Johannes Jansen



I’m not trying to experiment. My literature just happens.

Johannes Jansen (Grauzone, February 1996)

Born in 1966, Johannes Jansen grew up in Freiburg, Leipzig and East Berlin. He trained as an engraver, then completed his national service and began a course in advertising art which he never completed. He worked part-time as a geriatric care worker and remedial teacher. He now works as a freelance writer in Berlin.

In the 1980s he became part of the avant-garde literary movement in East Berlin. His books, which were often a combination of words and graphics, gained attention in the literary world. He has been awarded numerous prizes including the Anna-Seghers Prize and the Kaernten County Prize at the Ingeborg Bachmann Awards.

Featured Reading Group Title

Kleines Dickicht (Little Thicket)

Ritter Verlag, 2000, 112 pages.

These short pieces of prose about the author’s childhood and youth in the urban, suburban and rural areas of the GDR seem like thoughts and anecdotes that want to be told, but they are in fact more like dream images from a kind of kingdom of shadows that the author has allowed himself to fall into once more. It’s less about distance from these pictures as it is about another confirmation of the strangeness that was present at the time and still is.

It’s not a novel about the transition period after the fall of the Berlin Wall nor is it a complete narrative. It is a short story about growing up told in 77 scenes.

heimat… abgang… mehr geht nicht

Heimat. Abgang. Mehr geht nicht (Where You’re From. Leaving. Nothing Else Works)

Suhrkamp, 1995, 116 pages

There’s a nice touch of Kafka about the pieces.

- John Hartley Williams

Berlin is the backdrop to these urgent jottings. Public and private history, trauma and dreams are at their heart. The experiences are distilled through the character of Grell, a rather absurd young man – something of a private philosopher, idler and drop-out – into anecdotes and observations of a rare quality.

More information

  • Kleines Dickicht is featured in the And Other Stories German-language Reading Group for Spring 2011.
  • A translated extract from Jansen’s Heimat. Abgang. Mehr geht nicht is available for download here: [download id=”21″ format=”1″]
  • If you’ve read the books or translated extract, let us know what you think by commenting below.


Reading group:

One Comment

  1. Joel says:

    The language of Kleines Dickicht is much more difficult to get to grips with, but I liked the short paragraph format (like poetry, or 112 einseitige Geschichten – Franz Hohler, ed). The fantasy elements were reminiscent of contemporary cinema, but I thought they worked well in providing an oblique insight into growing up in the DDR.


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