Walter Jens cover

photo credits: Wikimedia Commons

Walter Jens

German philologist, literature historian, critic, university professor and writer

1923   -   2013

country of citizenship: Germany
language of expression: German
educated at: University of Tübingen, University of Freiburg, University of Hamburg
occupation: rhetorician, screenwriter, writer, translator, literary historian, literary critic, university teacher, playwright, philologist, critic
award received: Knight Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, Ernst Reuter Medal, Theodor Heuss award, Austrian Decoration for Science and Art, Heinrich Heine Prize, docteur honoris causa de l'université d'Augsbourg

Walter Jens (8 March 1923 – 9 June 2013) was a German philologist, literature historian, critic, university professor and writer.He was born in Hamburg, and attended the Gelehrtenschule des Johanneums from 1933 to 1941, when he gained his abitur, before studying at the University of Hamburg. In the early 1940s, Jens joined the NSDAP. He denied having applied for membership actively and claims that he had become a member automatically because he was a member of the Hitler Youth and that he never received a membership card. During World War II, he earned a doctorate in Freiburg with a work about Sophocles' tragedy and habilitated at age 26 with the work Tacitus und die Freiheit (Tacitus and Freedom) at the University of Tübingen. Jens was a member of the Turnerschaft Akademischer Turnbund. From 1950 on, Jens was a member of the Group 47. That year, he had his breakthrough with the novel Nein. Die Welt der Angeklagten. One distinguishing characteristic of his literary work is that he interprets current events by looking back at the past. From 1965 to 1988, Jens held the chair for General Rhetoric at the University of Tübingen, which was created in order to keep him at the university. Under the pseudonym Momos, he wrote television reviews for Die Zeit. From 1976 to 1982, he was president of the International PEN center in Germany. From 1989 to 1997, he was president of the Academy of Arts, Berlin, and afterwards he was the honorary president. From 1990 to 1995, he was chairman of the Martin-Niemöller-Foundation. Jens suffered from dementia, which began to manifest in 2004. He died in 2013 in Tübingen.
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