Hans Henny Jahnn

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Jahnn (at the far left) at the founding of the German PEN Club in 1948

Hans Henny Jahnn (17 December 1894, Stellingen – 29 November 1959, Hamburg) was a German playwright, novelist, and organ-builder.

As a playwright, he wrote: Pastor Ephraim Magnus (1917), which The Cambridge Guide to Theatre describes as a nihilistic, Expressionist play "stuffed with perversities and sado-masochistic motifs"; Coronation of Richard III (1922; "equally lurid");[1] and a version of Medea (1926). Later works include the novel Perrudja, an unfinished trilogy of novels River without Banks (Fluss ohne Ufer), the drama Thomas Chatterton (1955; staged by Gustaf Gründgens in 1956),[1] and the novella The Night of Lead. Erwin Piscator staged Jahnn's The Dusty Rainbow (Der staubige Regenbogen) in 1961.[1]

Jahnn was also a music publisher, focusing on 17th-century organ music. He was a contemporary of organ-builder Rudolf von Beckerath.

Personal life[edit]

He met Gottlieb Friedrich Harms "Friedel" (1893-1931), with whom he was united in a "mystical wedding" in 1913, at a secondary school (the St. Pauli Realschule) which they both attended, and they lived together between 1914 and 1918.[2] They met Ellinor Philips in 1918. In 1919, Jahnn founded the community of Ugrino with a sculptor, Franz Buse.[3] In 1926, Jahnn married Ellinor, and Harms married Sybille Philips, Ellinor's sister, in 1928.

Jahnn's bisexuality, well-documented in his life, appears as well throughout his literary work. Hans Henny Jahnn is buried alongside Harms and Ellinor at Nienstedten Cemetery, Hamburg, Germany.[4]

English Translations[edit]

  • The Living Are Few, the Dead Many. Trans. Malcolm R. Green. (2012)[5]


  1. ^ a b c Banham (1998, 553).
  2. ^ Jan Bürger, 2003. Der gestrandete Wal. Das maßlose Leben des Hans Henny Jahnn. Die Jahre 1894–1935. Berlin: Aufbau-Verlag. ISBN 3-351-02552-1.
  3. ^ Jochen Hengst und Heinrich Lewinski, 1991. Hanns Henny Jahnn: Ugrino. Hannover: Revonnah Verlag. ISBN 3-927715-08-5
  4. ^ Molitor, Dietrich; Popp, Wolfgang (1986), Siegener Hans Henny Jahnn Kolloquium: Homosexualität und Literatur, Blaue Eule, ISBN 3-89206-142-4 
  5. ^ West, Adrian Nathan (May 29, 2018). "Stranded Whale". TLS The Times Literary Supplement. 


  • Banham, Martin, ed. (1998). "Jahnn, Hans Henny". The Cambridge Guide to Theatre. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 553. ISBN 0-521-43437-8. 
  • "Jahnn, Hans Henny". The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia. Infoplease. 1994. Retrieved 18 February 2018. 
  • Freeman, Thomas P. (1986). Hans Henny Jahnn. Eine Biographie. Hamburg: Hoffmann und Campe. ISBN 3-455-08608-X. 
  • Freeman, Thomas P. (2001). The Case of Hans Henny Jahnn: Criticism and the Literary Outsider. Suffolk, UK: Boydell & Brewer. ISBN 1-57113-206-6. 
  • Jenkinson, David Edward (1969). A Critical Analysis of the Novels of Hans Henny Jahnn (Ph.D.). Department of English, King's College, University of London. OCLC 874233633. 
  • Jenkinson, David Edward (July 1972). "The Role of Vitalism in the Novels of Hans Henny Jahnn". German Life and Letters. 25 (4): 359–368. doi:10.1111/j.1468-0483.1972.tb00795.x.