Heinrich Heine

Writing the Revolution

George Prochnik

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A rich, provocative, and lyrical study of one of Germany’s most important, world-famous, and imaginative writers

"A concise, fast-paced biography of the German poet, critic, and essayist. . . . A discerning portrait of the writer and his times."—Kirkus Reviews

"Prochnik provides a jaunty narrative of Heine’s schooldays in Bonn and Göttingen, journalistic career in Berlin, and twenty-five-year exile in Paris, detailing his literary feuds, scraps with censors, and unwavering belief in political liberty."—New Yorker

Heinrich Heine (1797–1856) was a virtuoso German poet, satirist, and visionary humanist whose dynamic life story and strikingly original writing are ripe for rediscovery.
 
In this vividly imagined exploration of Heine’s life and work, George Prochnik contextualizes Heine’s biography within the different revolutionary political, literary, and philosophical movements of his age. He also explores the insights Heine offers contemporary readers into issues of social justice, exile, and the role of art in nurturing a more equitable society.
 
Heine wrote that in his youth he resembled “a large newspaper of which the upper half contained the present, each day with its news and debates, while in the lower half, in a succession of dreams, the poetic past was recorded fantastically like a series of feuilletons.”
 
This book explores the many dualities of Heine’s nature, bringing to life a fully dimensional character while also casting into sharp relief the reasons his writing and personal story matter urgently today.

George Prochnik is the author of Stranger in a Strange Land: Searching for Gershom Scholem and Jerusalem. His previous book, The Impossible Exile: Stefan Zweig at the End of the World, received the 2014 National Jewish Book Award for Biography/Memoir.

“George Prochnik draws the historical background of Heine’s life with care and powerfully evokes a Jewish life in 19th century Germany with all its complexities, frustrations, and contradictions. Prochnik’s scrupulous analysis of the artist’s prose and poems allows for a deep understanding of this brilliant and tormented man.”—Anka Muhlstein, author of The Pen and the Brush

"A portrait of the poet as a crusader for truth and beauty in a world where both were in short supply."—Adam Kirsch, Wall Street Journal

"A concise, fast-paced biography of the German poet, critic, and essayist. . . . A discerning portrait of the writer and his times."—Kirkus Reviews

"Prochnik provides a jaunty narrative of Heine’s schooldays in Bonn and Göttingen, journalistic career in Berlin, and twenty-five-year exile in Paris, detailing his literary feuds, scraps with censors, and unwavering belief in political liberty."—New Yorker

"George Prochnik has done a splendid job of capturing the many contradictions and complexities in Heine’s biography and oeuvre. . . . Prochnik possesses an uncanny knack for inhabiting the mind of his subject. This is not biography at an ivory-tower remove, but rather an attempt to discover, using his subject’s own writing, what made him tick. . . . A high-octane account of Heine’s life in what seems convincingly the way he himself experienced it."—David Biale, Marginalia Review of Books

"A welcome addition to the noteworthy Jewish Lives series."—Choice
ISBN: 9780300236545
Publication Date: November 24, 2020
336 pages, 5 3/4 x 8 1/4
1 b/w illus.
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