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Stefan Anton George (July 12, 1868December 4, 1933) was a German poet, editor and translator.



George was born in Bingen. He spent time in Paris, where he was among the writers and artists who attended the Tuesday soireés held by the poet Stéphane Mallarmé. He began to publish poetry in the 1890s. George founded and edited an important literary magazine called Blätter für die Kunst. He was also at the center of an influential literary and academic circle known as the Georgekreis, which included many of the leading young writers of the day, (e.g. Friedrich Gundolf and Ludwig Klages). In addition to sharing cultural interests, the circle reflected mystical and political themes.

Stefan George died near Locarno. Although identified with an extreme conservatism in politics, George refused honors from the National Socialist regime, and following his death was interred before a delegation from the National Socialist government could attend the ceremony[1].


George's poetry is characterized by an aristocratic and remote ethos; his verse is formal in style, lyrical in tone, and often arcane in language, being influenced by Greek classical forms, in revolt against the realist trend in German literature at the time. Believing that the purpose of poetry was distance from the world—he was a strong advocate of art for art's sake, and was influenced by Nietzsche—George's writing had many ties with the French Symbolist movement. He was in contact with many of its representatives, including Stéphane Mallarmé and Paul Verlaine.

George was an important bridge between the 19th century and German modernism, even though he was a harsh critic of the then modern era. He experimented with various poetic metres, punctuation, obscure allusions and typography. George's "evident homosexuality"[2] is reflected in works such as Algabal and the love poetry he devoted to a gifted adolescent of his acquaintance named Maximilian Kronberger,[3] whom he called "Maximin", and whom he identified as a manifestation of the divine. The relevance of George's sexuality to his poetic work has been discussed by contemporary critics, such as Thomas Karlauf and Marita Keilson-Lauritz.[4]

Algabal is one of George's best remembered collections of poetry, if also one of his strangest; the title is a reference to the effete Roman emperor Elagabalus. George was also an important translator; he translated Dante, Shakespeare and Baudelaire into German.

Das neue Reich

George's late and seminal work Das neue Reich (the new empire) was published in 1928. He dedicated the work, including the Geheimes Deutschland ("secret germany") written in 1922, to Berthold Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg[1]. It outlines a new form of society ruled by hierarchical spiritual aristocracy. George rejected any attempts to use it for mundane political purposes, especially National Socialism.


George was thought of by his contemporaries as a prophet and a priest, while he thought of himself as a messiah of a new kingdom that would be led by intellectual or artistic elites, bonded by their faithfulness to a strong leader. His poetry emphasized self-sacrifice, heroism and power, and he thus gained popularity in National Socialist circles. The group of writers and admirers that formed around him were known as the Georgekreis. Although many National Socialists claimed George as an important influence, George himself was aloof from such associations and did not get involved in politics. Shortly after the Nazi seizure of power, George left Germany for Switzerland where he died the same year.

Some critics considered his work to be proto-fascist, though many of the leading members of the German Resistance to the Nazis were drawn from among his followers, notably the Stauffenberg brothers who were introduced to George by the poet and classical scholar Albrecht von Blumenthal. Also, although some members of the circle were explicitly anti-semitic (e.g. Klages), it also included Jewish writers such as Gundolf and the Zionist, Karl Wolfskehl. George was fond enough of his Jewish disciples, but he expressed reservations about their ever becoming a majority in the Circle.

Perhaps the most eminent poet who collaborated with George, but who ultimately refused membership in the Circle, was Hugo von Hofmannsthal, one of Austria's outstanding literary modernists. Later in life, Hofmannsthal wrote that no one had influenced him more deeply than George. Those closest to the "Master," as George had his disciples call him, included several members of the July 20 Plot to assassinate Hitler, including Claus von Stauffenberg himself. Outside the Circle, George's poetry was a major influence on the music of the Second Viennese School of composers, particularly during their Expressionist period. Arnold Schönberg set George's poetry in such works as his String Quartet No. 2 Op. 10 of 1908 and The Book of the Hanging Gardens Op. 15 of 1909, while his student Anton Webern made use of George's verse in his early choral work Entflieht auf leichten Kähnen Op. 2 as well as in two sets of songs, Opp. 3 and 4 of 1909, and in several posthumously published vocal works from the same period.

Online texts


  1. Robert E. Norton, Secret Germany: Stefan George and his Circle (Cornell University Press, 2002)
  2. Robert E. Norton, Secret Germany: Stefan George and his Circle (Cornell University Press, 2002) page 354
  3. Template:Citation.
  4. See for example, "Ubergeschlechtliche Liebe: Stefan George's Concept of Love" (Rieckmann, ed A Companion to the Works of Stefan George (Camden House, 2005)


Selected German titles

External links


Template:BDbg:Стефан Георге ca:Stefan George de:Stefan George es:Stefan George fr:Stefan George hr:Stefan George it:Stefan George ja:シュテファン・ゲオルゲ nl:Stefan George no:Stefan George pl:Stefan George pt:Stefan George ru:Георге, Стефан fi:Stefan George sv:Stefan George

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