Christa Reinig (6 August 1926, Berlin – 30 September 2008, Munich) was a German poet, fiction and non-fiction writer, and dramatist. She began her career in the Soviet occupation zone which became East Berlin, was banned there, after publishing in West Germany, and moved to the West in 1964, settling in Munich. She was openly lesbian. Her works are marked by black humor, and irony.

Life and careerEdit

Reinig was raised in eastern Berlin by her mother, Wilhelmine Reinig, who was a cleaning woman.[1] After the end of the Second World War, Reinig was a Trümmerfrau, and worked in a factory.[1] She also sold flowers on the Alexanderplatz in the 1940s.[2] In the 1950s, she obtained her Abitur at night school, and went on to study art history at Humboldt University,[2] after which she took a job at the Märkisches Museum, the museum of the history of Berlin, and the Mark Brandenburg, where she worked, until she left Berlin for the West.[1]

She made her literary début in the late 1940s in the satirical magazine Ulenspiegel,[3] at the urging of Bertolt Brecht; she had been working there as an editor.[4] In 1956, her "Ballade vom blutigen Bomme" ("Ballad of Bloody Bomme", first published in 1952)[5] was included in Walter Höllerer's poetic anthology Transit, which brought her to the attention of readers in the West; one writer in 1963 referred to its "strange mix of benevolent cynicism and bottomless sadness".[6] However, she was largely forbidden to publish in the East, beginning in 1951,[3][4] while she was still a student.[7] She was already involved in the West Berlin Gruppe Zukunftsachlicher Dichter (group of future-reasoning writers),[8] and continued to publish both poetry and stories with West German publishers.

In 1964, after her mother's death,[8] Reinig travelled to West Germany to receive the Bremen Literature Prize and stayed there, settling in Munich.[1][3] She suffered from ankylosing spondylitis; she left her desk at the museum empty, except for an X-ray of her crooked spine.[5]

In 1971, she broke her neck in a fall on a spiral staircase; inadequate medical care left her severely disabled,[9] and having to survive on a government pension.[3] She could not use a typewriter again, until being fitted with specially made prismatic spectacles in 1973, after which she wrote her first novel, the autobiographical Die himmlische und die irdische Geometrie (The Heavenly and the Earthly Geometry), which she completed in 1974.[1][4][9]

Reinig died on 30 September 2008 in the Catholic care home, where she had moved at the start of that year.[3] She left her papers to the German Literature Archive in Marbach am Neckar.[7]

Themes and types of writingEdit

Reinig began as a lyric poet, and her voice is frequently allegorical and metaphysical, as well as characterised by black humor,[3] irony,[2] brash, life-affirming sarcasm,[3] and an "extremely refined simplicity".[5] She was known as a rebel, who went her own way.[10][11] She felt like an outsider both in East Germany, despite her proletarian background, and in the feminist movement.[2]

Her first published short story came in 1946, "Ein Fischerdorf";[4] and between 1949 and 1951, she wrote stories about women living without men; however, for 25 years after that, until the autobiographical Die himmlische und die irdische Geometrie, a "pre-feminist" work in female voice,[9] men were at the centre of her work.[1] For a decade beginning in the mid-1970s, she was an avowedly feminist writer. Her 1976 satirical novel, Entmannung, reveals the patriarchalism in both men's and women's thinking processes,[1] and led to her coming out;[4][12] in the 1979 cycle of poems, Müßiggang ist aller Liebe Anfang (later published in English translation as Idleness is the Root of All Love), she expressed her lesbianism in her work for the first time.[1] Reinig said of herself in an interview at sixty, "I am a lesbian writer just as much as I am a woman writer", but she found herself marginalised by the literary establishment as a feminist writer, and a lesbian;[1][3] Entmannung, which means "emasculation", has been described, by a conservative German historian, as "a grotesque spearpoint of feminism".[13] At the end of the 1980s, she left the feminist movement;[1] in Müßiggang ist aller Liebe Anfang, she had written: "Sometimes the gay shirt is closer to me than the feminist skirt."[14] She also translated Russian literature, and wrote audio dramas. Her last publication, in 2006, was a volume of philosophical thoughts titled, Das Gelbe vom Himmel (The Yellow from Heaven).[3][4]



  • Die Steine von Finisterre. 1961. Partial trans. Ruth and Matthew Mead, The Tightrope Walker. Edinburgh: Rutherford, 1981. OCLC 17565306
  • Gedichte. Frankfurt: Fischer, 1963. OCLC 1318938
  • Schwabinger Marterln. Freche Grabsprüche für Huren, Gammler und Poeten. Stierstadt im Taunus: Eremiten, 1969. OCLC 473044494
  • Schwalbe von Olevano. Stierstadt im Taunus: Eremiten, 1969. OCLC 288414
  • Papantscha-Vielerlei: Exotische Produkte Altindiens. Stierstadt im Taunus: Eremiten, 1971. ISBN 978-3-87365-018-3
  • Die Ballade vom Blutigen Bomme. Düsseldorf: Eremiten, 1972. ISBN 978-3-87365-035-0
  • Müßiggang ist aller Liebe Anfang. Düsseldorf: Eremiten, 1979. ISBN 978-3-87365-142-5. Munich: Frauenoffensive, 1980. ISBN 978-3-88104-094-5. Trans. Ilze Mueller. Idleness is the Root of All Love. Corvallis, Oregon: Calyx, 1991. ISBN 978-0-934971-22-5
  • Sämtliche Gedichte. Düsseldorf: Eremiten, 1984. ISBN 978-3-87365-198-2
  • Die Prüfung des Lächlers: Gesammelte Gedichte. Munich: DTV, 1970, 1984. ISBN 978-3-423-06301-2



Audio playsEdit





  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Madeleine Marti, tr. Joey Horsley, Christa Reinig, Biographies, FemBio
  2. ^ a b c d e "Vergessene Ikone der feministischen Literatur: Zum Tod der Schriftstellerin Christa Reinig", Deutschlandradio, 6 October 2008, revised 15 April 2009 (in German)
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Katrin Hillgruber, "Nachruf: Christa Reinig—Ich träume von meiner Verkommenheit", Der Tagesspiegel, 7 October 2008 (in German)
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h "Lakonische Lyrikerin: Christa Reinig ist tot", Der Spiegel 6 October 2008 (in German)
  5. ^ a b c d Martin Lüdke, "Von schnodderigem Charme: Die vergessene, große Dichterin Christa Reinig ist tot. Sie starb im Alter von 82 Jahren", Frankfurter Rundschau, 7 October 2008 (in German)
  6. ^ "Mein tiefstes Herz heißt Tod", Die Zeit, 7 June 1963 (in German): "[D]ieses eine Gedicht in seiner unheimlichen Mischung aus freundlichem Zynismus und bodenloser Traurigkeit ließ einen großen Teil der über dreihundert von Höllerer zusammengetragenen Gedichte junger deutscher Autoren als gegenstandsloses Kunstgewerbe hinter sich." - "[T]his single poem, in its strange mix of benevolent cynicism and bottomless sadness, outclassed a large part of the more than three hundred poems by young German writers assembled by Höllerer, [revealing them] as artifice lacking all substance."
  7. ^ a b Neuer Vorlass in Marbach: Die Schriftstellerin Christa Reinig hat ihre Papiere dem Deutschen Literaturarchiv Marbach übergeben Archived May 21, 2013, at the Wayback Machine, Press Release, German Literature Archive, 8 August 2008 (in German)
  8. ^ a b Madeleine Marti, Christa Reinig, Biographien, FemBio (in German)
  9. ^ a b c Ricarda Schmidt, "Sockelfigur am 'gußeisernen Paradepferd der Weltgeschichte': Christa Reinigs autobiographischer Roman Die himmlische und die irdische Geometrie als 'Weibsgeschichte' aus der Zeit des kalten Krieges", The German Quarterly 72.4 (Fall 1999) 362–76, p. 362 (in German)
  10. ^ [eine] rebellische Selbstdenkerin; Hillgruber.
  11. ^ a b "Die Freischwimmerin"[permanent dead link], Süddeutsche Zeitung, 5 August 2006 (in German)
  12. ^ Kathleen L. Komar, "The Late-1970s Klytemnestra—Brutality on All Fronts: Christa Reinig's Entmannung", in Reclaiming Klytemnestra: Revenge or Reconciliation, Urbana: University of Illinois, 2003, ISBN 978-0-252-02811-3, pp. 67–74, p. 68.
  13. ^ eine groteske Speerspitze des Feminismus; Hillgruber.
  14. ^ Manchmal / ist mir das schwule hemd / näher / als der feministische rock, "Februar 24 Freitag", quoted in translation in Cathrin Winkelmann, "Christa Reinig's Lesbian Warriors: One Sunday During the War of the Genders", in Queering the Canon: Defying Sights in German Literature and Culture, ed. Christoph Lorey and John L. Plews, Studies in German literature, linguistics, and culture, Columbia, South Carolina: Camden House, 1998, ISBN 978-1-57113-178-2, pp. 234–47, p. 234.
  15. ^ Die Stipendiaten der Villa Massimo vom Gründungsjahr 1913 bis 2011 Archived April 13, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, German Academy in Rome (in German)
  16. ^ Übersicht über die preisgekrönten Hörspiele, Hörspielpreis der Kriegsblinden, Bund der Kriegsblinden Deutschlands (in German)
  17. ^ Preisträgerinnen und Preisträger, Tukan-Preis, City of Munich (in German)
  18. ^ Deutscher Kritikerpreis, Literaturpreis Gewinner (in German)
  19. ^ SWR-Bestenliste: Kritikerpreis, Literaturpreise, All Around New Books (in German)
  20. ^ Die Preisträgerinnen des Roswithapreises (Literaturpreis) Archived March 15, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, City of Bad Gandersheim (in German)
  21. ^ Kester-Haeusler-Ehrengabe, Alle Preisträger chronologisch bis 1995, 6–10, Deutsche Schillerstiftung von 1859 (in German)
  22. ^ "Ehrung für Reinig: Schillerstiftung würdigt Lyrikerin"[permanent dead link], Süddeutsche Zeitung, 8 October 2003 (in German)


External linksEdit