Michael Hamburger

Michael Hamburger

Michael Hamburger

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Michael Hamburger OBE (22 March 1924 – 7 June 2007) was a noted British translator, poet, critic, memoirist, and academic. He was known in particular for his translations of Friedrich Hölderlin, Paul Celan, Gottfried Benn and W. G. Sebald from German, and his work in literary criticism. The publisher Paul Hamlyn (1926–2001) was his younger brother.

Life and work

Michael Hamburger was born in Berlin into a Jewish family that left for the UK in 1933, and settled in London. He was educated at Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford and served in the British Army from 1943 to 1947. After that he completed his degree, and wrote for a time. He took a position at University College London in 1951, and then at the University of Reading in 1955. There followed many further academic positions in the UK and the USA.

Hamburger published translations of many of the most important German-language writers, particularly poets. His work was recognised by numerous awards, including the Aristeion Prize in 1990, and the Order of the British Empire in 1992. Hamburger lived in Suffolk, and appeared as a character in W. G. Sebald's The Rings of Saturn.

Representative works included The Truth of Poetry (1968), a major work of criticism. His Collected Poems, 1941–1994 (1995) drew on around twenty collections. Hamburger himself commented unhappily on the habit that reviewers have of greeting publication of his own poetry with a ritualised "Michael Hamburger, better known as a...
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