Michael Hofmann

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Michael Hofmann

Born (1957-08-25) 25 August 1957 (age 66)
Freiburg, Germany
OccupationPoet, translator
GenreCriticism, poetry, translation

Michael Hofmann FRSL (born 25 August 1957) is a German-born poet, translator, and critic. The Guardian has described him as "arguably the world's most influential translator of German into English".[1]


Hofmann was born in Freiburg into a family with a literary tradition. His father was the German novelist Gert Hofmann. His maternal grandfather edited the Brockhaus Enzyklopädie.[2] Hofmann's family first moved to Bristol in 1961, and later to Edinburgh. He was educated at Winchester College,[3] and then studied English Literature and Classics at Magdalene College, Cambridge, graduating with a BA in 1979.[4][5] For the next four years, he pursued postgraduate study at the University of Regensburg and Trinity College, Cambridge.[2]

In 1983, Hofmann started working as a freelance writer, translator, and literary critic.[6] He has since gone on to hold visiting professorships at the University of Michigan, Rutgers University, the New School University, Barnard College, and Columbia University. He was first a visitor to the University of Florida in 1990, joined the faculty in 1994, and became full-time in 2009. He has been teaching poetry and translation workshops.[7]

In 2008, Hofmann was Poet-in-Residence in the state of Queensland in Australia.[8]

Hofmann has two sons, Max (1991) and Jakob (1993).[citation needed] He splits his time between Hamburg and Gainesville, Florida.[citation needed]


Hofmann received the Cholmondeley Award in 1984 for Nights in the Iron Hotel[9] and the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize in 1988 for Acrimony.[10] The same year, he also received the Schlegel-Tieck Prize for his translation of Patrick Süskind's Der Kontrabaß (The Double Bass).[11] In 1993 he received the Schlegel-Tieck Prize again for his translation of Wolfgang Koeppen's Death in Rome.[11]

Hofmann was awarded the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 1995 for the translation of his father's novel The Film Explainer,[2] and nominated again in 2003 for his translation of Peter Stephan Jungk's The Snowflake Constant.[12] In 1997 he received the Arts Council Writer's Award for his collection of poems Approximately Nowhere,[2] and the following year he received the International Dublin Literary Award for his translation of Herta Müller's novel The Land of Green Plums.[2]

In 1999, Hofmann was awarded the PEN/Book-of-the-Month Club Translation Prize for his translation of Joseph Roth's The String of Pearls.[13] In 2000, Hofmann was selected as the recipient of the Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize for his translation of Joseph Roth's novel Rebellion (Die Rebellion).[14] In 2003 he received another Schlegel-Tieck Prize for his translation of his father's Luck,[11] and in 2004 he was awarded the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize for his translation of Ernst Jünger's Storm of Steel.[15] In 2005 Hofmann received his fourth Schlegel-Tieck Prize for his translation of Gerd Ledig's The Stalin Organ.[11] Hofmann served as a judge for the Griffin Poetry Prize in 2002, and in 2006 Hofmann made the Griffin's international shortlist for his translation of Durs Grünbein's Ashes for Breakfast.[16]

Hoffman was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2023.[17]

Critical writing[edit]

Maria Tumarkin describes Hofmann's review writing as "masterful" and "convention-eviscerating".[18] Philip Oltermann remarks on the "savagery" with which Hofmann "can wield a hatchet", stating (with reference to Hofmann's antipathy towards Stefan Zweig) that: "Like a Soho drunk stumbling into the National Portrait Gallery in search of a good scrap, Hofmann has battered posthumous reputations with the same glee as those of the living."[1]

Selected bibliography[edit]


  • Nights in the Iron Hotel. London: Faber and Faber. 1984. ISBN 978-0-571-13116-7.
  • Acrimony. London: Faber and Faber. 1986. ISBN 978-0-571-14528-7.
  • Corona, Corona. London: Faber and Faber. 1993. ISBN 978-0-571-17052-4.
  • Approximately Nowhere: poems. London: Faber and Faber. 1999. ISBN 978-0-571-19524-4.
  • Behind the Lines: Pieces on Writing and Pictures. London: Faber and Faber. 2002. ISBN 978-0-571-19523-7.
  • Where Have You Been?: Selected Essays. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2014. ISBN 978-0-374-25996-9.
  • One Lark, One Horse. London: Faber and Faber. 2018. ISBN 978-0-571-342297.
  • Messing About in Boats. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2021.




  1. ^ a b Oltermann, Philip (9 April 2016). "Michael Hofmann: 'English is basically a trap. It's almost a language for spies'". theguardian.com. Retrieved 17 July 2023.
  2. ^ a b c d e "British Council > Literature > Michael Hofmann". britishcouncil.org. Retrieved 8 July 2023.
  3. ^ Hofmann, Michael (7 October 1993). "Don't Blub". London Review of Books. 15 (19): 18–19.
  4. ^ "Cambridge Tripos results", The Guardian, 21 June 1979, p. 4.
  5. ^ 'Michael Hofmann. b. 1957'. poetryfoundation.org. Retrieved 5 October 2021.
  6. ^ Brearton, Fran (1999), "An interview with Michael Hofmann: Where is our home key anyway?", Thumbscrew (3): 30–46, ISSN 1369-5371, archived from the original on 27 February 2017, retrieved 27 June 2007.
  7. ^ Michael Hofmann University of Florida, Department of English Faculty. Retrieved 16 January 2018
  8. ^ Hofmann, Michael (22 November 2019). "'The Resident', a new poem by Michael Hofmann". Australian Book Review. Retrieved 24 September 2021.
  9. ^ "Cholmondely Award for Poets (past winners)". The Society of Authors. 2007. Archived from the original on 10 February 2007. Retrieved 27 June 2007.
  10. ^ Merrit, Moseley (2007). "The Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize". Archived from the original on 20 July 2011. Retrieved 27 June 2007.
  11. ^ a b c d "Schlegel-Tieck Prize (past winners)". The Society of Authors. 2007. Archived from the original on 10 March 2007. Retrieved 27 June 2007.
  12. ^ "Swedish author wins Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2003". Arts Council England. 7 April 2003. Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 2 July 2007.
  13. ^ "Book-of-the-Month-Club Translation Prize winners". PEN American Center. 2007. Archived from the original on 7 June 2011. Retrieved 2 July 2007.
  14. ^ "Michael Hofmann recipient of the 2000 Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize". Goethe Institute. 2000. Retrieved 28 June 2007.
  15. ^ "The Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize (previous winners)". St. Anne's College. 2007. Retrieved 27 June 2007.
  16. ^ "The Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry: Shortlist 2006 – Michael Hofmann". The Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry. 2007. Archived from the original on 1 July 2007. Retrieved 25 July 2007.
  17. ^ Creamer, Ella (12 July 2023). "Royal Society of Literature aims to broaden representation as it announces 62 new fellows". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 13 July 2023.
  18. ^ Tumarkin, Maria (14 October 2016). "One F (in Hofmann) – and U-C-K the Consequences". The Sydney Review of Books. Retrieved 17 July 2023.

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