Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

The deep love for Greek culture that marked Friedrich Hölderlin’s lyric poetry also had a profound impact on his other literary endeavors. Aside from his verse, he is most remembered for the epistolary novel Hyperion: Oder, Der Eremit in Griechenland (1797, 1799; Hyperion: Or, The Hermit in Greece, 1965). In the story of a disillusioned Greek freedom fighter, the author captured in rhythmic prose much of his own inner world. The novel is especially notable for its vivid imagery and its power of thought and language. Fascination with the legend of Empedocles’ death on Mount Etna moved him to attempt to re-create the spirit of the surrounding events in the drama Der Tod des Empedokles (pb. 1826; The Death of Empedocles, 1966), which exists in three fragmentary versions. After 1800 he began translations of Sophocles’ Oedipus Tyrannus (c. 429 b.c.e.) and Antigone (441 b.c.e.); his highly successful renderings were published in 1804. Among various essays on philosophy, aesthetics, and literature written throughout his career, his treatises on the fine arts in ancient Greece, Achilles, Homer’s Iliad (c. 800 b.c.e.), and the plays of Sophocles are especially significant. Only a small portion of his correspondence has been preserved.