Hensel

Kerstin Hensel

Kerstin Hensel was born in Karl-Marx-Stadt in 1961 (today called Chemnitz). Between 1980 and 1983, Kerstin Hensel trained and worked as a nurse. Between 1983 and 1985 she trained as a writer at the Johannes R. Becher Institute for Literature in Leipzig. This was followed by two years working in a theatre in Leipzig. Since 1987 she has worked as a freelance writer, and has taught verse recital at the Ernst Busch Drama School in Berlin, where she was appointed Professor in 2001. Hensel is a younger member of the so-called ‘sächsische Dichterschule’ (Saxon school of poets), a loose association of East German poets that includes Volker Braun, Adolf Endler, Karl Mickel, Heinz Czechowski, Wulf Kirsten and Elke Erb.

Kerstin Hensel’s fluid, allusive literary works enable her to build up a highly nuanced mosaic of German history, characterised by thematic variations and montage, in order to construct a trans-generational perspective characterized by micro-histories. This movement between micro- and macro-perspectives is also evident in the variety of literary forms she uses, moving between short genres (lyric poetry, fairy tales, short stories), through medium-length genres (novellas, radio plays), to large-scale narratives (novels, plays, operas).

So far, the only one of her fictions to be translated into English is the novella Tanz am Canal (1994), translated as Dance by the Canal (2017).

Seven of her poems have been translated into English, and are available on the Poetry International website (click here).

Hensel’s poetry includes:

Poesiealbum (1986)

Schlaraffenzucht; Milk and Honey Production (1990)

Freistoß; Free Kick (1995)

Bahnhof verstehen (2001) [the title is a play on words, and could be translated as ‘Understand Station’ and ‘It’s all Greek to me’]

Alle Wetter; All Weathers (2008)

Das gefallene Fest; The Fallen Party (2013)

Schleuderfigur; Catapault Figure (2016)

Ophelia steigt aus; Ophelia Gets out (2017) [=an audio CD with music by Annette Wizisla]

Hensel’s prose fiction includes:

Hallimasch; Honey Fungus (1989)

Auditorium Panopticum (1991)

Im Schlauch; In the Pipe (1993)

Tanz am Canal; Dance by the Canal (1994)

Gipshut; Plaster Cap (1999)

Im Spinnhaus; In the Spinning House (2003)

Falscher Hase; Meat Loaf (2005)

Lärchenau; Lark Vale (2008)

Federspiel. Drei Liebesnovellen; The Lure. Three Stories about Love (2012)

Regenbeins Farben; Regenbein’s Colours (2020)

Her non-fiction includes:

Angestaut. Aus meinem Sudelbuch; Bottled Up. From My Wastebook (1993)

Das verspielte Papier. Über starke, schwache und vollkommen mißlungene Gedichte; The Playful Paper: On strong, weak and completely unsuccessful poems (2014)

Hensel has also contributed short texts to a photobook about the GDR: Thomas Billhardt, Kerstin Hensel, Alles war so. Alles war anders. Bilder aus der DDR (Leipzig: Kiepenheuer, 1999)

English Translations

Kerstin Hensel, Dance by the Canal, trans. by Jen Calleja (London: Pereine Press, 2017)

Kerstin Hensel, Six poems from Schleuderfigur, trans. by Robert Gillett, in No Man’s Land: New German Literature in English Translation, Issue 14 (2019)

Interviews in German

Birgit Dahlke, ‘Kerstin Hensel, “Einen Mann fragt niemand, ob er sich beim Schreiben als Mann fühlt”’, in Birgit Dahlke, Papierboot. Autorinnen aus der DDR – inoffiziell publiziert (Würzburg: Könighausen & Neumann, 1997), pp. 269-81

Birgit Dahlke, ‘Gespräch mit Kerstin Hensel’, Deutsche Bücher 2/1993, 81-99

Birgit Dahlke, ‘Der langsame Blick, der gute Text. Gespräch mit Kerstin Hensel’, neue deutsche literatur 4 (2000), 41-53

Sibylle Goepper und Cécile Millot (eds.), Lyrik nach 1989: Gewendete Lyrik? Gespräche mit deutschen Dichtern aus der DDR (Halle: Mitteldeutscher Verlag, 2016)

Klaus Hammer, ‘Gespräch mit Kerstin Hensel’, Weimarer Beiträge 37 (1991), 93-110

Further Reading in English

Gerrit-Jan Berendse, ‘The politics of dialogue: Poetry in the GDR’, in Rereading East Germany: The Literature and Film of the GDR, ed. by Karen Leeder (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), pp. 143-59

Sonja Klocke, Inscription and Rebellion: Illness and the Symptomatic Body in East German Literature (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2015)

Beth Linklater and Birgit Dahlke (eds.), Kerstin Hensel (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2002)

Lyn Marven, Body and Narrative in Contemporary Literatures in German: Herta Müller, Libuse Moníková, Kerstin Hensel (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005)

Lyn Marven, ‘The Trobadora’s Legacy: Two Generations of GDR Women Writers’, in Women’s Writing in Eastern Europe: Gender, Generation and Legacy, ed. by Adalgisa Giorgio and Julia Waters (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2007), pp. 54-68

Jill E. Twark, ‘Negotiating the Politics and Aesthetics of Satire: Satirical Novels in the GDR and Beyond’, in Rereading East Germany: The Literature and Film of the GDR, ed. by Karen Leeder (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), pp. 126-42

Further Reading in German

Birgit Dahlke, Papierboot. Autorinnen aus der DDR – inoffiziell publiziert (Würzburg: Könighausen & Neumann, 1997)

Astrid Köhler, Brückenschläge: DDR-Autoren vor und nach der Wiedervereinigung (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2007)

Inga Probst, Vakante Landschaft. Postindustrielle Geopoetik bei Kerstin Hensel, Wolfgang Hilbig und Volker Braun (Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 2016)

Web Links in English

https://www.poetryinternational.org/pi/poet/2214/Kerstin-Hensel/en/nocache

Hensel poems available in English

Six poems from Schleuderfigur, trans. by Robert Gillett, in No Man’s Land: New German Literature in English Translation, Issue 14 (2019)

More Hensel poems available in English

https://sites.google.com/view/kerstin-hensel-konferenz/home

Online conference, 2-4 June 2021

Web Links in German

http://www.kerstin-hensel.de/index.html

Kerstin Hensel’s homepage

https://www.lyrikline.org/en/poems/raeumarbeit-2635

Hensel reads her poems on lyrikline.org

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIFk0sRgpWc

Kerstin Hensel reads the poem ‘Wir geben 8 aufs Wort’

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMEkKejt5Ac

Kerstin Hensel reads from ‘Schleuderfigur’ (2016)

https://www.deutschlandfunkkultur.de/kerstin-hensel-regenbeins-farben-aus-der-trauerumklammerung.1270.de.html?dram:article_id=473431

Michael Optiz review of Hensel’s latest novel Regenbeins Farben (2020)

https://zehnseiten.de/de/buecher/detail/kerstin-hensel-regenbeins-farben-745.html?fbclid=IwAR2SXbw7YitOTwKwql9yw_vVrp5KZCHBqbVOwgu9nDrcALOkqDlnvl57S70

Kerstin Hensel reads from her latest novel Regenbeins Farben (2020)

https://www.adk.de/de/programm/?we_objectID=61032

Kerstin Hensel im Gespräch mit Jörg Feßmann, 22.4.2020