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Book Details

  • Paperback
  • Bookstore's Wholesale Price: $16.00
  • April 2012
  • ISBN: 978-0-393-93351-2
  • 432 pages
  • Territory Rights: Worldwide

Georg Büchner

The Major Works

Norton Critical Editions


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Georg Büchner (Author), Henry Schmidt (Translator), Matthew Wilson Smith (Editor, Cornell University)


Few writers have transformed literature and theater so dramatically. Based on Henry J. Schmidt’s translations of The Hessian Messenger, Danton’s Death, Lenz, Leonce and Lena, and Woyzeck.

The Georg Büchner Prize is the highest literary honor for German language writers, and the full extent of Büchner’s influence—from Gerhart Hauptmann to Christa Wolf, Max Reinhardt to Robert Wilson, Alban Berg to Tom Waits—defies cataloging.

When Georg Büchner died in 1837 at the age of twenty-three, he left behind a small and heterogenous body of work, most of it unpublished: three plays, a novella, a political pamphlet, a dissertation, medical lectures, and letters. Matthew Wilson Smith has newly translated Büchner’s introduction to On Cranial Nerves. Each text is accompanied by explanatory annotations. The editor’s introduction examines the complexities of Büchner’s short life and how they informed his writing. The volume also contains ten illustrations.

“Contexts” includes Büchner’s correspondence with the people who knew him best, impressions of Büchner from a fellow medical student, excerpts from Büchner’s diary, the wanted poster calling for Büchner’s arrest for political conspiracy as well as the real-life inspirations his novella, Lenz, and his best-known play, Woyzeck.

For ease of reference, “Criticism” is topically arranged by work and includes assessments by, among others, Laura Ginters, Victor Brombert, Bertolt Brecht, Henry Schmidt, Andrew Webber, Rainer Maria Rilke, and George Steiner. Three accounts of important productions of Danton’s Death are reprinted, including John Houseman’s remarks on Orson Welles’s staging. Finally, the speeches of four winners of the Georg Büchner Prize—Paul Celan, Christa Wolf, Heiner Müller, and Durs Grünbein—are reprinted in their entirety.

A Chronology of Büchner’s life and work and a Selected Bibliography are also included.


    List of Illustrations



    The Texts of Büchner’s Major Works

    • The Hessian Messenger
    • Danton’s Death
    • Lenz
    • Leonce and Lena
    • Woyzeck
      •     A Reconstruction
      •     The Drafts
    • Introduction to On Cranial Nerves
      • (translated by Matthew Wilson Smith)


    • Selected Letters
    • Karl Vogt [Impression of the Giessen Student Georg Büchner]
    • Wanted Poster
    • Johann Friedrich Oberlin From Pastor Oberlin’s Diary
    • Johann Christian August Clarus From The Legal Accountability of the Murderer Johann Christian Woyzeck
    • Caroline Schulz From Diary Account of Büchner’s Last Days



      • Herbert Lindenberger Forebears, Descendants, and Contemporary Kin: Büchner and Literary Tradition
      • Laura Ginters Georg Büchner—A Selective Stage History

    The Hessian Messenger

      • Hans Magnus Enzensberger [The Hessian Messenger in the Political Context of 1964]
      • Victor Brombert [Büchner and Rhetoric]

    Danton’s Death

      • Bertolt Brecht [On Danton’s Death]
      • Edward McInnes Skepticism, Ideology, and History in Büchner’s Dantons Tod
      • Henry J. Schmidt Women, Death, and Revolution
      • Accounts of Three Productions
        • Ernst Stern [On Max Reinhardt’s Danton’s Death]
        • John Houseman [On Orson Welles’s Danton’s Death]
        • Richard Thomas Wilson, Danton, and Me


      • Erika Swales Büchner, Lenz

    Leonce and Lena

      • Thomas Bernhard Leonce and Lena: Tragic Comedy by Georg Büchner
      • Andrew Webber Büchner, Leonce und Lena


      • Rainer Maria Rilke [On Woyzeck]
      • George Steiner [Woyzeck and Lear]
      • John A. McCarthy Some Aspects of Imagery in Büchner’s Woyzeck
      • John Reddick Natur and Kunst
      • Peter J. Schwartz Clarus, Woyzeck, and the Politics of Accountability

    Four Georg Büchner Prize Talks

      • Paul Celan The Meridian
      • Christa Wolf Speaking of Büchner
      • Heiner Müller The Wounded Woyzeck
      • Durs Grünbein Breaking the Body


    Georg Büchner: A Chronology

    Selected Bibliography