Michael Hofmann

Michael Hofmann has translated Kafka, Koeppen and others.

From The Blog
4 April 2024

We are a small part of a shrinking thing, tail to a dwindling dog, or that thing that, in Yeats, is fastened to the dying animal. The heart; the soul. The dying animal is the English department, perhaps the humanities as a whole.

If geography​ isn’t destiny, it comes close. Consider Iceland, at the apex of the North Atlantic. From there, one leg of a pair of dividers drops south to the Scandinavian ports and Scotland, and then to the rest of what one thinks of as Europe. The other leg gives prime access, through a little-used window in the Hudson Bay, to Canada and the United States. That’s it,...

At the Kunsthalle: On Caspar David Friedrich

Michael Hofmann, 8 February 2024

Sometimes​ I’ve thought the whole idea of pleasure in Western art has been mortgaged by the French. Or maybe the Franco-Hispanic-Italo-Anglo-Dutch. It’s their artists, their subjects, their landscapes, their models, their faces. Their trees and their hills. Their beauty and beauties, their colour and light. In the current scene a few of the bad boys – long since turned...

Sausages and Cigarillos: Sebastian Barry

Michael Hofmann, 7 September 2023

I’ve been here before​, you think, I’ve seen this movie before: the detective, cashiered or retired or disabled, his one-time colleagues can’t let him go, there’s a three-quarters cold case they need his help with. And Sebastian Barry is a writer who in his darksome romances offers, perhaps even craves, proximity to popular films, to genre, to Westerns and war...

Russian Podunks

Michael Hofmann, 29 June 2023

Chekhov drew from the social and intellectual condition of Russia, Paustovsky from its terroir: he composes his delicious, addictive atmosphere from rain, night, distance, marsh, trees, transport, a dim source of light, duty, tea and bread.

Go for it, losers: Werner Herzog’s Visions

David Trotter, 30 November 2023

Documentary has customarily been regarded as a genre duty-bound to deal in facts. But the only duty Herzog has ever felt as a filmmaker is, as he puts it, to ‘follow a grand vision’.

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Kafka wrote that, were it not for the final act, Michael Kohlhaas would be ‘a thing of perfection’, which is a diplomatic way of saying that Kleist absolutely butchers it. In fact, one of the many...

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What a carry-on: W.S. Graham

Seamus Perry, 18 July 2019

Many poets end up having a hard life but W.S. Graham went out of his way to have one. His dedication to poetry, about which he seems never to have had a second thought, was remorseless, and his instinct,...

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Remarque apparently knew that The Promised Land would be his last novel, and meant it to be one of his finest, perhaps his masterwork.

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Jakob Wassermann, who published nearly a book a year for the last thirty years of his life but died broke and exhausted, soon to be forgotten, on 1 January 1934 at the age of sixty, was well...

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Opposite: Peter Stamm

Benjamin Lytal, 30 August 2012

‘Literature should be naked,’ Peter Stamm writes. Words should never obscure the story, ‘its warmth, its form, its vitality’. It’s form that critics in Germany and...

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The cow, the shoe, then you: Hans Fallada

Philip Oltermann, 8 March 2012

On Tuesday, 17 October 1911, 18-year-old Rudolf Ditzen, the future Hans Fallada, got up before dawn to meet his schoolfriend Hanns Dietrich von Necker at a tourist spot outside Rudolstadt in...

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Extreme Understanding: Irmgard Keun

Jenny Diski, 10 April 2008

As any adult can tell you – or any adult not given over entirely to mawkish and convenient notions of innocence – children are born spies. Every parent (previously an independent...

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Tooloose-Lowrytrek: Malcolm Lowry

Elizabeth Lowry, 1 November 2007

The two central facts about Malcolm Lowry are that he wrote and that he drank. He drank while writing – or possibly he wrote while drinking. When he died in June 1957 after downing a lethal...

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A Leap from the Bridge: Wolfgang Koeppen

Alexander Scrimgeour, 12 December 2002

Between 1951 and 1954, Wolfgang Koeppen published three scathing, disillusioned novels ridiculing the notion of a new start and a clean slate for West Germany. At the time, perhaps as many as 80...

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To Live like a Bird

Mark Rudman, 1 June 2000

Michael Hofmann’s poetry is a lament for a lost world. Some years ago, in an article on Frank O’Hara, he talked about New York no longer being the thrilling place it had been in the...

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Empire of Signs: Joseph Roth

James Wood, 4 March 1999

With Joseph Roth, you begin – and end – with the prose. The great delight of this Austrian novelist, who wrote in the Twenties and Thirties, lies in his strange, nimble, curling...

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Penelope Fitzgerald, 9 February 1995

At the age of 48, after thirty years of lecturing on German literature and writing radio plays, Gert Hofmann began to produce disconcerting novels. Michael Hofmann, his son, the poet, confronted...

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Never for me

Michael Wood, 2 December 1993

‘I was not myself. I was just anyone.’ The person who says ‘I’ in Michael Hofmann’s earlier poems is uncertain, diffident, angry; he seems both gnarled and youthful,...

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Gabriele Annan, 5 November 1992

This German novel has waited nearly forty years for its English translator. Michael Hofmann fell in love the moment the Good Fairy told him about it, and set out to liberate it from the thorn...

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No more pretty face

Philip Horne, 8 March 1990

Wim Wender’s very pleasurable Paris, Texas (1984) is both an American movie and a European film. Its creative pedigree is mixed – all through the credits: the German Wenders as...

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John Lanchester, 5 January 1989

Attentive readers of the Guardian’s news pages will already know about Arabesques. A 1986 report from Jerusalem told readers of a first novel by a 36-year-old writer which was making a big...

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French Air

John Sutherland, 12 November 1987

In his autobiographical papers, Surely you’re joking, Mr Feynman?, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist, Richard Feynman, describes being piqued by an article in Science about how well...

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Tales of Hofmann

Blake Morrison, 20 November 1986

The acrimony in Michael Hofmann’s book is that of a son towards his father. Like a family photograph album, the sequence ‘My Father’s House’ records the son’s growth...

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We shall not be moved

John Bayley, 2 February 1984

There remains a most decided difference – indeed it grows wider every year – between what Philip Larkin calls ‘being a writer’, or ‘being a poet’, and managing...

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