The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary German Writers of all time. This list of famous German Writers is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of German Writers.
With an HPI of 91.73, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is the most famous German Writer. His biography has been translated into 176 different languages on wikipedia.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (28 August 1749 – 22 March 1832) was a German poet, playwright, novelist, scientist, statesman, theatre director, and critic. His works include plays, poetry, literary, and aesthetic criticism, and treatises on botany, anatomy, and colour. He is considered to be the greatest German literary figure of the modern era.Goethe took up residence in Weimar in November 1775 following the success of his first novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774). He was ennobled by the Duke of Saxe-Weimar, Karl August, in 1782. He was an early participant in the Sturm und Drang literary movement. During his first ten years in Weimar, Goethe became a member of the Duke's privy council, sat on the war and highway commissions, oversaw the reopening of silver mines in nearby Ilmenau, and implemented a series of administrative reforms at the University of Jena. He also contributed to the planning of Weimar's botanical park and the rebuilding of its Ducal Palace.Goethe's first major scientific work, the Metamorphosis of Plants, was published after he returned from a 1788 tour of Italy. In 1791 he was made managing director of the theatre at Weimar, and in 1794 he began a friendship with the dramatist, historian, and philosopher Friedrich Schiller, whose plays he premiered until Schiller's death in 1805. During this period Goethe published his second novel, Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship; the verse epic Hermann and Dorothea, and, in 1808, the first part of his most celebrated drama, Faust. His conversations and various shared undertakings throughout the 1790s with Schiller, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Johann Gottfried Herder, Alexander von Humboldt, Wilhelm von Humboldt, and August and Friedrich Schlegel have come to be collectively termed Weimar Classicism. The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer named Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship one of the four greatest novels ever written, while the American philosopher and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson selected Goethe as one of six "representative men" in his work of the same name (along with Plato, Emanuel Swedenborg, Montaigne, Napoleon, and Shakespeare). Goethe's comments and observations form the basis of several biographical works, notably Johann Peter Eckermann's Conversations with Goethe (1836).
With an HPI of 86.37, Anne Frank is the 2nd most famous German Writer. Her biography has been translated into 114 different languages.
Annelies Marie "Anne" Frank (German pronunciation: [ˈanəˌliːs maˈʁiː ˈʔanə ˈfʁaŋk] (listen), Dutch: [ˈɑnəˌlis maːˈri ˈʔɑnə ˈfrɑŋk]; 12 June 1929 – February or March 1945) was a German-Dutch diarist of Jewish heritage. One of the most discussed Jewish victims of the Holocaust, she gained fame posthumously with the 1947 publication of The Diary of a Young Girl (originally Het Achterhuis in Dutch; English: The Secret Annex), in which she documents her life in hiding from 1942 to 1944, during the German occupation of the Netherlands in World War II. It is one of the world's best-known books and has been the basis for several plays and films. Born in Frankfurt, Germany, she lived most of her life in or near Amsterdam, Netherlands, having moved there with her family at the age of four and a half when the Nazis gained control over Germany. Born a German national, she lost her citizenship in 1941 and thus became stateless. By May 1940, the Franks were trapped in Amsterdam by the German occupation of the Netherlands. As persecutions of the Jewish population increased in July 1942, the Franks went into hiding in some concealed rooms behind a bookcase in the building where Anne's father, Otto Frank, worked. From then until the family's arrest by the Gestapo in August 1944, she kept a diary she had received as a birthday present, and wrote in it regularly. Following their arrest, the Franks were transported to concentration camps. In October or November 1944, Anne and her sister, Margot, were transferred from Auschwitz to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where they died (probably of typhus) a few months later. They were originally estimated by the Red Cross to have died in March, with Dutch authorities setting 31 March as their official date of death, but research by the Anne Frank House in 2015 suggests it is more likely that they died in February.Otto, the only survivor of the Frank family, returned to Amsterdam after the war to find that her diary had been saved by his secretary, Miep Gies, and his efforts led to its publication in 1947. It was translated from its original Dutch version and first published in English in 1952 as The Diary of a Young Girl, and has since been translated into over 70 languages.
With an HPI of 86.00, Thomas Mann is the 3rd most famous German Writer. His biography has been translated into 111 different languages.
Paul Thomas Mann (UK: MAN, US: MAHN; German pronunciation: [ˈtoːmas ˈman] (listen); 6 June 1875 – 12 August 1955) was a German novelist, short story writer, social critic, philanthropist, essayist, and the 1929 Nobel Prize in Literature laureate. His highly symbolic and ironic epic novels and novellas are noted for their insight into the psychology of the artist and the intellectual. His analysis and critique of the European and German soul used modernized versions of German and Biblical stories, as well as the ideas of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Arthur Schopenhauer. Mann was a member of the Hanseatic Mann family and portrayed his family and class in his first novel, Buddenbrooks. His older brother was the radical writer Heinrich Mann and three of Mann's six children, Erika Mann, Klaus Mann and Golo Mann, also became significant German writers. When Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, Mann fled to Switzerland. When World War II broke out in 1939, he moved to the United States, then returned to Switzerland in 1952. Mann is one of the best-known exponents of the so-called Exilliteratur, German literature written in exile by those who opposed the Hitler regime.
With an HPI of 85.91, Hermann Hesse is the 4th most famous German Writer. His biography has been translated into 106 different languages.
Hermann Karl Hesse (German: [ˈhɛʁman ˈhɛsə] (listen); 2 July 1877 – 9 August 1962) was a German-Swiss poet, novelist, and painter. His best-known works include Demian, Steppenwolf, Siddhartha, and The Glass Bead Game, each of which explores an individual's search for authenticity, self-knowledge and spirituality. In 1946, he received the Nobel Prize in Literature.
With an HPI of 85.35, Friedrich Schiller is the 5th most famous German Writer. His biography has been translated into 108 different languages.
Johann Christoph Friedrich (von) Schiller (German: [ˈjoːhan ˈkʁɪstɔf ˈfʁiːdʁɪç fɔn ˈʃɪlɐ], short: [ˈfʁiːdʁɪç ˈʃɪlɐ] (listen); 10 November 1759 – 9 May 1805) was a German playwright, poet, and philosopher. During the last seventeen years of his life (1788–1805), Schiller developed a productive, if complicated, friendship with the already famous and influential Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. They frequently discussed issues concerning aesthetics, and Schiller encouraged Goethe to finish works he left as sketches. This relationship and these discussions led to a period now referred to as Weimar Classicism. They also worked together on Xenien, a collection of short satirical poems in which both Schiller and Goethe challenge opponents of their philosophical vision.
With an HPI of 85.13, Bertolt Brecht is the 6th most famous German Writer. His biography has been translated into 100 different languages.
Eugen Berthold Friedrich Brecht (10 February 1898 – 14 August 1956), known professionally as Bertolt Brecht, was a German theatre practitioner, playwright, and poet. Coming of age during the Weimar Republic, he had his first successes as a playwright in Munich and moved to Berlin in 1924, where he wrote The Threepenny Opera with Kurt Weill and began a lifelong collaboration with the composer Hanns Eisler. Immersed in Marxist thought during this period, he wrote didactic Lehrstücke and became a leading theoretician of epic theatre (which he later preferred to call "dialectical theatre") and the so-called V-effect. During the Nazi period, Bertolt Brecht lived in exile, first in Scandinavia, and during World War II in the United States, where he was surveilled by the FBI. After the war he was subpoenaed by the House Un-American Activities Committee. Returning to East Berlin after the war, he established the theatre company Berliner Ensemble with his wife and long-time collaborator, actress Helene Weigel.
With an HPI of 82.87, Charles Bukowski is the 7th most famous German Writer. His biography has been translated into 67 different languages.
Henry Charles Bukowski ( boo-KOW-skee; born Heinrich Karl Bukowski, German: [ˈhaɪnʁɪç ˈkaʁl buˈkɔfski]; August 16, 1920 – March 9, 1994) was a German–American poet, novelist, and short story writer. His writing was influenced by the social, cultural, and economic ambience of his home city of Los Angeles. His work addresses the ordinary lives of poor Americans, the act of writing, alcohol, relationships with women, and the drudgery of work. Bukowski wrote thousands of poems, hundreds of short stories and six novels, eventually publishing over 60 books. The FBI kept a file on him as a result of his column Notes of a Dirty Old Man in the LA underground newspaper Open City.Bukowski published extensively in small literary magazines and with small presses beginning in the early 1940s and continuing on through the early 1990s. As noted by one reviewer, "Bukowski continued to be, thanks to his antics and deliberate clownish performances, the king of the underground and the epitome of the littles in the ensuing decades, stressing his loyalty to those small press editors who had first championed his work and consolidating his presence in new ventures such as the New York Quarterly, Chiron Review, or Slipstream." Some of these works include his Poems Written Before Jumping Out of an 8 Story Window, published by his friend and fellow poet Charles Potts, and better known works such as Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame. These poems and stories were later republished by John Martin's Black Sparrow Press (now HarperCollins/Ecco Press) as collected volumes of his work. In 1986 Time called Bukowski a "laureate of American lowlife". Regarding Bukowski's enduring popular appeal, Adam Kirsch of The New Yorker wrote, "the secret of Bukowski's appeal ... [is that] he combines the confessional poet's promise of intimacy with the larger-than-life aplomb of a pulp-fiction hero."Since his death in 1994, Bukowski has been the subject of a number of critical articles and books about both his life and writings, despite his work having received relatively little attention from academic critics in the United States during his lifetime. In contrast, Bukowski enjoyed extraordinary fame in Europe, especially in Germany, the place of his birth.
With an HPI of 82.87, Heinrich Heine is the 8th most famous German Writer. His biography has been translated into 89 different languages.
Christian Johann Heinrich Heine (German: [ˈhaɪnʁɪç ˈhaɪnə] (listen); born Harry Heine; 13 December 1797 – 17 February 1856) was a German poet, writer and literary critic. He is best known outside Germany for his early lyric poetry, which was set to music in the form of lieder (art songs) by composers such as Robert Schumann and Franz Schubert. Heine's later verse and prose are distinguished by their satirical wit and irony. He is considered part of the Young Germany movement. His radical political views led to many of his works being banned by German authorities—which, however, only added to his fame. He spent the last 25 years of his life as an expatriate in Paris.
With an HPI of 82.62, Erich Maria Remarque is the 9th most famous German Writer. His biography has been translated into 89 different languages.
Erich Maria Remarque (born Erich Paul Remark; German: [ˈeːʁɪç maˈʁiːa ʁeˈmaʁk] (listen); 22 June 1898 – 25 September 1970) was a German novelist. His landmark novel All Quiet on the Western Front (1928), about the German military experience of World War I, was an international best-seller which created a new literary genre, and was subsequently adapted into a film of the same name in 1930.
With an HPI of 81.11, Heinrich Böll is the 10th most famous German Writer. His biography has been translated into 92 different languages.
Heinrich Theodor Böll (German: [ˈhaɪnʁɪç ˈteːodoːɐ̯ ˈbœl] (listen); 21 December 1917 – 16 July 1985) was one of Germany's foremost post-World War II writers. He was awarded the Georg Büchner Prize in 1967 and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1972.
Pantheon has 307 people classified as writers born between 405 and 1979. Of these 307, 44 (14.33%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living writers include Eckhart Tolle, Patrick Süskind, and Bernhard Schlink. The most famous deceased writers include Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Anne Frank, and Thomas Mann. As of October 2020, 56 new writers have been added to Pantheon including Elvira Madigan, Hanns Heinz Ewers, and August von Platen-Hallermünde.
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Which Writers were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 25 most globally memorable Writers since 1700.