A poet of reunified Germany, Durs Grünbein was born in Dresden, lives with his family in eastern Berlin, and works in a room he rents in western Berlin. He has published numerous collections of poetry and essays in German, including most recently Zündkerzen (2017). Grünbein has also translated a variety of authors, including John Ashbery, Samuel Beckett, Henri Michaux, and the classic texts Aeschylus’s The Persians and Seneca’s Thyestes.
Grünbein’s poetry is witty, wry, perceptive, and influenced by a broad range of literary texts while it presents the disillusionment of having grown up in East Germany and explores Germany’s new identity in post-Cold War Europe. Critic Helen Vendler, writing in the New Republic, commented on the “sardonic humor, the savagery, the violent candor—all expressed in lines of cool formal elegance.” Philip Ottermann, in The Independent, noted Grünbein’s range: “Grünbein loves to jump from one register to another—one moment he is the street poet of Berlin, the next … all marble and ancient philosophy.” One poem, “Vita Brevis,” begins with a statement of despair: “In a rotten nutshell, I grew up amid the barrenness and confusion.”
His poems have been translated into English by Michael Hofmann and published in Ashes for Breakfast: Selected Poems (2005). He received the Georg Büchner Prize in 1995, the 2000 Salzburg Easter Festival Literature Prize, and the 2004 Friedrich Nietzsche Literature Prize of the federal state of Sachsen-Anhalt Literature Prize.