Durs Grünbein was born in 1962 in Dresden. In 1985, he moved to East Berlin, where he began studying theater. He soon decided to become a writer, and began teaching himself quantum physics and neurology. He also studied philosophy, including the work of Ludwig Wittgenstein, the Frankfurt School, and the French Structuralists. Grünbein was involved in various journals, publishing, and exhibition projects in collaboration with painters, photographers, and performance artists. He met Heiner Müller in 1986, who introduced him to Siegfried Unseld.
In 1988, Grünbein’s first collection of poems »Grauzone morgens« (tr: Grey Zone in the Morning) was published by Suhrkamp Verlag. The poems, written between 1985 and 1988, are sober snapshots conveying an authentic impression of life in the urban centers of the GDR. In 1991, he published the acclaimed collection »Schädelbasislektion« (tr: Subcranial Lesson). The poem cycle focuses on the period before, during, and after the fall of the Berlin Wall. His clarity of vision, polished diction, and cerebral motifs dissect the place of thought. In »Falten und Fallen« (1994, tr: Wrinkles and Traps), Grünbein further explores the poetic notion of analytical lyricism as the bridge between language and the body: »Ideally, a poem encourages thought in a series of physiological short circuits. Each expression comes immediately after a build-up of energy, and vice versa. The energy creates what can be described as a complex »body«; an inadequate description, because it delves much deeper under the skin.« In his later poetry collections, he continued to engage in formal and thematic dialogues with the great thinkers and poets of world literature. For example, »Vom Schnee« (2003, tr: From the Snow) is a portrait of the philosopher René Descartes; it takes the form of an epic poem consisting of 24 tightly composed chapters. »Aroma – Ein römisches Zeichenbuch« (2009; tr: Aroma: A Book of Roman Sketches), a kaleidoscope of poems and prose images, was written during his residency at the Villa Massimo in Rome. Grünbein’s latest poetry collection, »Koloß im Nebel« (2012; tr: Colossus in the Fog) brings together works from previous years. »Die Jahre im Zoo« (2015; tr: The Years in the Zoo) is a collection of autobiographical prose pieces, poems, reflections, and images from Grünbein’s collection. The 83 poems of the volume »Zündkerzen« (2017; tr: Spark Plugs) take various forms – dream fragments, snippets of speech, prose poems, broken sonnets, and sequences that could well be from accident reports. Grünbein has also published several collections of essays, most recently the volume »Aus der Traum (Kartei)« (2019; tr: From the Dream [Index]). He has also written numerous essay collections, an opera libretto, and new translations of plays from antiquity. His own work has been translated into several languages.
In 1995, Grünbein was awarded the Peter Huchel Prize for poetry and was the youngest author at the time to ever receive the Georg Büchner Prize. In 2003, he won the Friedrich Nietzsche Prize, the first non-philosopher to have done so. He has been a member of the Pour le Mérite order since 2009. Durs Grünbein lives in Berlin.
Frankfurt a. M., 1988
Frankfurt a. M., 1991
Frankfurt a. M., 2003
Aroma – Ein römisches Zeichenbuch
Koloß im Nebel
Die Jahre im Zoo. Ein Kaleidoskop
Aus der Traum (Kartei)