Authors: Martin Walser

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

German playwright and novelist

Author Works


Der Abstecher, pr., pb. 1961 (The Detour, 1963)

Eiche und Angora, pr., pb. 1962 (The Rabbit Race, 1963)

Überlebensgross Herr Krott: Requiem für einen Unsterblichen, pr. 1963

Der schwarze Schwan, pr., pb. 1964

Die Zimmerschlacht, pr., pb. 1967 (Home Front, 1971)

Wir werden schon noch handeln, pr. 1968 as Der schwarze Flügel, pb. 1968

Ein Kinderspiel, pb. 1970, pr. 1972

Aus dem Wortschatz unserer Kämpfe, pb. 1971

Ein reizender Abend, pr. 1971

Das Sauspiel: Szenen aus dem 16. Jahrhundert, pr., pb. 1975

In Goethes Hand: Szenen aus dem 19. Jahrhundert, pr., pb. 1982

Die Ohrfeige, pr. 1984

Ein fliehendes Pferd, pr., pb. 1985 (adaptation of his novel)

Das Sofa, pb. 1992

Kaschmir in Parching, pb. 1995

Long Fiction:

Ehen in Philippsburg, 1957 (The Gadarene Club, 1960; also known as Marriage in Philippsburg)

Halbzeit, 1960

Das Einhorn, 1966 (The Unicorn, 1971)

Die Gallistl’sche Krankheit, 1972

Der Sturz, 1973

Jenseits der Liebe, 1976 (Beyond All Love, 1982)

Ein fliehendes Pferd, 1978 (Runaway Horse, 1980)

Seelenarbeit, 1979 (The Inner Man, 1984)

Das Schwanenhaus, 1980 (The Swan Villa, 1982)

Brief an Lord Liszt, 1982 (Letter to Lord Liszt, 1985)

Brandung, 1985 (Breakers, 1987)

Dorle und Wolf, 1987 (No Man’s Land, 1989)

Jagd, 1988

Die Verteidigung der Kindheit, 1991

Ohne Einander, 1993

Finks Kreig, 1996

Ein springender Brunnen, 1998

Der Lebenslauf der Liebe, 2001

Tod eines Kritikers, 2002

Short Fiction:

Ein Flugzeug über dem Haus und andere Geschichten, 1955

Liebegeschichten, 1964

Selected Stories, 1982

Gesammelte Geschichten, 1983

Messmers Gedanken, 1985

Fingerübungen eines Mörders: 12 Geschichten, 1994


Beschreibung einer Form: Versuch über Franz Kafka, 1961

Erfahrungen und Leseerfahrungen, 1965

Heimatkunde, 1968

Wie und wovon handelt Literatur, 1973

Wer ist ein Schriftsteller?, 1979

Selbstbewusstsein und Ironie, 1981

Liebeserklärungen, 1983

Variationen eines Würgegriffs: Bericht über Trinidad und Tobago, 1985 (travel)

Heilige Brocken, 1986

Über Deutschland reden, 1988

Vormittag eines Schriftstellers, 1994

Ansichten, Einsichten: Aufsätze zur Zeitgeschichte, 1997

Deutsche Sorgen, 1997

Erfahrungen beim Verfassen einer Sonntagsrede: Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels 1998, 1998

Ich vertraue– Querfeldein, 2000


Werke in zw ölf B änden, 1997 (12 volumes)


Martin Walser (VAHL-sur) is certainly to be ranked among the most prominent West German writers since 1945. Born in the picturesque Bodensee area of southern Germany, Walser was the child of innkeepers. He attended a local school during the Nazi era and graduated from secondary school in 1946. He went to several German universities and completed his studies in 1951 with a dissertation on Franz Kafka. While still a student, he worked for a number of years with a southern German radio and television station, and he married in 1950. Walser won the prestigious prize of the “Gruppe 47” organization of German writers in 1955 and has since been an independent and prolific author. He has taught as a guest professor at a number of universities in the United States and in England, and he has been the recipient of numerous prizes for literature.{$I[AN]9810000773}{$I[A]Walser, Martin}{$I[geo]GERMANY;Walser, Martin}{$I[tim]1927;Walser, Martin}

Walser’s initial efforts at writing were deeply influenced by his early reading of Kafka’s works, in which he identified with the profound and pervasive sense of isolation, and much of his writing during the 1950’s represents an attempt to come to terms with the literary and psychological influence of the Prague writer. Gradually Walser began to realize the crucial role played by social and economic factors in determining the individual’s sense of self and the quality of interaction with others. Although Walser’s works still touch upon existential themes such as aging, love and sexuality, and death, these “socialist” themes came to predominate in his writings as of the 1960’s.

Walser’s first novel, The Gadarene Club, suggests his efforts at emancipation from the influence of Kafka and his adoption of a critical stance toward German society. Written in a complex series of internal monologues, the novel focuses on several characters and their lives in the upper-middle-class social circles of a fictitious southern German city of Philippsburg. Walser levels a sharp and ironic critique of the shallow and egocentric social, sexual, and political machinations of his characters in a societal system that promotes the psychological estrangement of its members. The novels Halbzeit (halftime), The Unicorn, and Der Sturz (the fall) form a loose trilogy of texts that examine the character Anselm Kristlein and continue Walser’s critical probing of the falsity and self-deception of middle-class German society from the economic boom period after the war until the beginning of the 1970’s. Texts such as Die Gallistl’sche Krankheit (the Gallistl illness), the story of Josef Gallistl’s rejection of his upper-middle-class life and his adoption of socialist values, continue these themes. Other works, among them Runaway Horse and Breakers, examine love and marriage, sexuality and aging, and issues of male identity in modern industrial society.

In his plays, too, Walser provides an often ironic portrait of character types–from capitalists in Überlebensgross Herr Krott (larger-than-life Mr. Krott) and former Nazi doctors in Der schwarze Schwan (the black swan) to authoritarian bourgeois families in Ein Kinderspiel (a child’s game)–of modern German society and they evidence, to a degree, the influence of Bertolt Brecht’s satiric-didactic dramatic techniques and Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s grotesque parodies. The play Die Ohrfeige (the slap) depicts the situation of the unemployed, their anger and helplessness as well as their fundamental lack of comprehension of the industrial system that determines their lives.

Walser’s writings, much like those of Heinrich Böll, present a critical vision of German society in the postwar period and as such they spring from a deeply humanistic and utopian sense of a kind of social organization that could be. His critique of modern capitalist societies and the kinds of personality distortion such societal structures produce in the individual suggest a romantic longing for a feeling of authentic community in which mutual cooperation (and not ruthless competition), self-respect, and love of others (and not neurotic self-doubt and veiled aggression) regulate human interaction. As a critic of modern social consciousness, Walser gives the reader a sadly accurate but nevertheless optimistic view of his contemporary situation.

BibliographyFetz, Gerald A. “Martin Walser, Germany, and the ‘German Question.’” In Leseerfahrungen mit Martin Walser, edited by Heike Doane and Gertrud Bauer Pickar. Munich: Fink, 1995. An examination of Walser and his attitude toward Germany.Fetz, Gerald A. “Martin Walser’s Sauspiel and the Contemporary German History Play.” Comparative Drama 12, no. 3 (1978): 249-265. A look at Walser’s Das Sauspiel and other German history plays.Kovach, Thomas A. The Burden of the Past: Martin Walser on Modern Germany Identity–Texts, Contexts, Commentary. Elizabethtown, N.Y.: Camden House, 2008. Here Kovach translates several of Walser’s speeches and puts into perspective the public’s reaction to them. He takes a look at the support and opposition that arose from them and discusses the ways in which Germany tries to move past the Holocaust while still remembering their country’s history. Includes interesting commentaries, easy to read translations, and a useful bibliography.Oswald, Franz. The Political Psychology of the White-Collar Worker in Martin Walser’s Novels. New York: P. Lang, 1998. Discusses the differing critical and reader receptions of Walser’s fiction between 1957 and 1978 in West Germany, East Germany, and the United States.Pilipp, Frank. The Novels of Martin Walser: A Critical Introduction. New York: Camden House, 1991. A comprehensive study of Walser’s output in all genres between 1976 and 1988.Pilipp, Frank, ed. New Critical Perspectives on Martin Walser. Columbia, S.C.: Camden House, 1994. An examination of contemporary critiques of Walser’s works. Bibliography and index.Schlunk, Jürgen E., and Armand E. Singer, eds. Martin Walser: International Perspectives. New York: Peter Lang, 1987. A collection of papers presented at the International Martin Walser Symposium at the West Virginia University in April, 1985. Bibliographies.Taberner, Stuart. Distorted Reflections: The Public and Private Uses of the Author. Atlanta: Rodopi, 1998. A study of the way in which political engagement serves as a subtext in the novels of Uwe Johnson, Günter Grass, and Walser.Waine, Anthony Edward. Martin Walser: The Development as Dramatist, 1950-1970. Bonn: Bouvier, 1978. Waine traces Walser’s development as a playwright until 1970. Bibliography and index.
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