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February 15 , 2010

The Prose and Verse of Alfred Lichtenstein


A Prussian Jew, killed in the second month of the First World War at the age

of 25, 18 years before his father died, apparently of natural causes, and 28

years before his mother and two of his siblings were killed by the Nazis,

Lichtenstein left no overtly autobiographical writings. Some of his poems

clearly reflect his own painful experiences, both as a civilian and a

soldier, and the figure of Kuno Kohn, the hunchback poet whose psychological

agony informs some of his fiction and a few of his poems, critics agree

represents their creator’s grotesque alter ego. His sarcastic remarks about

lawyers would seem to reflect his own experience as a student of law. Some

drawings and a photograph of him have survived, and his contemporaries wrote

about him sparingly.

Most of the attention Lichtenstein has received from posterity so far

concentrates on his poetry, which generally is classified as expressionist.

Paratactic, stripped of most rhetorical ornaments, his short fiction,

bearing resemblances to Kafka, is at least as strange as his poetry.

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