Image by Caroline Forbes

Michael Hamburger

b. 1924 d. 2007


...as both poet and translator he has succeeded over many decades in placing the best silences in the best order. - Dennis O'Driscoll

Ave Atque Vale

Michael Hamburger

Muted Song

Michael Hamburger

From a Diary of Non-Events - January

Michael Hamburger

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About Michael Hamburger

Michael Hamburger (1924 - 2007) was born into a German family of Jewish descent in Berlin, emigrating with them to England in 1933. He attended Westminster School and read Modern Languages at Christ Church, Oxford where his contemporaries included Philip Larkin and John Heath-Stubbs. His studies were interrupted by the Second World War and army service. He then worked as a lecturer in German at University College, London and this was followed by a succession of academic posts, both in the UK and America. Hamburger's work as "a meticulous translator" (TLS) made available to English-language readers a host of German writers including Büchner, Celan, Enzensberger, Goethe, Grass, Hölderlin, Rilke and Trakl and did much to pioneer a greater understanding of German Literature at an inauspicious time. He wrote over twenty volumes of his own poetry as well as highly regarded criticism and autobiography. His work was recognised by many awards including the Medal of the Institute of Linguists, the Goethe Medal and the European Translation Prize. He was awarded an OBE in 1992. Michael Hamburger died in June 2007.

The critic Stephen Romer has detected a fascinating "dividedness" in Hamburger's work, on the one hand steeped in European culture and engaged in the socio-political issues of the day, on the other a nature poet in the English tradition, absorbed in the atmosphere of his rural Suffolk home. The two impulses reflect Hamburger's mixed inheritance and the fruitful tension between them informs his long sequence 'From A Diary of Non-Events'. Meticulously observed descriptions of weather, flora and landscape (Hamburger was a keen and knowledgeable gardener) are juxtaposed with his outrage at the mono-culture of big-business capitalism. Like a modern-day Lear, Hamburger storms at this "junk age" and the damage it's inflicting on "the maimed globe", mourning England's vanished birds or the hedgerows "slashed" to allow trucks "grown cottage-sized" to pass unhindered. The energy of his anger is tempered by a strong sense of elegy in these late poems which frequently commemorate dead friends as well as his own past. His magisterial reading style is in tune with the rolling latinate syntax and finely-honed structures of the poems which form an eloquent argument against a literary culture that values hype over history.

His recording was made for The Poetry Archive on 17 April 2003 at the poet's home in Suffolk, UK and was produced by Richard Carrington.

Selected bibliography

Mr Littlejoy's Rattlebag for the New Millennium,...

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String of Begnnings (memoir), Skoob Seriph, 1991

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Michael Hamburger in Conversation with Peter Dale,...

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Circling the Square, Anvil Press, 2007

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Wild and Wounded, Anvil Press, 2004

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W G Sebald, Unrecounted (translator), Hamish Hamilton,...

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W G Sebald, After Nature (translator), London, Hamish...

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From a Diary of Non-Events, Anvil Press, 2002

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Philip Larkin: a retrospect, London, Enitharmon, 2002

Intersections, Anvil Press, 2000

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G Grass, Selected Poems 1956-1993 (translator), London,...

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Friedrich Hölderlin, Selected poems and Fragments (...

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Late, Anvil Press, 1997

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H M Enzensberger, Kiosk (translator), Bloodaxe, 1997

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Goethe, Roman Elegies and other Poems and Epigrams (...

G Grass, Novemberland (translator), New York, 1996

Collected Poems 1941-1994, Anvil Press, 1995, (new ed....

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H M Enzensberger, Selected poems (translator), Bloodaxe...

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A Mug's Game (memoir), Carcanet, 1991, (revised ed. as...

Roots in the Air, Anvil Press, 1991

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Gunter Eich, Pigeons and Moles (translator), London,...

Testimonies, Carcanet, 1989 - out of print

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Selected Poems, Carcanet, 1988

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Trees, Embers Hand Press, 1988.

After the Second Flood: essays in modern German...

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Collected Poems, Carcanet, 1984 - out of print

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Marin Sorescu, Selected Poems (translator), Newcastle-...

A Proliferation of Prophets, Carcanet, 1983 - out of...

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Goethe, Poems and Epigrams (translator), Anvil Press,...

Peter Huchel, The Garden of Theophrastus (translator),...

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Variations, Carcanet, 1981 - out of print

Collected Poems, Carcanet, 1980 - out of print

An Unofficial Rilke (translator), London, Anvil Press,...

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Franco Fortini, Poems (translator), Todmorden,...

Moralities, Newcastle, A Morden Tower Reading, 1977 -...

Helmut Heissenbuttel, Texts (translator), Calder and...

Real Estate, Carcanet, 1977 - out of print

German Poetry 1910-1975 (translator), Carcanet, 1977 -...

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Art as Second Nature, Carcanet, 1975 - out of print

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Travelling VI, Agenda Editions, 1975 - out of print

Peter Huchel, Selected poems (translator), Carcanet,...

Ownerless Earth, Carcanet, 1973 - out of print

Travelling I-V, London, Agenda Editions, 1973

East German Poetry (translator), Carcanet, 1972 - out of...

Paul Celan, Poems (translator), Manchester, Carcanet,...

The Truth of Poetry, London, Weidenfeld...

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Travelling, London, Fulcrum, 1969 - out of print

Penguin Modern Poets 14 (contributor with Alan Brownjohn...

N Sachs, Selected Poems (translator), Jonathan Cape and...

G Grass, The Poems of Gunter Grass (translator with C...

G Eich, Journeys (ed. Nathaniel Tarn, translator Michael...

P Bichsel, And Really Frau Blum Would Very Much Like to...

H M Enzensberger, Poems for People Who Don't Read Poems...

H M Enzensberger, The Poems of Hans Magnus Enzensberger...

Feeding the Chickadees, London, Turret Press, 1968 - out...

J C F Hölderlin, Poems and Fragments (translator),...

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H M Enzensberger, Poems (translator), Northern House,...

G Büchner, Lenz (translator), Buffalo, USA, Frontier...

G Grass, Selected poems (translator with C Middleton),...

From Prophecy to Exorcism: the Premisses of Modern...

Weather and Season: New Poems, London, Longmans, 1963 -...

Modern German Poetry 1910-1960 (translator with C...

J C F Hölderlin, Selected Verse (translator),...

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H Von Hofmannsthal, Poems and Verse Plays (translator...

B Brecht, Tales from the Calendar (translator), London,...

The Dual Site, Routledge & K. Paul, 1958 - out of print

Reason and Energy, London, Routledge...

A. Goes, The Burnt Offering (translator), London,...

Poems 1950-1951, Hand and Flower Press, 1952 - out of...

Trakl, Decline (translator), St. Ives, Guido Morris/...

Flowering Cactus: poems 1942-1949, Aldington, Hand and...

C. Baudelaire, Twenty Prose Poems (translator), London,...

Poems of Hölderlin (translator), Poetry London 1943, (...

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