Nelly Sachs:
(Collected Works)

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Annotated edition in four volumes · General editor: Aris Fioretos · Berlin: Suhrkamp, 2010–2011 · ISBN: 978-3-518-42098-0


This edition of Nelly Sachs’ collected works contains, in addition to her complete poetics, rare prose works and many dramatic poems, including the unpublished plays from the 1960s. The fact of its publication places the exiled Sachs’ œuvre, outwardly as well, where it has always deserved to belong: at the heart of twentieth-century German literature.


Aris Fioretos is a Swedish writer and the principal editor of the annotated edition of Nelly Sachs’ collected works. He has received numerous awards, both for his translations — of Paul Auster, Friedrich Hölderlin and Vladimir Nabokov among others — and for his own work, from institutions including DAAD Künstlerprogramm, the Swedish Academy and All Souls College, Oxford. His most recent publication in German was the novel Der letzte Grieche (Carl Hanser Verlag, 2011).


“Protected and playful — such was the Berlin life from which the Holocaust brutally tore the writer Nelly Sachs (1891–1970). Subjected to horrific suffering and to a madness which also afflicted her personally, she extracted her poems and texts from this unspeakable ordeal. It is a good thing that the new illustrated biography and the travelling exhibition (next in Zürich and Dortmund) depict this bitter fate with much new material.” — Gotthard Fuchs, Christ in der Gegenwart

“This new edition, comprehensive and fully kitted out with editorial material — it attempts to present her as a kind of classic — is partly a renewed attempt to gain her the readers she deserves, but also the response to a growing interest.” — Charlie Louth, Times Literary Supplement

“Not least, one has to admire a writerly life which has hardly anything in common with the customary literary development of a writer: a tale of timidity and consternation, enforced seclusion, and such an unbroken inner strength, such a clinging — as self-confident as it was self-critical — to the life and work project she had set herself, which in the end . . . earned her the greatest possible recognition . . . When reading Nelly Sachs we witness the birth of a new language for literature in the midst of the horror.” — Frauke Meyer-Gosau, Literaturen 

“Nelly Sachs’ poems show us that there still exists an original kind of fellow-feeling, beyond cynical reason and ironic assurances . . . If we still wish to lay claim to intimacy on behalf of our emotional selves, we must begin reading Nelly Sachs again.” — Jan Volker Röhnert, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

“In this edition, stewarded with care and considerable knowledge by Aris Fioretos, we are presented for the first time with the development of her writing for the stage. In the process we become acquainted with a poet who, in the eighth decade of her life, aesthetically accomplishes the move into modernity.” – Carola Weimers, Deutschlandradio Kultur


Volume I:  Poems 1940–1950

Editor: Matthias Weichelt

Published: 22 February 2010

Volume II: Poems 1951–1970

Editors: Ariane Huml and Matthias Weichelt

Published: 22 February 2010

“Am in a foreign land

it is protected by 8

the holy looped angel

He is always on his way

through our flesh

inciting unrest

and readying the dust for departure  —”

From: Glowing Enigmas

In May 1940 the poet Nelly Sachs (1891–1970) fled Berlin, travelling to Stockholm on one of the last flights out of the city. Thus began a thirty-year exile during which she produced a poetic œuvre crowned in 1966 by her receipt of the Nobel Prize in literature. With Paul Celan, who was her friend, Sachs is among the most important German-language poets from the postwar era. From the lofty tones of her early epitaphs, via Flight and Metamorphosis of the 1950s to the drastic Glowing Enigmas of the late period, poetry for this writer remained a form of survival that strove for a poetic Durchschmerzung, or “working through of pain”, of the world.

With the two central volumes of the new collected works edition, Nelly Sachs’ poetic works is presented and annotated chronologically, for the first time, and enriched with many hitherto unpublished texts. Sachs regarded her arrival in Sweden in the summer of 1940 as the real beginning of her œuvre. Only after the Holocaust could she turn herself into the writer she wanted to see herself as.


Volume III: Dramatic Poems

Editor: Aris Fioretos

Published: 24 January 2011

“My dramatic poetry is an attempt to break through the limits of the material word, of material theatre. In the course of this attempt, a movement occurs from beyond hitherto known language limits, and a reinsertion behind these limits. Everything is experiment.”

In May1940 the poet Nelly Sachs (1891–1970) fled Berlin, travelling to Stockholm on one of the last flights out of the city. Thus began a thirty-year exile during which she produced a poetic œuvre crowned in 1966 by her receipt of the Nobel Prize in literature.

Volume III of the new annotated edition of the collected works contains all the dramatic poems published by Sachs during her lifetime, as well as a dozen or so unpublished works, principally from the 1960s. These are gestural pieces, reminiscent alternately of Beckett and Lorca but still seeking their genre. For the first time, the reader can follow Sachs’ development from the “cult theatre” of the early postwar plays towards a dramatic poetry that wanted, through dance, music and mime, to expand the limits of the sayable.


Volume IV: Prose and translations

Editor: Aris Fioretos

Published: 11 October 2010

“I live an altogether reclusive life in Sweden, you see. I had no access to newer German poetry. I had only myself to turn to. My language . . . — If I may put it that way: it has really given me death.”

When Nelly Sachs reached the safety of Swedish soil in 1940 she was on the edge of utmost desperation. This volume of the collected works edition contains hitherto unpublished prose pieces written after her blissful arrival in the new country. In diary entries, acceptance speeches and incidental works, but also in distressing communications from her years of mental illness, the late consequences of the persecution in the 1930s are made visible. Volume IV also contains Sachs’ extensive translations from Swedish — “a matter dear to my heart”, as she called it, with which she was forced to earn a meagre living during the first, difficult years in exile. These translations illustrate how Sachs’ language was radicalised by her contact with the modernist movement in Swedish poetry.

This first annotated edition restores, outwardly as well, the work of the exile Nelly Sachs to the heart of German twentieth-century literature.

Nelly Sachs, Flight and Metamorphosis, an illustrated biography (2012)

»Nelly Sachs, Flight and Metamorphosis« · By Pia Forsgren and Gabriella Boode · Jewish Theatre, Stockholm (August 24, 2014)