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The Greatest German Literature

The selection of the Greatest Russian Literature is been based on the same extensive research and surveys carried out over the past two decades for our Greatest Literature of All Time list—with special attention paid to the evaluation by German readers, writers and critics.

Within the German context, we have endeavoured to cover all possible genres, cultures and periods.

As with other national lists, we are being as strict as possible in our choices. That is, we are considering works only from the country of Germany and its predecessor states, republics and confederations—not works written in German by authors who reside and write mainly in other parts of the world. 

On this list, preference is given to major creative works—including novels, novellas, plays, epic poems and story collections—although a few significant shorter works have also been included.

Latest update: October 31, 2022

The 111 greatest works of literature from Germany

Click linked titles and authors for details, critiques and other comments.

c.1145
King Rother
Anonymous
Germany
Long poem
c.1200
The Nibelungenlied
Anonymous
Germany
Long poem
c.1200–1210
Parzival
Wolfram von Eschenbach
Germany
Long poem
1210
Tristan und Isolde
Gottfied von Strassburg
Germany
Long poem
1494
Ship of Fools
Sebastian Brant
Germany
Poetry collection
1668
Simplicius Simplicissimus
Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen
Germany
Novel
1767
Minna von Barnhelm or the Soldiers' Happiness
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing
Germany
Play
1774
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Germany
Novel
1779
Nathan the Wise
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing
Germany
Play
1781
The Robbers
Friedrich Schiller
Germany
Play
1785–1790
Anton Reiser
Karl Philipp Moritz
Germany
Novel
1787
Don Carlos, Infant von Spanien
Friedrich Schiller
Germany
Play
1787–1789
The Ghost-Seer
Friedrich Schiller
Germany
Novel
1795–1796
William Meister's Apprenticeship
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Germany
Novel
1796–1797
Siebenkäs
Jean Paul
Germany
Novel
1797–1799
Hyperion
Friedrich Hölderlin
Germany
Novel
1797–1806
Hymns and Fragments
Friedrich Hölderlin
Germany
Poetry collection
1800
Mary Stuart
Friedrich Schiller
Germany
Play
1804
William Tell
Friedrich Schiller
Germany
Play
1808
The Broken Jug
Heinrich von Kleist
Germany
Play
1808–1832
Faust
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Germany
Play
1809
Elective Affinities
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Germany
Novel
1811
Treasure Chest of Rhenish Tales
Johann Peter Hebel
Germany
Story collection
 
Michael Kohlhaas
Heinrich von Kleist
Germany
Novella
1812
Poems
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Germany
Poetry collection
1812–1857
Germany
Story collection
1815–1816
The Devil's Elixir
E.T.A. Hoffmann
Germany
Novel
1817
The Story of the Just Casper and Fair Annie
Clemens Brentano
Germany
Novella
1819
Mademoiselle de Scuderi
E.T.A. Hoffmann
Germany
Novella
1819–1821
The Life and Opinions of Tomcat Murr
E.T.A. Hoffmann
Germany
Novel
1821
The Prince of Homburg
Heinrich von Kleist
Germany
Play
1826
Memoirs of a Good-for-Nothing
Joseph von Eichendorff
Germany
Novella
1827
Book of Songs
Heinrich Heine
Germany
Poetry collection
1835
The Hermit
Joseph von Eichendorff
Germany
Poem
1842
Annette von Droste-Hülshoff
Germany
Novella
1844
Germany, A Winter's Tale
Heinrich Heine
Germany
Long poem
1851
Theodor W. Storm
Germany
Novella
1857
Thus Spoke Zarathustrta
Friedrich Nietzsche
Germany
Novel
1870
Venus in Furs
Leopold von Sacher-Masoch
Germany
Novella
1879
Woyzeck
Georg Büchner
Germany
Play
1887
Flagman Thiel
Gerhart Hauptmann
Germany
Novella
1895
Effi Briest
Theodor Fontane
Germany
Novel
1898
The Stechlin
Theodor Fontane
Germany
Novel
1900
How Old Timofei Died with a Song
Rainer Maria Rilke
Germany
Story
1901
Germany
Novel
1905
Professor Unrat
Heinrich Mann
Germany
Novel
1906
Spring Awakening
Frank Wedekind
Germany
Play
1910
The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge
Rainer Maria Rilke
Germany
Novel
1912
Germany
Novella
1918
The Loyal Subject
Heinrich Mann
Germany
Novel
1920
The Storm of Steel
Ernst Jünger
Germany
Memoir
1923
Sonnets to Orpheus
Rainer Maria Rilke
Germany
Poetry collection
1924
Purgatory in Ingolstadt
Marieluise Fleißer
Germany
Play
 
The Magic Mountain
Thomas Mann
Germany
Novel
1925
Jud Süß
Lion Feuchtwanger
Germany
Novel
1926
Metropolis
Thea von Harbou
Germany
Novel
1926–1943
Joseph and His Brothers
Germany
Novel
1927
The Case of Sergeant Grischa
Arnold Zweig
Germany
Novel
1928
The Three-Penny Opera
Bertolt Brecht
Germany
Play
 
Pioneers in Ingolstadt
Marieluise Fleißer
Germany
Play
1929
Berlin Alexanderplatz
Alfred Döblin
Germany
Novel
1930
Success: Three Years in the Life of a Province
Lion Feuchtwanger
Germany
Novel
1932–1942
Josephus trilogy
Lion Feuchtwanger
Germany
Novel series
1933
The Artificial Silk Girl
Irmgard Keun
Germany
Novel
1939
Mother Courage and her Children
Bertolt Brecht
Germany
Play
1941
The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, The
Bertolt Brecht
Germany
Play
1942
The Seventh Cross
Anna Seghers
Germany
Novel
1943
The Good Person of Szechwan
Bertolt Brecht
Germany
Play
 
The Life of Galileo
Bertolt Brecht
Germany
Play
1944
Transit
Anna Seghers
Germany
Novel
1945
The Caucasian Chalk Circle
Bertolt Brecht
Germany
Play
1947
A Diary of a Young Girl
Anne Frank
Germany
Memoir
 
Doctor Faustus
Germany
Novel
1948
Mr Puntila and His Man Matti
Bertolt Brecht
Germany
Play
1951
And Where Were You, Adam
Heinrich Böll
Germany
Novel
1952
The Black Swan
Thomas Mann
Germany
Novella
1953
The Hothouse
Wolfgang Koeppen
Germany
Novel
1955
Raquel: The Jewess of Toledo
Lion Feuchtwanger
Germany
Novel
1956
A Legacy
Sybille Bedford
Germany
Novel
1957
The Glass Bees
Ernst Jünger
Germany
Novel
1959
Billiards at Half Past Nine
Heinrich Böll
Germany
Novel
 
The Tin Drum
Günter Grass
Germany
Novel
1960
Halftime
Martin Walser
Germany
Novel
1961
Cat and Mouse
Günter Grass
Germany
Novella
1963
The Clown
Heinrich Böll
Germany
Novel
 
Dog Years
Günter Grass
Germany
Novel
1968
The German Lesson
Siegfried Lenz
Germany
Novel
 
The Quest for Christa T.
Christa Wolf
Germany
Novel
1969
Jacob the Liar
Jurek Becker
Germany
Novel
1970–1983
Anniversaries
Uwe Johnson
Germany
Novel series
1971
Group Portrait with a Lady
Heinrich Böll
Germany
Novel
1972
The New Sufferings of Young W.
Ulrich Plenzdorf
Germany
Novel
1974
The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum
Heinrich Böll
Germany
Novel
1976
Patterns of Childhood
Christa Wolf
Germany
Novel
1981
Couples, Passersby
Botho Strauß
Germany
Story collection
1984
The Young Man
Botho Strauß
Germany
Novel
1985
The Parable of the Blind
Gert Hofmann
Germany
Novel
 
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
Patrick Suskind
Germany
Novel
1987
The Pigeon
Patrick Süskind
Germany
Novella
1990
Vertigo
W.G. Sebald
Germany
Novel
1993
The Emigrants
W.G. Sebald
Germany
Novel
 
The Invention of Curried Sausage
Uwe Timm
Germany
Novella
1995
The Reader
Bernhard Schlink
Germany
Novel
 
The Rings of Saturn
W.G. Sebald
Germany
Novel
1997
Alberta Receives a Lover
Birgit Vanderbeke
Germany
Novel
2001
Austerlitz
W.G. Sebald
Germany
Novel
2004
The Swarm
Frank Schätzing
Germany
Novel
2005
Measuring the World
Daniel Kehlmann
Germany
Novel
2007
The Blind Side of the Heart
Julia Franck
Germany
Novel
2008
Visitation
Jenny Erpenbeck
Germany
Novel

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