Gottfried Benn

Gotfried Benn was WriterDoc


Gottfried Benn (2 May 1886 – 7 July 1956) was a German poet and essayist.


Gottfried Benn began his literary career as a poet when he published a booklet titled Morgue and other Poems in 1912, containing expressionist poems dealing with physical decay of flesh, with blood, cancer, and death — for example No III — „Cycle:

Der einsame Backzahn einer Dirne, / die unbekannt verstorben war, / trug eine Goldplombe. / Die übrigen waren wie auf stille Verabredung / ausgegangen. / Den schlug der Leichendiener sich heraus, / versetzte ihn und ging für tanzen. / Denn, sagte er, / nur Erde solle zur Erde werden.

The lonesome molar of a love-maid, / who had died unknown, / wore a gold filling. / As if by silent agreement the leftovers / had gone out. / The mortician knocked out the filling, / pawned it and went dancing for. / Because, he said, / only earth should return to earth.

Poems like this “were received by critics and public with shock, dismay, even revulsion.”[6] In 1913 a second volume of poems came out, titled Sons. New Poems.[7]


Benn’s poetry projects an introverted nihilism, that is, an existentialist outlook that views artistic expression as the only purposeful action. In his early poems Benn used his medical experience, often using medical terminology, to portray humanity morbidly as just another species of disease-ridden animal.[8]

During the 1920s he had a close relationship with Jewish poet Else Lasker-Schüler who addressed love poems to him. This bond to her is the subject of the film Mein Herz-niemandem (1997) by Helma Sanders-Brahms.

During World War II, Benn was posted to garrisons in eastern Germany where he wrote poems and essays. After the war, his work was banned by the Allies because of his initial support for Hitler. In 1951 he was awarded the Georg Büchner Prize. He died of cancer in West Berlin in 1956, and was buried in Waldfriedhof Dahlem, Berlin.

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