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Christian Johann Heinrich Heine
(December 13, 1797 - February 17, 1856) Germany

Heinrich Heine

Lyric poet

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Heine was born into an assimilated Jewish family in Düsseldorf, Germany. His father was a tradesman, who, during the French occupation, found new prospects opening up for Jews. When his father's business failed, Heine was sent to Hamburg, where his rich banker uncle Salomon encouraged him to undertake a commercial career. After Heine's business career failed he turned to the study of law at the universities of Göttingen, Bonn and Berlin, but found that he was more interested in literature than law, although he eventually took a degree in 1825, at the same time he had decided to convert from Judaism to Protestantism.

This was necessary because of the severe restrictions on Jews in the German states; in many cases, they were forbidden, without specific permission, to have their own businesses or to leave the areas in which they were assigned to live. Understandably, then, as Heine himself said, his conversion was "the ticket of admission into European culture". Heine is best known for his lyric poetry, much of which was set to music by lieder composers, most notably Franz Schubert and Robert Schumann.

As a poet Heine made his debut with Gedichte in 1821. Heine's one-sided infatuation with his cousins Amalie and Therese later inspired him to write some of his loveliest lyrics; Buch der Lieder (1827) was Heine's first comprehensive collection of verse.

Heine left Germany for Paris, France in 1831. There he associated with utopian socialists, such as Count Saint-Simon, who preached an egalitarian classless paradise based on meritocracy. He remained in Paris, with the exception of a visit in 1843 to Germany, for the rest of his life. German authorities banned his works and those of others in the Young Germany movement in 1835.

Heine continued, however, to comment on German politics and society from a distance. Heine wrote Deutschland: Ein Wintermärchen (A Winter's Tale), an account of his visit to Germany the previous year and the political climate there, in 1844; his friend, Karl Marx, published it in his newspaper Vorwärts ("Forward") in 1844. Heine also satirized the utopian politics of those opponents of the regime still in Germany in Atta Troll: Ein Sommernachstraum (A Midsummer Night's Dream) in 1847.

Heine wrote movingly of the experience of exile in his poem In Der Fremde. Heine suffered from ailments that kept him bedridden for the last eight years of his life (he was diagnosed posthumously with multiple sclerosis). He died in Paris and is interred in the Cimetière de Montmartre.

One of the books known to have been burned on Berlin's Opernplatz in 1933, after the Nazi raid on the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft, was the works of Heine - one of his most famous lines is now: "Where they burn books, they will, in the end, burn human beings too" (1822).

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Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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