Siegfried Lenz 1926–
West German novelist, short story writer, dramatist, and essayist.
Among the foremost authors of contemporary German literature, Lenz is known for expressing humanitarian concerns in his fiction. Although his works maintain a distinctly German identity, their themes are universal, presenting current issues and problems.
Lenz's novels Das Feuerschiff (1960; The Lightship) and Stadtgesprach (1963; The Survivor) were translated into English in the early 1960s but did not receive a significant amount of critical attention in the United States. Stadtgesprach, however, is now noted as an important introduction to Lenz's recurring themes: duty, and the causes and nature of inhumanity and guilt. With the publication of Deutschtunde (1968; The German Lesson), Lenz gained international recognition. Most critics judge this novel to be Lenz's masterpiece. Here he fully develops early themes and examines how the lives and minds of Germans were changed by World War II.
Lenz's short stories are noted for their concise style and credible characterizations. In many of these tales, Lenz analyzes the discrepancy between appearance and reality. The same theme emerges in such later novels as Das Vorbild (1973; An Exemplary Life) and Heimatmuseum (1978; The Heritage).
All of Lenz's work displays his subtle sense of humor and perceptive sense of detail. Though critics consider his recent book, Der Verlust (1981; The Loss), slightly mawkish, they agree that its subject, the loss of speech, leads to an insightful study of language and silence.
(See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 89-92.)