Hermann Burger was born in Menziken on 10 July 1942 and died in Brunegg on 28 February 1989. He abandoned his architecture studies to study German literature with Emil Staiger and Karl Schmid. A thesis on the language problem in the work of Paul Celan followed in 1973 and a post-doctoral dissertation on contemporary Swiss literature in 1975. Burger then taught as a lecturer at the ETH Zurich and worked as editor of the literary sections at various newspapers.
Hermann Burger is one of the most important and most linguistically dexterous Swiss writers of the late 20th century. In his first novel “Schilten” (1976) he crafted a meticulously structured cult novel around the manic and tragic teacher Armin Schildknecht, whose obsessive and monologic linguistic virtuosity, scholarliness, tragicomedy and poetics that blur the lines between the real and the unreal would also come to characterise Burger’s later works.
One of these is the short story collection “Diabelli” (1979), which, thanks to the significant support of Marcel Reich-Ranicki, won Burger the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize and allowed him to finally break into the German market through the renowned publisher, Verlag S. Fischer. It was followed in 1982 by the novel “Die künstliche Mutter” (The Artificial Mother), which shows Burger at the height of his craft and takes the author’s linguistic virtuosity – his hallmark since his first novel “Schilten” – to new levels. In a blend of scholar’s tragedy and picaresque novel, the fate of lecturer in glaciology and German literature Wolfram Schöllkopf unfolds, as he seeks treatment for his “genital migraines” at a clinic in the healing caves of the Gotthard mountains, which Burger styles as a modern Venusberg, revolving around his adored newsreader Dagmar Bergoff as a German Helen.
The leitmotif of the “Cemetarian” in “Schilten” is combined with the “Circensian” in “Diabelli” and “The Artificial Mother”, and ultimately finds its triad in his unfinished tetralogy “Brenner” (1989) with the “Cigaristic” as the third C of his work, to which the poetry collection “Rauchsignale” (Smoke signals) in 1967 was a prelude.
Last modification 06.09.2022