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The Hour That Breaks

Gottfried Benn: A Biography

Martin Travers

The Hour That Breaks is the first biography of Gottfried Benn to appear in English. The author of this study charts in impressive detail the complex paths of Benn’s life, through the demands of his medical practice and military involvement in two world wars, his brief political advocacy of Hitler and Nazism in 1933, to his final «comeback» in post Second World War Germany. The author also engages with Benn’s extensive body of poetry which, inventive, challenging and formally wrought, was the product of mind that was both radical and conservative. The same propensity to invention and transformation also informed Benn’s personal and professional life, giving rise to a practice of role-playing and dissimulation that the poet termed a «double life». As Travers shows in this well-written and informative biography, this was a strategy of survival of which Benn, ultimately, was as much the victim as the master. This biography also offers fresh translations of many of Benn’s poems, a number of which appear here in English for the first time.
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Gottfried Benn: Chronology, 1886-1956


Gottfried Benn: Chronology, 1886–1956

1886Born 2 May in Mansfeld (West Prussia), the son of the pastor Gustav Benn (1857–1939) and his Swiss-French wife Caroline, née Jequier (1858–1912).

1887Benn family moves to Sellin, in the Neumark (now in Poland).

1897–1903Benn attends the “Königliches Friedrichs-Gymnasium” in Frankfurt an der Oder.

1903Enrols at the University of Marburg to study philology and theology.

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