Georg Büchner

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Georg Büchner

Karl Georg Büchner (October 17, 1813 – February 19, 1837), German playwright and prose writer. He was the son of the renowned chemist and forensic physician Ernst Büchner, and brother of the physicist and philosopher Ludwig Büchner. Büchner’s talent is generally held in great esteem both in Germany and abroad and his works are frequently performed. It is considered that, had he not died so young, he would have acquired the importance of Goethe and Schiller.

Georg_Büchner’s Biography

He was born in Goddelau, near Darmstadt, Hesse-Darmstadt, first-born physician Ernst Büchner and Caroline Reuss. He attended the private school of Dr. Karl Weiterhausen from 1822 to 1825, and attended secondary school at the Ludwig Georg Institute in Dramstadt where he specialized in science and modern languages ​​(French, Italian and English).

The Büchners had educated their children in an environment dominated by a taste for science, literature and culture in general. Dr. Ernst Büchner, Georg’s father, had been a military surgeon for the Napoleonic armies for five years, before becoming a doctor at Goddelau. A renowned industrial chemist, he was the inventor of several scientific tools such as the Büchner funnel. His admiration for the figure of Napoleon and his interest in everything related to French culture undoubtedly influenced his son. Ernst Büchner, who was an atheist, sparked the interest of his two sons, Ludwig and Georg, for science and a materialistic view of reality.

The mother, Caroline Reuss, who belonged to a family of high officials of Pirmasens, in a small county annexed to France from 1793 to 1814, also contributed to the development of Georg’s creative talent with his enormous fondness for literature. It was she who educated him until he was nine years old.

House of the Büchner family in Goddelau.

The first sign of the thought of a very young Georg Büchner -17 years-we have in a school exercise: his defense of the suicide of Cato of Utica. The axis of his argument is the idea that life is not a mere place of transit towards a post-mortem paradise but an end in itself. In 1828 he became interested in politics and formed a circle of fans of William Shakespeare that probably will be the nucleus of the future Gesellschaft für Menschenrechte (“Society for Human Rights”) that he founded a few years later.

In November 1831, he entered the University of Strasbourg to study medicine. There he deepened his knowledge of French literature, and came into contact with French republican groups, opposed to the monarchy of July established after the aborted revolution of 1830. He stayed at the home of the Protestant pastor Johann Jakob Jägle, whose daughter falls in love and with which he undertakes in the spring of 1832.

At the end of 1833, she became ill with meningitis and decided to finish her studies at the University of Giessen.

In those years, Büchner actively participates in the movements that shake Germany in favor of the unification of its 50 states, most of them ruled by absolutist monarchs. In April of 1833, after the failure of an attempt of insurrection led by students and liberals in Frankfurt am Main, Georg has to reassure his parents, worried about their political tendencies, assuring them that he will stay away from all kinds of subversive activities, [ appointment required] which is not an obstacle for him to defend the revolution as the only means capable of changing a social order that he considers unjust. In a letter written to the playwright and journalist Karl Gutzkow, he states that “the struggle between rich and poor is the only revolutionary combat in the world.”

Inspired by the utopian socialist theories of François Babeuf and Henri de Saint-Simon and the revolutionary pragmatism of Louis Auguste Blanqui, he founded in March 1833 a secret society dedicated to the revolutionary cause, the Gesellschaft für Menschenrechte (“Society for the rights of man “), by encouraging similar companies in France. The following month, he returns to his parents’ house in Darmstadt where he creates a section of the same society.

In 1834 he met the Protestant pastor Friedrich Ludwig Weidig, a leading figure in the opposition in the county of Hesse. He writes with him the revolutionary libel Der Hessische Landbote (The rural messenger of Hessen), destined to revolt the peasants of Hesse, in which he proclaims: “Peace to the cabins, war to the palaces!”

Order of search and capture of Georg Büchner.

From October 1834, Büchner begins to write The Death of Danton (Dantons Tod). He publishes numerous controversial and satirical articles in The Messenger of Hesse, which is worth censoring and persecuted by the authorities. After the publication of The Rural Messenger of Hessen, Büchner is accused of treason and wanted by the police. He manages to flee but Pastor Weidig is arrested, tortured and dies in prison. Büchner hides in his parents’ house where he ends up writing The Death of Danton. But he is betrayed and has to leave his country and flee to Strasbourg in 1835.

That same year, he translates two works by Victor Hugo into German: Lucrèce Borgia and Marie Tudor. In 1836, he undertakes scientific research in biology and is admitted as a member of the Natural History Society of Strasbourg. Thanks to his study Mémoire sur le système nerveux du barbeau (Cyprinus barbus L.), published in Paris and Strasbourg, he obtained a PhD from the University of Zurich. He undertakes the writing of the first version of his work Leoncio and Lena.

At the end of 1836, Georg Büchner moved to Zurich where he was offered a post of adjunct professor in the medical school. At the same time, it will be privatdozent of natural sciences in the university. Apart from his work as a researcher, he maintains contacts with other political refugees and works in Woyzeck. The work will remain unfinished and fragmented into four manuscripts, so the end that the author had planned is unknown.

Georg Büchner died in Zurich, shortly after giving a lecture at the university. Typhus took his life on February 19, 1837 at the age of twenty-three years and four months. The brevity of his work has not been an obstacle for him to be considered one of the greatest authors of contemporary theater, a forerunner of several styles, including the theater of the absurd or expressionism.

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