History of Literature

German literature



Georg Heym

Georg Heym (30 October 1887– 16 January 1912) was a German writer. He is particularly known for his poetry, representative of early Expressionism


Heym was born in Hirschberg, Lower Silesia in 1887 to Hermann and Jenny Heym. Throughout his short life, he was constantly in conflict with social conventions. His parents, members of the Wilhemine middle class, had trouble comprehending their son's rebellious behavior. Heym's own attitude towards his parents was paradoxical; on the one hand he held a deep affection for them, but on the other he strongly resisted any attempts to suppress his individuality and autonomy.

In 1900 the Heyms moved to Berlin, and there Georg began unsuccessfully attending a series of different schools. Eventually, he arrived at the Friedrich-Wilhelms-Gymnasium at Neuruppin in Brandenburg. He was very unsatisfied, and as a way to achieve some release he began writing poetry. After he graduated and went to study law at Würzburg, he started writing plays as well. However, publishers largely ignored his work.

In 1910 Heym met the poet and writer Simon Guttmann, who invited Heym to join the recently founded Neue Club, a descendant of a student society at the University of Berlin. Other members of the Club included Kurt Hiller, Jakob van Hoddis, and Erwin Loewenson (also known as Golo Gangi). Often visiting were Else Lasker-Schüler, Gottfried Benn, and Karl Kraus. Although the Club had no actual stated objective, its members all shared a sense of rebellion against contemporary culture and possessed a desire for political and aesthetic upheaval. The Club held "Neopathetisches Cabaret" meetings in which members presented work, and it was here that Heym first gained notice. His poetry immediately attracted praise. In January 1911, Ernst Rowohlt published Heym's first book and the only one to appear in his lifetime: Der ewige Tag.

Heym later went through several judicial jobs, none of which he held for long due to his lack of respect for authority. On 16 January 1912, Heym and his friend Ernst Balcke went on a skating trip to the frozen Havel. They never returned. A few days later their bodies were found. Appearances indicated that Balcke had fallen through the ice and Heym had attempted to save him but fell in as well. Heym remained alive for half an hour, calling out for help. His cries were heard by some nearby forestry workers, but they were unable to reach him.



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