“Every story I write starts with a dilemma or a theme. Once I am convinced that this is the issue that is perturbing my thoughts, I start to look for characters capable of representing it.” – Siegfried Lenz
A native of the East Prussian region of Germany, Lenz was born on this date in 1926 and grew up during the war years, ultimately becoming a writer of novels, short stories and essays as well as dramas for radio and the theatre.
An “internationalist” and strong peace advocate, he started writing for the German newspaper Die Welt before focusing on his creative writing as part of a writers group that encouraged democracy, free expression and confrontation with Germany’s Nazi past.
Lenz’s most well-known and acclaimed novel, The German Lesson, is a remarkable reflection on that era. A late 1960s international best seller, it moved him to the forefront of German postwar writers and was translated into several other languages.
Lenz insisted that memories and the past be accepted and honestly recounted, no matter how disgraceful they might be. A meticulous writer who agonized over each word, he once noted, “I read what I write over and over and make corrections and improvements, until I reach the conclusion that the material deserves to stand on its own.” Lenz died in 2014.
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