22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Ulla Hahn

Portrait Ulla Hahn
© Hartwig Klappert

contemporary poets writing in German. Apart from over ten collections of poems she has also published three novels since the nineties and has recently brought out a collection of essays. In her first collection of poems, »Herz über Kopf« (1981; t: Heart over head), she takes up traditional forms which she subjects to ironic alienation and then takes further. In the later collections, such as »So offen die Welt« (2004; t: So open the world), modern forms of speech are included and mirrored playfully. Poems about love and nature, as well as poetic investigations of the self and political issues, the Nazi period in particular, are the focus of her collections. The role of the Wehrmacht in Russia is also a theme in her most recent novel, »Unscharfe Bilder« (2003; t: Blurry Pictures). The experience of the war is set against the completely different experiences of the next generation in haunting daughter-father dialogues.

Through her second novel, »Das verborgene Wort« (2001; t: The hidden word), Hahn also established herself as an epic writer. This wide-ranging, autobiographically inspired novel tells the story of young Hildegard Palm, who grows up in the fifties in a family of labourers in a Rhineland village. In order to free herself from her poor and intellectually simple surroundings, the protagonist embarks on a »flight into the mind« and discovers her love of words and literature. Yet, her parents lack any understanding of their daughter’s intellectual emancipation, as she suddenly starts speaking cultured German and develops a passion for Friedrich Schiller. She is reprimanded for reading books and is kept away from school. Hahn offers a precise and expressive description of the postwar Catholic-Rhine milieu. A commitment to dialect lends the novel a naturalistic flow.

The author has made use of other genres for the first time in her latest work: »Liebesarten« (2006; t: Forms of love) that brings together thirteen tales of love in various guises, from selfless devotion and vain self-love to passion, happiness and desperation. Ulla Hahn has been awarded many prizes, including the Leonce and Lena Prize, the Hölderlin Prize, the German Book Prize and the Elisabeth Langgässer Prize for Literature. She lives in Hamburg with her husband, the former mayor of Hamburg, Klaus von Dohnanyi.

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