Wolfgang Koeppen

The Hothouse - Novel

(German title: Werke in 16 Bänden)
ca. 222 pages
Wolfgang Koeppen
Foto: Wolfgang Koeppen
© Isolde Ohlbaum

Wolfgang Koeppen was born on June 23rd, 1906 in Greifswald and died on March 15th, 1996 in Munich.

After spending eleven years in Ortelsburg (East Prussia), he returned to Greifswald in 1919. Due to financial reasons he had to leave grammar school and change to a lower secondary school, which he left without obtaining a diploma. After that, he dabbled in many different professions: he worked in a bookshop, and in Greifswald's city theatre. As a commis chef he went to Sweden and Finland; in Wurzburg he worked as a dramaturge. In 1927 he settled in Berlin, where he began to work as an editor at the Berliner Börsen-Courier in 1931. He stayed there for two years. He wrote reportages, for the feuilleton, and started on his first literary works.

His first novel, A Sad Affair, was published in 1934. That same year he emigrated to the Netherlands, which is where he began writing the novel The Jawang-Society, which was to remain unfinished. In 1935, the novel The Wall Is Shaking was published but hardly received any recognition. Koeppen returned to Germany in 1938, started working for the Bavaria Movie Corporation in 1941, and moved to Munich in 1945. He published Jacob Littner's Notes From A Ditch anonymously in 1948. He agreed to have the book appear under his name only in 1992.

In 1951, 1953 and 1954 three novels were published that are regarded as the most accurate description of the atmosphere of the republic under Konrad Adenauer: Pigeons on the grass, The Hothouse and Death In Rome. Koeppen's To Russia And Other Places, Travel To America and Journeys to France created high regard for travel literature in Germany.

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Chinese simplex rights (Shanghai Lucidabooks); previously published in the respective language / territory; rights available again: English world rights (W.W.Norton; UK sublicense: Granta), Spanish world rights (RBA), Russia (Progress), Netherlands (Thoth), Finland (Kirjaythymä), Poland (PIW), Czech Republic (Academia), Slovakia (Slovensky Spisovatel), Hungary (Europa), Latvia (Liesma)

»A wonderful discovery […] Scathingly beautiful and lyrically inescapable.« Nadine Gordimer


Bonn, March 1953: the days of the debates on re-militarization and Germany's accession to the European Defense Community become a fiasco for Keetenheuve, a member of parliament for the Social Democratic Party. Keetenheuve, a skeptic and a dreamer, an idealist who tends towards melancholy and despair, has to witness the destruction of his faith in democracy and the failure of his marriage to a much younger woman – a marriage that was never happy to begin with. As one of the first novelists after the war, Wolfgang Koeppen turned his attention toward the immediate political reality: the stuffy and, at the same time, heated climate of restoration in Adenauer's Germany.

The novel relates the futility of politics and the vanity of love and is much more than the record of the life of a dreamer and skeptic. The Hothouse is rightfully regarded as one of the major Germany-novels of the then young republic.


»A masterpiece of German fiction.« New York Times

»The Houthouse is a prose poem about failure. Withering in its insights into post-World War II Germany, incantory in its rhythms, it shows us the idealistic parliament member Keetenheuve, and it shows us how he perishes. It brings us face to face with a modern-day Hamlet.« L.A. Times

»A provocative elegy.« Marcel Reich-Ranicki

»The Hothouse is literature of a quality that is not often attained.« FAZ

»It is hard to think of a German writer of his generation who has written more sensitively or more profoundly about the Holocaust and its effects than Wolfgang Koeppen.« The New Republic

»A mid-20th century masterpiece [...] a nihilist, mock-Wagnerian reflection on the unacklowedged corruption of post-war Germany.« Independent on Sunday

»The writing is sharp, the observations despairingly idiosyncratic, the characterization subtle, the contempt directed at official hipocrisy overwhelming. A brilliant portrait of society suspended in a mindless apathy of acceptance.« Irish Times

Other publications

Werke in 16 Bänden/Youth (2016)

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English world rights (Dalkey Archive), France (Hachette); previously published in the respective language / territory; rights available again: Russia (Progress), Netherlands (Querido), Japan (Dogakusha), Poland (Czytelnik), Czech Republic (Odeon), Bulgaria (Narodna Kultura)

Domestic Rights Sales: German Audiobook (Der Hörverlag)

Werke in 16 Bänden/Death In Rome (1954)

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English world rights (Granta / Penguin), Chinese simplex rights (Shanghai Lucidabooks), France (Typhon), Netherlands (Cossee), Macedonia (Ad Verbum); previously published in the respective language / territory; rights available again: Spanish world rights (RBA), Catalan rights (La Magrana), Russia (Progress), Italy (Zandonai), Norway (Bokvennen), Poland (PIW), Czech Republic (Academia), Slovakia (Slovensky Spisovatel), Hungary (Europa), Bulgaria (Narodna Kultura), Latvia (Liesma), Slovenia (Mladinska Knijga)

Werke in 16 Bänden/Pigeons on the Grass (1951)

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USA (New Directions), Chinese simplex rights (Shanghai Lucidabooks), Serbia (Fabrika), Greece (Kritiki); previously published in the respective language / territory; rights available again: Spanish world rights (RBA), Russia (Progress), France (Laffont), Netherlands (Thoth), Norway (Bokvennen), Finland (Kirjayhtymä Oy), Czech Republic (Academia), Slovenia (PAN), Israel (Carmel)

Domestic Rights Sales: German Audiobook (DAV)

Werke in 16 Bänden/A Sad Affair (1934)

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Previously published in the respective language / territory; rights available again: English world rights (W.W. Norton), France (Albin Michel), Norway (Bokvennen), Finland (Karisto)