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This article is taken from PN Review 12, Volume 6 Number 4, March - April 1980.

Gottfried Benn (Part III) Walter Michel

 
(This concludes a three-part study of Gottfried Benn, the first and second parts having appeared in PNR 6 and PNR 11 respectively. Translations are by the writer. When poems are quoted in part the total number of stanzas is indicated. Most of Benn's poems are rhymed. Where the lack of rhyme in the translation seemed particularly disturbing the critical word is given in parentheses. In one case, the need of an additional syllable in the translation is indicated by -. Accents, inversions and locutions are not in the original, but are makeshifts of the translation, used to achieve something of the rhyme, rhythm or wording of the original.)


In 1936, good writing not directly challenging the state could still squeeze through the as yet imperfectly developed Nazi censorship machinery. In that year Gottfried Benn's publishers prepared a new edition of his poetry, to appear on his 50th birthday. Putting caution aside, Benn included Expressionist poems from Morgue, which provoked an attack ("drastic Schweinerei", "moronic") from offended petit- bourgeois sensibilities. This appeared in the notorious Nazi tabloid Das Schwarze Korps which, as anyone who saw it will hardly be able to forget, was, together with the anti-semitic Der Stürmer, on exhibit in display cases all over Germany. The book had to be withdrawn, but permission was given to republish it "quietly and without propaganda" if the offending matter were removed. The revised volume included sixteen new poems written in Hanover in 1935-6. Here is ...


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