January 2012 marks the centenary of the death, by drowning at the age of 24, of one of the major figures of early German modernism – the poet and short story writer Georg Heym, a member of the brilliant ‘Expressionist’ generation that included the painters Emil Nolde, Franz Marc and Wassili Kandinsky and the young poets who were to die in the First World War like Alfred Lichtenstein, Ernst Stadler and Georg Trakl.
Heym’s often explosive and shocking images are contained in verse of strict classical form and metre, giving it a thrilling tension and force. One of his most famous poems, ‘War’, contains the line ‘A mighty city sank in yellow smoke’ – a premonition of the Second World War and beyond, written before the First. Such is Heym’s apocalyptic contribution to the line of ‘city’ poetry from Baudelaire to T.S. Eliot.
First published by Libris in 2004, Antony Hasler’s is the fullest selection of his verse to appear in English. It is now distributed by Angel Classics.
‘Hasler has achieved, not complete rhymes, but satisfying assonances, and has built his translations round them, preserving Heym’s meaning with astonishing fidelity. His renderings, printed opposite the original texts, serve as perfect examples of the art of translation.’ – Michael Hofmann, Guardian