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The beginnings reach back to 1946 when Alfred Andersch and Walter Kolbenhoff founded the literary magazine Der Ruf (The Call) in Munich. Their goal was to inform and teach the German public about democracy after the Hitler era. The US American occupational forces revoked their printing license in April 1947 on the grounds of extensive Nihilism.
The former authors of Der Ruf met in September 1947 in order to start a new magazine, Der Skorpion. This was not successful because they lacked a sound financial basis. Inspired by the Spanish Group 98 they founded the Gruppe 47.
The group met regularly twice a year. Attendance was by invitation only; the organizers would send postcards listing the date and location to anyone who was deemed worthy of invitation, and only invitees and their spouses were allowed entry. No consistent membership list was kept, and a member who had been invited in the past could find himself without an invite at the whim of the organizers.
The meetings consisted of readings and criticism. A writer was required to read his own work, and could only read manuscripts which had not been published. At every meeting, prizes were awarded to the authors of the most popular pieces.
Founder and organizer Hans Werner Richter described this format as a "private public".
At first, the expressed goal of the Gruppe 47 was to encourage young authors, the so-called Nachkriegsliteratur (post-war literature). In addition, the group openly criticized the idealized, poetic dewey-eyedness of some modern prose, as well as the tendency to write about distant time instead of the here-and-now.
The Literature Prize of Gruppe 47 was awarded to as yet unknown authors starting in 1950. The money for the first two awards was donated by the American publisher, Coward-McCann. Later it was funded by various publishers and radio stations. Complete list of recipients:
- 1950: Günter Eich, for "Abgelegene Gehöfte"
- 1951: Heinrich Böll, for "Die schwarzen Schafe"
- 1952: Ilse Aichinger for the story "Spiegelgeschichte"
- 1953: Ingeborg Bachmann, for Die gestundete Zeit
- 1954: Adriaan Morriën, for Zu große Gastlichkeit verjagt die Gäste
- 1955: Martin Walser, for the story "Templones Ende"
- 1958: Günter Grass, for Die Blechtrommel
- 1962: Johannes Bobrowski for the poems Sarmatische Zeit
- 1965: Peter Bichsel, for "Die Jahreszeiten"
- 1967: Jürgen Becker, for Ränder
The Gruppe 47 quickly gained popularity, no doubt on the basis of the well-known members, and was soon a part of the literary establishment in Germany. The onset of the decline began just before the student protests in 1968. There were grave differences of political opinion in the group. The public meetings were discontinued from October 1967, and in 1977 the group was officially disbanded.
- Ilse Aichinger
- Alfred Andersch
- Ingrid Bachér
- Ingeborg Bachmann
- Johannes Bobrowski
- Heinrich Böll
- Paul Celan
- Günter Eich
- Gisela Elsner
- Hans Magnus Enzensberger
- Erich Fried
- Günter Grass
- Peter Handke
- Wolfgang Hildesheimer
- Walter Jens
- Uwe Johnson
- Erich Kästner
- Alexander Kluge
- Victor Lange
- Siegfried Lenz
- Reinhard Lettau
- Marcel Reich-Ranicki
- Hans Werner Richter (initiative and organization)
- Martin Walser
- Peter Weiss
- Gabriele Wohmann
- Die Gruppe 47 (in German)