Siegfried Unseld

Travel Reports

Edited by Raimund Fellinger
(German title: Reiseberichte)
ca. 378 pages
Siegfried Unseld
Foto: Siegfried Unseld
© Christian Höhn

Siegfried Unseld was born in 1924. From 1959 until his death in 2002 he was the publisher of Suhrkamp Verlag.

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Greece (Potamos)


Ten days after Siegfried Unseld took over as publisher of Suhrkamp Verlag on April 1, 1959, he travels to East Berlin to visit Brecht’s widow Helene Weigel. Once returned, he dictates the first of many texts he called ›travel reports‹.

In more than 1,500 reports, he noted the results of his conversations that were essential to him and his employees until his death in 2002. Sharing this information with people outside the publishing house was taboo. On the occasion of the publishing house’s 70th anniversary, however, this company secret is disclosed.

The gripping reportages, among them impressive descriptions of his travels to Japan and Israel in the 1980s and 1990s, reveal a glimpse behind the scenes of literary life and offer a unique opportunity to examine the evolution of Suhrkamp Verlag from the perspective of its publisher. They document the most important cultural events of the last four decades of the 20th century in encounters between publisher and the most important German and international authors of the time – dramatic at times, holidaying and relaxing at others, and sometimes combative.

The selection of travel reports by Siegfried Unself, published here for the first time, take us into the world of the publisher and of publishing with all its highs and lows, its glamour and gloom – be it at Max Frisch’s birthday in New York, with Samuel Beckett in Paris, with Peter Weiss in Copenhagen, with Jurek Becker in Leipzig, with Ingeborg Bachmann in Rome, with Amos Oz in Israel, with Thomas Bernhard in Vienna or with Peter Handke around the world – and paint the picture of the cultural post-war society from the perspective of one of its most influential actors.


»[…] not just like mere fragments of the autobiography Unseld wanted to write but almost like a bildungsroman about an unconventional character, who rose from an employee at a publishing house who was supported by Hermann Hesse to the most prominent alpha leader in the business, which he dominated in a way that is unthinkable nowadays.« Thomas Schaefer, taz. die tageszeitung

»[…] a story of Germany in form of its most famous cultural entrepreneur, freely oscillating between colportage and business report, between narration, accountability and criticism.« Thomas Steinfeld, Süddeutsche Zeitung

»[…] enlightening documents on the contemporary conditions of publishing« Julia Encke, Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung

»If you’re looking for the great ›Vanity-Fair‹ story of the literary scene in Unseld’s travel reports, you won’t find that but instead something far more important ...« Mara Delius, DIE WELT

»At times, in light of these travel reports, one is going to call [Siegfried Unseld] a visionary...« Tilman Spreckelsen, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

»Legendary Suhrkamp publisher Siegfried Unself wrote reports about his travels around the world to visit the most megalomaniacal authors in need of a lot of love.« Volker Weidermann, DER SPIEGEL

»The reports that publisher Siegfried Unseld drafted after visiting various authors are brilliantly witty reportages.« focus

»a piece of dictated literature« Arno Widmann, Berliner Zeitung

»a piece of German intellectual and cultural history« Katrin Krämer, NDR

»You won’t get enough of it.« Helmut Böttiger, Deutschlandfunk Kultur

»Those who have grown up with the Suhrkamp culture, those who still remember what once characterised the aura of this publishing house, are going to […] devour the Travel Reports. For everyone else, they are an informative glimpse into a great literary era that seems almost unreal today.« Ulrich Rüdenauer, Deutschlandfunk

Other publications

Der Briefwechsel Thomas Bernhard/Siegfried Unseld/The Correspondence (2009)

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Spanish world rights (Complices)

Domestic Rights Sales: German Audiobook (Der Hörverlag)

Goethe und seine Verleger/Goethe and His Publishers (1991)

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English world rights (Chicago UP), Spanish world rights (Galaxia Gutenberg), Chinese simplex rights (Yunnan), France (Gallimard), Italy (Adelphi), Japan (Hosei UP)

Der Autor und sein Verleger/The Author and His Publishers (1985)

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English world rights (Chicago UP), Spanish world rights (Taurus), Chinese simplex rights (Shanghai Reader), Russia (Libra; non-exclusive), Brazilian Portuguese rights (Guanabara), France (Gallimard), Italy (Adelphi)