimar 2003, ISBN 3-89739-361-1 (= cultural studies series / Collegium Europaeum Jenense. 4.)
  • Michael Maier , Janko Ferk (ed.): The geography of people. Conversations with Reiner Kunze u. a. Edition Atelier, Vienna 1993.
  • Udo Scheer : Reiner Kunze. Be a poet. A German-German freedom , a biography. Mitteldeutscher Verlag, Halle 2013, ISBN 978-3-95462-075-3 .
  • Axel Stefek: 1976. Reiner Kunze's expulsion from the Writers' Union . In: Ders .: Weimar unadjusted. Resistant behavior 1950–1989. Weimar 2014, pp. 61–68.
  • Volker Strebel: Reiner Kunze's reception of Czech literature. Verlag Die Blaue Eule, Essen 2000, ISBN 3-89206-942-5 (= literary studies in the Blue Owl. 25.)
  • Benedikt Maria Trappen : The word sewn inside. The deep logic of the humanities. Reiner Kunze on his eightieth birthday. In: José Sánchez de Murillo (Ed.): UP 10 (Education - what is it?). Stuttgart 2013, ISBN 978-3-17-022974-7 , pp. 200-210.
  • Jürgen P. Wallmann (Ed.): Reiner Kunze. Materials and documents. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1977, ISBN 3-10-042004-7 .
  • Rudolf Wolff (Ed.): Reiner Kunze. Work and effect. Bouvier, Bonn 1983, ISBN 3-416-01722-6 . (= Collection of profiles. 2.)
  • Marek Zybura (Ed.): Hang on to life with the word ... Reiner Kunze on his 65th birthday. Winter, Heidelberg 1998, ISBN 3-8253-0775-1 . (= Contributions to modern literary history. F. 3,162.)
  • Matthias Buth , Günter Kunert : Poets do not tolerate dictators next to them. The wonderful years. From Germany to Germany. A reading book for Reiner Kunze's 80th birthday. Verlag Ralf Liebe, Weilerswist 2013, ISBN 978-3-944566-05-4 .

Web links

Commons : Reiner Kunze  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Notes and individual references

  1. Axel Stefek: 1976. Reiner Kunze's exclusion from the Writers' Union. In: Ders .: Weimar unadjusted. Resistant behavior 1950–1989. Weimar 2014, pp. 61–68.
  2. The Stasi Records Act was only passed in December 1991.
  3. Matthias Biskupek : Winners and horrors of history. Code name "Poetry". A documentation by Reiner Kunze . In: Eulenspiegel. Weekly magazine for satire and humor . Volume 38, No. 9/91, p. 21.
  4. Poet Reiner Kunze: "Language genderism is an aggressive ideology" Article in the "Passauer Neue Presse", online version from June 9, 2018.
  5. ( Page no longer available , search in web archives: Saxon Order of Merit for Pirna's ex- Mayor Hans-Peter Bohrig . ), March 2, 2012@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /
  6. Reiner Kunze: Prague Spring and Summer Miracles - Portrait on the occasion of the award ceremony [1]
  7. Süddeutsche Zeitung of June 3, 2014, features section, message
  8. [2] , Awards: Writer Reiner Kunze receives Hohenschönhausen Prize in Focus from September 30, 2014
  10. Reiner Kunze receives the 11th Scheidegger Peace Prize website of the Allgäuer Zeitung. Retrieved February 23, 2020
  11. Reiner Kunze Prize 2007 - 2017 (Ed.): City of Oelsnitz / Erzgeb., Oelsnitz / Erzgeb. 2017, ISBN 978-3-9818849-0-6
  12. a b c Sabine Reithmaier: Jasmine tea, a lion and strong words. Memories of "The Wonderful Years": Reiner Kunze and his wife Elisabeth, both 81 years old, are converting their house near Passau into a museum. For future generations they document the story of a lifelong struggle with the writer's weapons for freedom and justice. In: Süddeutsche Zeitung , No. 37, 14./15. February 2015, ISSN  0174-4917 , p. R22.