Janheinz Jahn

Janheinz Jahn was a social anthropologist, lecturer, author and founder of the research center on Neo-African culture. Mr. Jahn is internationally known for his studies in new studies in Africa which has resulted in the combination of traditional and new influences. Mr Jahn has lectured on a wide range of topics dealing with Africa and Africans, including some on African literature, philosophy, art and music. He gave a series of lectures at UCLA. He was the author of many books. One of these titled Muntu: An outline of Neo-African culture.has been translated into at least seven languages and is distributed worldwide.

Jahn was born on July 23, 1918 in Frankfurt, Germany. His family was well-to-do. At an early age he traveled to other countries and his interest in foreign culture, language and literature awakened.

He was proficient in five European languages before he took up university studies, which were terminated early due to World War II. After the war he took up freelance writing initially, then pursued creative writing.

Jahn attended a lecture by Léopold Sédar Senghor on December 1, 1951. The lecture “La nouvelle poésie nègre de langue française” (English: “The new French-language negro poetry”) shaped the rest of Jahn’s life.

This event introduced Jahn to the works of  Aimé Césaire, Léon Damas, Birago Diop, and Paul Niger. There were also poems in the African language, Wolof. The thrill of the experience created in Jahn a determination to find more such poetry to study and possibly translate into German.

The years that followed included dispatches of over 600 letters to identify further poets, discuss his choice of texts and their translations.

1954 saw the publication of “Schwarzer Orpheus: Moderne Dichtung afrikanischer Völker beider Hemisphären” which Jahn edited and translated. Through the book, a wider German audience was exposed to contemporary African and African diaspora poetry. The existence of African literature had begun to be known in Germany.

The book consisted of 161 poems by 82 authors. It became a bestseller and achieved fame. An enlarged edition was printed in 1964.

Bibliography:

 

Geider, Thomas, 2006: “Janheinz Jahn als Vermittler afrikanischer Literatur in den deutschen Sprachraum und die Weltliteratur”. In: Anna-Maria Brandstetter and Carola Lentz (Eds.): 60 Jahre Institut für Ethnologie und Afrikastudien. Ein Geburtstagsbuch. (Mainzer Beiträge zur Afrikaforschung, 14) Cologne: Rüdiger Köppe, 141-161.

Jahn, Janheinz, 1954: Schwarzer Orpheus. Moderne Dichtung afrikanischer Völker beider Hemisphären. Munich: Carl Hanser.

Jahn, Janheinz, 1954: “Verblüffende Wirkung eines Lyrikbandes: 600 Briefe an die Neger aller Kontinente”. Die Welt, 25th November.

Jahn, Janheinz, 1958: Muntu: Umrisse der neoafrikanischen Kultur. Düsseldorf: Eugen Diederichs.

Jahn, Janheinz, 1965: Die neoafrikanische Literatur: Gesamtbibliographie von den Anfängen bis zur Gegenwart. Düsseldorf: Eugen Diederichs.

Jahn, Janheinz, 1966: Geschichte der neoafrikanischen Literatur: Eine Einführung. Düsseldorf: Eugen Diederichs.

Jahn, Janheinz, 1968: “Meine erste Begegnung mit Senghor”. Darmstädter Echo, 20th September.

Jahn, Janheinz and Claus Peter Dressler, 1971: Bibliography of Creative African Writing. Nendeln, Liechtenstein: Kraus Reprint.

Jahn, Janheinz, Ulla Schild and Almut Nordmann, 1972: Who’s Who in African Literature. Biographies, Works, Commentaries. Tübingen: Horst Erdmann.

Lindfors, Bernth, 1976: “The works of Janheinz Jahn”. In: Bernth Lindfors and Ulla Schild (Eds.): Neo-African Literature and Culture. Essays in Memory of Janheinz Jahn. (Mainzer Afrika-Studien, 1). Wiesbaden: B. Heymann, 10-23.

Ricard, Alain, 2008: “Creative writing in African languages: writers, scholars, translators”. In: Anja Oed and Uta Reuster-Jahn (Eds.):Beyond the Language Issue: The Production, Mediation and Reception of Creative Writing in African Languages. Cologne: Rüdiger Köppe, 145-151.

Sartre, Jean-Paul, 1948: “Orphée noir”. In: Senghor, Léopold Sédar Senghor (Ed.): Anthologie de la nouvelle poésie nègre et malgache de langue française. Paris: Presses Universitaire de France, X-XLIV.

Schild, Ulla, 1974: “A bibliography of the works of Janheinz Jahn”. Research in African Literatures 5, 2, 196-205.

Schild, Ulla, 1976: “A bibliography of the works of Janheinz Jahn”. In: Bernth Lindfors and Ulla Schild (Eds.): Neo-African Literature and Culture. Essays in Memory of Janheinz Jahn. (Mainzer Afrika-Studien, 1). Wiesbaden: B. Heymann, 24-31.

Schwarz, Anja (with Flora Veit-Wild), 2008: “Passionate and controversial: Janheinz Jahn as a mediator of cultures among Europe, Africa, and America”. In: Ineke Phaf-Rheinberger and Tiago de Oliveira Pinto (Eds.): AfricAmericas. Itineraries, Dialogues, and Sounds. Frankfurt/Main: Vervuert, 27-35.

Seiler-Dietrich, Almut, 2003: “Janheinz Jahn und die neoafrikanische Literatur”. In: Flora Veit-Wild (Ed.): Nicht nur Mythen und Märchen. Afrika-Literaturwissenschaft als Herausforderung. Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 94-113.

Senghor, Léopold Sédar Senghor (Ed.), 1948: Anthologie de la nouvelle poésie nègre et malgache de langue française. Paris: Presses Universitaire de France.


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