Wolfgang Koeppen (1906-1996) 

More concise and elegant than Günter Grass, in the early 1950s Koeppen was the first West German novelist to produce a striking fictional assessment of the Federal Republic of Germany and its recent past. After producing his great post-war trilogy of novels, he stopped writing fiction entirely, although he later published works of travel writing and autobiography.


Wolfgang Koeppen wrote five novels. His first two novels are:

Eine unglückliche Liebe; A Sad Affair (1934)

Die Mauer schwankt; The Tottering Wall (1935)

Then in the early 1950s Koeppen produced a trilogy of novels which made him famous, and which draw on modernist influences including Thomas Mann, James Joyce and Alfred Döblin:

Tauben im Gras; Pigeons on the Grass (1951)

Das Treibhaus; The Hothouse (1953)

Der Tod in Rom; Death in Rome (1954)

Travel Writing:

Nach Rußland und anderswohin; To Russia and Elsewhere (1958)

Amerikafahrt; Journey Through America (1959)

Reisen nach Frankreich; Journeys to France (1961)


Jugend. Erzählung; Youth. A Story (1976)

Es war einmal in Masuren; Once Upon a Time in Masuria (1995)

Literary Criticism:

Die elenden Skribenten. Aufsätze; Those Miserable Writers. Essays (1984)

English Translations

Wolfgang Koeppen, A Sad Affair, trans. by Michael Hofmann (New York: Norton, 2003)

Wolfgang Koeppen, Pigeons on the Grass, trans. by David Ward (New York: Holmes & Meier, 1991)

Wolfgang Koeppen, The Hothouse, trans. by Michael Hofmann (New York: Norton, 2002)

Wolfgang Koeppen, Death in Rome, trans. by Michael Hofmann (New York: Norton, 2001)

Wolfgang Koeppen, Journey Through America, trans. by Michael Kimmage, Transatlantic Perspectives vol. 1 (New York and Oxford: Berghahn, 2012)

Further Reading in English

David Basker, Chaos, Control and Consistency: The Narrative Vision of Wolfgang Koeppen (Bern: Peter Lang, 1993)

R. Hinton Thomas and Wilfried van der Will, The German Novel and the Affluent Society (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1968), Chapter 2 on Wolfgang Koeppen (pp. 20-39)

Klaus R. Scherpe, ‘Literary Détente: Wolfgang Koeppen’s Cold War Travels’, New German Critique 110 (2010), 95-106

Gary Schmidt, The Nazi Abduction of Ganymede: Representations of Male Homosexuality in Postwar German Literature (Oxford and Bern: Peter Lang, 2003), Part 2 on Wolfgang Koeppen

Simon Ward, ‘Border Negotiations in the Works of Wolfgang Koeppen’, Modern Language Review 95:3 (2000), 764-78

Simon Ward, Negotiating Postions: Literature, Identity and Social Critique in the Works of Wolfgang Koeppen (Amsterdam and Atlanta, GA: Rodopi, 2001)

Further Reading in German

Christl Brink-Friederici, Wolfgang Koeppen: Die Stadt als Pandämonium, 2dn edn (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2014)

Gunnar Müller-Waldeck, ‘Ein expressionistischer Dichter namens Wolfgang Koeppen’, Sinn und Form 67:3 (2015), 300-08

Web Links in English


Koeppen’s obituary in The Independent, by Philip Brady


Article on Koeppen by Andrew Riemer of the Sydney Morning Herald

Web Links in German


Wolfgang Koeppen Foundation


Treibhaus. Yearbook for German-language literature of the 1950s


Wolfgang Koeppen Archive in Greifswald


An interview with Wolfgang Koeppen (1991)