Durs Grünbein

The Years at the Zoo

(German title: Die Jahre im Zoo)
ca. 250 pages
Durs Grünbein
Foto: Durs Grünbein
© Jürgen Bauer

Durs Grünbein, born 1962 in Dresden, lives in Berlin.

Awards (Selection):

Peter-Huchel-Prize (1995)
Georg-Büchner-Prize (1995)
Friedrich Nietzsche-Prize (2004)
Tomas-Tränströmer-Prize (2012)

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Sweden (Ersatz)

A memoir in prose, poetry, and photography, stretching from the turn of the 20th century to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989


In this book full of stories, verse, and rare photographs, the poet Durs Grünbein presents himself in an autobiographical light. And yet he reaches further back to a time when the early contours of the twentieth century were just beginning to emerge.

During this period, Hellerau, a garden city on the outskirts of Dresden, is the epicentre of a life-reform programme that extends far beyond the limits of the suburb: it becomes a way-point for Kafka, Rilke, Benn, and many more. For Grünbein, Hellerau becomes a starting point, a site of formative power for his own life. From here, we proceed further into the century: the fates of his ancestors and the accounts of the trauma of Dresden’s destruction form narratives that penetrate deep into the sphere of his own experiences.
What emerges is the image of a childhood – at the edge of history in the long summers of the Cold War. Friendships and the early experience of loss, schoolboy memories and the first exposure to books, favourite toys and dreams of becoming a writer unfold in a colourful kaleidoscope of autobiographical prose, poetry, reflections and, last but not least, a treasure trove of photographs from the poet’s rich collection.


From the Book:


»From the top. And so here you are once again, just like before – !«


»[Grünbein] succeeds in creating wonderful miniatures that create and tell a short cultural history of East Germany beyond the memories and it is only natural that it then reaches far beyond the space and time of childhood. And so the kaleidoscope of a time and a world that have been lost comes forth from the nightmarish daze.« Roman Bucheli, NZZ

»a book of memories made of sparkling pieces of prose […] The pattern that Grünbein’s miniatures inscribe into our mind is of irresistible charm.« Stefan Kister, Stuttgarter Zeitung

»vivid, sensuous and with many unexpected turns […] allusive and crystalline prose« Helmut Böttiger, SWR2

»This is a completely wonderful book. One that is being carried to a great extent by its virtuosic language and the poetry of its texts, which includes the courage to be as exact and as sincere as possible. It has been written by one who knows himself and the circumstances he comes from – the familial as well as the historical ones, the private as well as the societal ones.« Andreas Montag, Mitteldeutsche Zeitung

Other publications

Der cartesische Taucher/The Cartesian Diver (2008)

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

Porzellan/Porcelain (2005)

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

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Italy (Einaudi), Sweden (Ersatz), Greece (Keedros)

Erklärte Nacht/Declared Night (2002)

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Italy (Einaudi), Hungary (Jelenkor)

Das erste Jahr/The First Year (2001)

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Italy (Einaudi)

Nach den Satiren/After the Satires (1999)

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France (Petits Matins), Czech Republic (Opus), Hungary (Jelenkor - published, rights reverted)