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Georg Büchner

Georg Büchner (October 17, 1813 Goddelau, Darmstadt-February 19, 1837 Zurich) After attending Gymnasium in Darmstadt 1825-31, the doctor's son studied natural science and medicine in Strasbourg and Giessen from 1831-33. During this period he became engaged to Luise Wilhelmine, daughter of the pastor Johann Jakob Jaeglé, in whose home he resided. In Hessen's state university in Giessen, he turned above all toward practical medicine, and here also came in contact with republican and early socialist groups. Converted to republican doctrines, he participated in founding the "Society for the Rights of Man." At the beginning of 1834 Büchner first met Friedrich Ludwig Weidig, who, after the study of theology had founded the "German Society" in Butzbach and as the rector of the municipal school had become an integrating figure in the upper Hessen opposition. While Weidig endeavored to support the parliamentary opposition by exposure of responsibility for various mistakes, lies, and abuses, Büchner focused his attention on the problematical monarchical principle, that the liberals only half-heartedly opposed. Together with August Becker and Weidig, Bühner in June 1834 anonymously published the Hessischen Landboten, a revolutionary publication focused above all toward the peasantry. Its radicalism promoted a comprehensive appraisal of contemporary social conditions. With a warrant for his arrest menacing him for his writings, in 1835 he had to flee to Strasbourg, where he resolved to continue his medical studies. There he occupied himself intensively with Cartesius and Spinoza and translated Victor Hugo's dramas, Lucretia Borgia and Mary Tudor. In 1836 Büchner received the degree of doctor of philosophy and became a lecturer(Dozent) in natural history in Zurich. An outbreak of typhoid sickness in 1837 precipitated his early death.

Büchner's fame and importance was largely determined by the politicalization of his thought. Left radical critics in particular praised his works as early socialist engaged poetry. However, passages in letters and the testimony of persons close to him late in Büchner's life warrant the assumption that he had distanced himself from earlier political opinions. Only in the early 20th century did he exerted a significant influence on German literature with the re-discovery of his drama Danton's Death and his work Woyzeck, whose socially critical coloring, its anticipation of its naturalism and "Verism," and its almost expressionist power of expression.

The satirical comedy Leonce and Lena caricatured the boasting of contemporary provincial potentates, and the story Lenz, also left fragmentary, depicted the dramatic fate of the spiritual mental derangement of the foundered Sturm and Drang poets. Bourgeois radicalism in Germany strengthened after 1830 and encountered its first apogee in the protest movement of 1830-34. It was important for the launching of the German worker movement and strengthened political and social tensions in the pre-March which incited the revolution.
Helmut Reinalter translated by James Chastain



J. C. Hauschild Georg Büchner: Biographie (Stuttgart, 1993).

Suzanne Lehmann (ed) Georg Büchner 1813-1837: Katalog der Ausstellung Mathildenhöhe Darmstadt (Basel-Frankfurt/M, 1987).

D. Goldschnigg Rezeptions- und Wirkungsgeschichte Georg Büchners (Kronberg/Taunus, 1975).

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