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Durs Grünbein

The Dear Dead - 33 Epitaphs

(German title: Den Teuren Toten)
ca. 48 pages
Clothbound
1994
Durs Grünbein
Foto: Durs Grünbein
© Tineke de Lange

Durs Grünbein, born in Dresden in 1962, read Theatre Studies in Berlin, after which he worked as a freelancer writing for various literary magazines. After the Berlin Wall fell, Grünbein travelled the world extensively, visiting Europe, Southeast Asia and the United States. Grünbein currently lectures on Poetics at the Düsseldorf Academy of Fine Arts and lives in East Berlin. His debut volume of poetry published in 1988 was entitled Grauzone morgens and he went on to publish nearly twenty poetry collections, including Vom Schnee oder Descartes in Deutschland (2003), Der Misanthrop auf Capri (2005), Porzellan. Poem vom Untergang meiner Stadt (2005) and Zündkerzen (2017). He is also the author of a collection of essays and opera librettos. He translated the tragedies of Aeschylus and Seneca into German, but also the works of contemporary authors such as Sara Kane, Ted Hughes, Wallace Stevens, Samuel Beckett, John Ashbery and Tomas Venclova.

Awards (Selection):

Peter-Huchel-Prize (1995)
Georg-Büchner-Prize (1995)
Friedrich Nietzsche-Prize (2004)
Friedrich-Hölderlin-Prize (2005)
Literary Prize of the City of Berlin (2006)
Premio Internazionale Pier Paolo Pasolini (Rome, 2006)
Samuel Bogumił Linde Prize (together with Adam Zagajewski, 2009)
Tomas-Tränströmer-Prize (2012)
European Poet of Freedom Award (Gdańsk, 2012)
Premio Internazionale di Poesia (Bologna, 2019)
Zbigniew Herbert International Literary Award (2020)

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Previously published in the respective language / territory; rights available again: Portuguese rights (Angelus Novus), Norway (Bokvennen), Japan (CHUO University Press)

About

»Stop, wanderer, and read!«, called out the tombstones to the passers-by two thousand years ago. Inscriptions spoke of the pleasures of the deceased, of profession and merit, character and family. The personality lived on in bound speech.

Today, the hurried are at best stared at silently by a few numbers above which a name perseveres in emptiness, unconnected, relieved from any context. No more dialogue between this world and the next, no ghosts that need to be appeased. The little that remains is slyly put into oblivious formulas.

The dead have stopped talking in these parts for a long time. Cultural history knows times of eloquent and of wordless remembrance, it also knows the speechlessness and the empty silence. In cultures in which death has become a taboo because they hysterically hide their own mortality behind »the present«, the end is only ever talked about indirectly. Like the joke, according to Sigmund Freud, reveals its relationship to the unconscioius, the chatter about death reveals an anthropological disappointment. Having everything under control, but not »that«, has to be insulting to the only living being that cannot accept its situation. The effect can only be a comical one in which regret takes the place of grief. In this book, Durs Grünbein withdraws into the twilight of uncertain authorship. From there he steps out in many voices, as a philologist, editor, author of adaptations and compiler of his notebooks.

The 33 epitaphs in The Dear Dead sing the praise of alienation. A new lesson becomes apparent: Life exposes itself to ridicule in its futile recurrence, if one considers it a failure to end. Where there is death without people listen to the dead, dark humour has its moment.

Other publications

Jenseits der Literatur/Beyond Literature (2020)

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English world rights (Seagull)

Aus der Traum (Kartei)/From the Dream (Files) (2019)

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France (selection; 17 Muscles)

Zündkerzen/Spark Plugs (2017)

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Italy (selection; Einaudi)

Die Jahre im Zoo/The Years at the Zoo (2015)

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English world rights (Seagull), Sweden (Ersatz)

Vom Stellenwert der Worte/The Vocation of Poetry (2010)

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English world rights (Upper West Side Philosophers)

Die Bars von Atlantis/The Bars of Atlantis (2009)

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English world rights (FSG), Sweden (Ersatz)

Lob des Taifuns/Praise of the Typhoon (2008)

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Previously published in the respective language / territory; rights available again: France (Voix de Plumes)

Der cartesische Taucher/The Cartesian Diver (2008)

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English world rights (Upper West Side Philosophers), Sweden (Ersatz)

Strophen für übermorgen/Verses for the Day after Tomorrow (2007)

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Previously published in the respective language / territory; rights available again: Italy (Einaudi)

Porzellan/Porcelain (2005)

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English world rights (Seagull)

Der Misanthrop auf Capri/The Misanthrope on Capri (2005)

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Previously published in the respective language / territory; rights available again: Poland (Slowo)

Vom Schnee oder Descartes in Deutschland/On Snow or Descartes in Germany (2003)

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France (Greges), Italy (Einaudi), Sweden (Ersatz); previously published in the respective language / territory; rights available again: Greece (Keedros)

Erklärte Nacht/Declared Night (2002)

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Previously published in the respective language / territory; rights available again: Italy (Einaudi), Hungary (Jelenkor)

Das erste Jahr/The First Year (2001)

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Previously published in the respective language / territory; rights available again: Italy (Einaudi)

Nach den Satiren/After the Satires (1999)

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Previously published in the respective language / territory; rights available again: France (Petits Matins), Hungary (Jelenkor)

Grauzone morgens/Grey Area in the Mornings (1988)

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Italy (Einaudi); previously published in the respective language / territory; rights available again: Spanish world rights (Poesia Hidalgo), Hungary (Jelenkor)