In the four years between the appearance of his first collection of poems in 1961 and his death at the age of forty-eight, Johannes Bobrowski gained lasting international recognition as the outstanding East German poet of his time. He received major literary awards for his poetry and fiction in Austria, Switzerland, East and West Germany. The first selection of his poems in English translation - "Shadow Land", 1966 - was greeted with enthusiasm by critics and readers alike, and was rapidly reprinted. A second selection, "From the Rivers", appeared in 1975. "Shadow Lands" demonstrates the range of Bobrowski's poetic achievement by bringing together all the poems which Ruth and Matthew Mead have been able to translate. It revises and consolidates their earlier selections, adding some fifty new poems. Michael Hamburger discusses the background and special qualities of Bobrowski's work in his introductory essay.
Johannes Bobrowski was born in 1917 in Tilsit, East Prussia, the son of a German railwayman. He was studying art history in Berlin when he was conscripted at the outbreak of war in 1939. He began to write poetry on the Eastern Front in 1941, and was a prisoner of war in Russia from then until 1949, when he returned to Germany. He lived in East Berlin and worked as a reader for the publishing house Union Verlag until his death in 1965. Ruth and Matthew Mead have translated the work of several German poets, including Horst Bienek - who shared a Penguin Modern European Poets selection with Bobrowski in 1971 - and Heinz Winfried Sabais ('The People and the Stones', Anvil, 1983.) Matthew Mead's collections of poetry are 'Identities' (1967), 'The Administration of Things' (1970), 'The Midday Muse' (1979) and 'Walking Out of the World' (2004).