Heinrich Heine Writing the Revolution George Prochnik

Jewish Lives
Publication date:
12 Jan 2021
Yale University Press
336 pages: 210 x 146 x 29mm
1 b-w illus.
Sales territories:

A thematically rich, provocative, and lyrical study of one of Germany’s most important, world-famous, and imaginative writers

"A concise, fast-paced biography of the German poet, critic, and essayist. . . . A discerning portrait of the writer and his times."—Kirkus Reviews

Heinrich Heine (1797–1856) was a virtuoso German poet, satirist, and visionary humanist whose dynamic life story and strikingly original writing are ripe for rediscovery.
In this vividly imagined exploration of Heine’s life and work, George Prochnik contextualizes Heine’s biography within the different revolutionary political, literary, and philosophical movements of his age. He also explores the insights Heine offers contemporary readers into issues of social justice, exile, and the role of art in nurturing a more equitable society.
Heine wrote that in his youth he resembled “a large newspaper of which the upper half contained the present, each day with its news and debates, while in the lower half, in a succession of dreams, the poetic past was recorded fantastically like a series of feuilletons.”
This book explores the many dualities of Heine’s nature, bringing to life a fully dimensional character while also casting into sharp relief the reasons his writing and personal story matter urgently today.

George Prochnik is the author of Stranger in a Strange Land: Searching for Gershom Scholem and Jerusalem. His previous book, The Impossible Exile: Stefan Zweig at the End of the World, received the 2014 National Jewish Book Award for Biography/Memoir.

“With verve and wit, George Prochnik has successfully captured the spirit of Heine in all its complexity. Splendid.”—David Biale, author of Gershom Scholem: Master of the Kabbalah

“George Prochnik draws the historical background of Heine’s life with care and powerfully evokes a Jewish life in 19th century Germany with all its complexities, frustrations, and contradictions. Prochnik’s scrupulous analysis of the artist’s prose and poems allows for a deep understanding of this brilliant and tormented man.”—Anka Muhlstein, author of The Pen and the Brush