23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023

Günter Kunert

Günter Kunert was born in Berlin in 1929. As his mother was Jewish, he was not allowed to complete his education.  After the Nazi authorities rejected him as “unfit for military service”, he began a short-lived apprenticeship at a clothes shop. When the war was over, he commenced a course in Graphic Design at the Academy of Applied Arts in Berlin-Weißensee. Kunert financed his education by writing satirical poems and stories for the magazine “Ulenspiegel”. After five semesters he abandoned his studies to concentrate on his writing.  In 1950 Kunert’s first volume of poetry, ‘Wegschilder und Mauerinschriften’, appeared.  Johannes R. Becher, who subsequently became the East German Culture Minister, recognized the talent of the young author, a member of the Socialist Unity Party, and encouraged him. However, his acquaintance with Bertolt Brecht (around 1951/52) had a more marked affect on his creativity.

During the 1960s Kunert’s sceptical, pessimistic verse clashed increasingly with the cultural authorities’ prescriptions for wholesome literature. Meanwhile, the widely read author was awakening interest in West Germany. His only novel, ‘Im Namen der Hüte’, was published there in 1967.  Nine years passed before it was printed in the GDR. Kunert gained an international reputation and obtained permission to travel abroad. In 1972 he accepted a guest lectureship in Austin, Texas, and spent a year as ‘Writer in Residence’ in Warwick, U.K., in 1975.  After signing the writers’ protest against Wolf Biermann’s extradition in 1975, he was ejected from the Party.  In 1979 he acquired a several-year visa, which enabled him to move to West Germany.  Kunert and his wife settled in Schleswig-Holstein.  He is now a freelance writer and lives in Kaisborstel near Itzehoe. 
Kunert, a prolific author, maintains, “Writing is a kind of obsessional neurosis.” He has published around twenty books in the last five years.  His extensive catalogue of works testifies to his attempt to “renounce his pathological existence through writing.” It includes poems, short stories, fairytales, essays, photographic satires, travel journals and children’s literature. The author manages to look back on his life under two German dictatorial regimes without bitterness.  East Germany, at least, did have good points: “Arguments in the GDR were always ruthless and direct.  That keeps you on your toes, and I feel it helped my writing.”

Kunert’s memoires, published as ‘Erwachsenenspiele’ in 1997, are as laconic and concise as his poems.  Two years later the poetry collection ‘Nachtvorstellung’ was published to mark his 70th birthday.  This compilation of both free and rhyming verse expresses the experience which comes with age without a trace of weariness.  Reviewer Kurt Drawert explains, “On the coordinates of myth and modernity, longing and futility, history and guilt, the poems move with a beauty which is their actual structure, their whole essence.”  Kunert was President of the P.E.N. Centre of German Speaking Writers Abroad.

Günter Kunert died on 21th September 2019 in Kaisborstel.

© international literature festival berlin


Wegschilder und Mauerinschriften
Berlin, 1967
Im Namen der Hüte
München, 1967
Der andere Planet. Ansichten von Amerika
Berlin, 1974
München, 1980
Diesseits des Erinnerns
München, 1982
Berlin beizeiten
München, 1987
Fremd daheim
München, 1990
Im toten Winkel
München, Wien, 1992
Göttingen, 1991
Ill: Glyn Uzzell
Baum, Stein, Beton: Reisen zwischen Ober- und Unterwelt
München, Wien, 1994
Auf leisen Pfoten
Ellert & Richter
Hamburg, 1995
Mein Golem

München, Wien, 1996


Erwachsenenspiele. Erinnerungen

München, 1997
Nacht Vorstellung
München, 1999
Kopfzeichen vom Verratgeber
München, 2002
Vertrieben aus Eden
Berlin, 2002
So und nicht anders
München, 2002
Die Botschaft des Hotelzimmers an den Gast

München, 2004

Kunerts Antike
Freiburg i.B., 2004

Die Brüste der Pandora
München, 2004

Neandertaler Monologe
Neumarkt, 2004

Hier und jetzt und einmal
Berlin, 2004

Neumarkt, 2004

Ohne Botschaft
Springe, 2005

Katzen des Südens
München, 2005

In der Ferne
Witzwort, 2005

Irrtum ausgeschlossen. Geschichten zwischen gestern und morgen
München, 2006

Der alte Mann spricht mit seiner Seele
Göttingen, 2006

Josephine im Dunkeln
Leipzig, 2006

Vom Mythos alter Bäume
Ellert & Richter
Hamburg, 2006

angesichts dessen. Betrachtungen
Hamburg, 2006

Endgültig morgens um vier. Gedichte.
Edition Eichthal
Eckernförde 2007

Die wunderbaren Frauen. Erzählungen.
Quetsche Verlag für Buchkunst
Witzwort 2008.

Nächtlings abseits. Traumnotate.
Leipziger Bibliophilen-Abend e. V.
Leipzig 2008.

Kunerts Katzen. Gedichte, Reflexionen, Zeichnungen.
Berlin/Weimar 2012.

Fortgesetztes Vermächtnis. Gedichte.
Carl Hanser Verlag, München 2014.

Vertrackte Affären. Geschichten.
Carl Hanser Verlag
München 2016.

Aus meinem Schattenreich. Gedichte.
Carl Hanser Verlag, München 2018.

Die zweite Frau. Roman.
Wallstein Verlag
Göttingen 2019

Zu Gast im Labyrinth. Neue Gedichte.
Carl Hanser Verlag
München 2019