Authors: Gottfried Keller

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Swiss novelist and short-story writer

Author Works

Long Fiction:

Der grüne Heinrich, 1854-1855, 1879-1880 (Green Henry, 1960)

Die Leute von Seldwyla, 1856-1874 (2 volumes; novellas; partial translation The People of Seldwyla and Seven Legends, 1929)

Züricher Novellen, 1878 (novellas; partial translation The Banner of the Upright Seven and Ursula, 1974)

Das Sinngedicht, 1882 (novellas)

Martin Salander, 1886 (English translation, 1964)

The Misused Love Letters, 1974 (novellas)

Short Fiction:

Sieben Legenden, 1872 (Seven Legends, 1911)

Nachgelassene Erzählungen, 1946

Stories, 1982 (Frank G. Ryder, editor)


Gedichte, 1846

Neuere Gedichte, 1851


Autobiographien, 1947

Gesammelte Briefe, 1950-1954


Sämtliche Werke, 1926-1948 (22 volumes)


Gottfried Keller, born in Zurich in 1819, is the outstanding Swiss writer of poetic realism. His father died when he was young, and he was first apprenticed to a landscape painter. However, as a result of his interest in politics he published some verses in 1846 which made possible a brief period of formal study at Heidelberg.{$I[AN]9810000122}{$I[A]Keller, Gottfried}{$I[geo]SWITZERLAND;Keller, Gottfried}{$I[tim]1819;Keller, Gottfried}

An abortive attempt at writing drama resulted in his turning to the novel and novella. Written in German, his novellas are still considered the best in that language. The People of Seldwyla, for example, is a collection of tales about an imaginary town in Switzerland, which describes accurately the people, customs, emotions, and tragedies typical of Swiss life. His first novel is an autobiographical work resembling Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister (1795) in its philosophical overtones. In his later novellas dealing with Zurich life Keller turned to patriotic motifs with religious overtones.

In all his writing Keller was a spokesman of democracy; he maintained an easy tolerance, a belief in the good in human nature, and a kindly humor. Although tolerant, he was not without strong convictions. In Martin Salander, an unfinished novel, Keller struck out at shallowness and political intrigue while affirming his faith in the stability and soundness of Swiss democracy. His style, in fiction and poetry, is simple, colorful, sincere, and heartwarming in its humanitarianism. He is considered the most beloved writer of Switzerland. He died in Zurich on July 15, 1890.

BibliographyBernd, Clifford A. German Poetic Realism. Boston: Twayne, 1981. Part of the World Authors series, this study looks at Keller in the context of nineteenth century German realism.Buckley, Thomas. Nature, Science, Realism: A Re-examination of Programmatic Realism and the Works of Adalbert Stifter and Gottfried Keller. New York: P. Lang, 1995. Considers the role of science in Keller’s literary realism.Flood, John L., and Martin Swales, eds. Gottfried Keller, 1819-1890: London Symposium, 1990. Stuttgart, Germany: Heinz, 1991. Contains eight excellent English articles, albeit with German quotations.Hart, Gail K. “Gottfried Keller.” In Nineteenth Century German Writers, 1841-1900, edited by James Hardin and Siegfried Mews. Detroit: Gale Research, 1993. A good overview of Gottfried Keller’s life and works.Holub, Robert C. Reflections of Realism. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1991. Using a Freudian approach, Holub writes a thought-provoking analysis of Keller’s novella “Romeo and Juliet in the Village.”Lindsay, J. M. Gottfried Keller: Life and Works. Chester Springs, Pa.: Dufour, 1969. A detailed exposition.Ruppel, Richard R. Gottfried Keller and His Critics: A Case Study in Scholarly Criticism. Columbia, S.C.: Camden House, 1998. A study of Keller’s critical reception.Swales, Erika. The Poetics of Scepticism: Gottfried Keller and “Die Leute von Seldwyla.” Providence, R.I.: Berg, 1994. Focuses on the undercurrents and tensions that reveal Keller’s engagement with the social and psychological aspects of his time.
Categories: Authors