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Georg Büchner: The Major Works: Norton Critical Edition

Georg Büchner: The Major Works: Norton Critical Edition

Georg Büchner, Matthew Wilson Smith (Editor), Henry Schmidt (Translator)

ISBN: 978-0-393-93351-2

*Norton agency titles

412 pages

Select type: Paperback

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Few writers have transformed literature and theater so dramatically. Based on Henry J. Schmidt's translations of The Hessian Messenger, Danton's Death, Lenz, Leonce and Lena, and Woyzeck.

The Georg Büchner Prize is the highest literary honor for German language writers, and the full extent of Büchner’s influence—from Gerhart Hauptmann to Christa Wolf, Max Reinhardt to Robert Wilson, Alban Berg to Tom Waits—defies cataloging.

When Georg Büchner died in 1837 at the age of twenty-three, he left behind a small and heterogenous body of work, most of it unpublished: three plays, a novella, a political pamphlet, a dissertation, medical lectures, and letters. Matthew Wilson Smith has newly translated Büchner’s introduction to On Cranial Nerves. Each text is accompanied by explanatory annotations. The editor’s introduction examines the complexities of Büchner’s short life and how they informed his writing. The volume also contains ten illustrations.

“Contexts” includes Büchner’s correspondence with the people who knew him best, impressions of Büchner from a fellow medical student, excerpts from Büchner’s diary, the wanted poster calling for Büchner’s arrest for political conspiracy as well as the real-life inspirations his novella, Lenz, and his best-known play, Woyzeck.

For ease of reference, “Criticism” is topically arranged by work and includes assessments by, among others, Laura Ginters, Victor Brombert, Bertolt Brecht, Henry Schmidt, Andrew Webber, Rainer Maria Rilke, and George Steiner. Three accounts of important productions of Danton’s Death are reprinted, including John Houseman’s remarks on Orson Welles’s staging. Finally, the speeches of four winners of the Georg Büchner Prize—Paul Celan, Christa Wolf, Heiner Müller, and Durs Grünbein—are reprinted in their entirety.

A Chronology of Büchner’s life and work and a Selected Bibliography are also included.

List of Illustrations



The Texts of Büchner’s Major Works

The Hessian Messenger
Danton’s Death
Leonce and Lena
   A Reconstruction
   The Drafts
Introduction to On Cranial Nerves
(translated by Matthew Wilson Smith)


Selected Letters
Karl Vogt • [Impression of the Giessen Student Georg Büchner]
Wanted Poster
Johann Friedrich Oberlin • From Pastor Oberlin’s Diary
Johann Christian August Clarus • From The Legal Accountability of the Murderer Johann Christian Woyzeck
Caroline Schulz • From Diary Account of Büchner’s Last Days



Herbert Lindenberger • Forebears, Descendants, and Contemporary Kin: Büchner and Literary Tradition
Laura Ginters • Georg Büchner—A Selective Stage History

The Hessian Messenger

Hans Magnus Enzensberger • [The Hessian Messenger in the Political Context of 1964]
Victor Brombert • [Büchner and Rhetoric]

Danton’s Death

Bertolt Brecht • [On Danton’s Death]
Edward McInnes • Skepticism, Ideology, and History in Büchner’s Dantons Tod
Henry J. Schmidt • Women, Death, and Revolution
Accounts of Three Productions
Ernst Stern • [On Max Reinhardt’s Danton’s Death]
John Houseman • [On Orson Welles’s Danton’s Death]
Richard Thomas • Wilson, Danton, and Me


Erika Swales • Büchner, Lenz

Leonce and Lena

Thomas Bernhard • Leonce and Lena: Tragic Comedy by Georg Büchner
Andrew Webber • Büchner, Leonce und Lena


Rainer Maria Rilke • [On Woyzeck]
George Steiner • [Woyzeck and Lear]
John A. McCarthy • Some Aspects of Imagery in Büchner’s Woyzeck
John Reddick • Natur and Kunst
Peter J. Schwartz • Clarus, Woyzeck, and the Politics of Accountability

Four Georg Büchner Prize Talks

Paul Celan • The Meridian
Christa Wolf • Speaking of Büchner
Heiner Müller • The Wounded Woyzeck
Durs Grünbein • Breaking the Body

Georg Büchner: A Chronology

Selected Bibliography