Foreigners in Dresden’s literary roll of honour
A hundred years after the elector Frederick Augustus I of Saxony was crowned King of Poland in 1697, Polish exiles came to Saxony in their thousands. Many of them settled permanently, including Adam Mieckiewicz who wrote Dresdner Totenfeier, a work that epitomises Polish national sentiment. Another giant of Polish literature, Józef Ignacy Kraszewski, bequeathed to the people of Saxony a trilogy telling them of their own history; his home in Dresden is today a museum.
From the north came Gjellerup, a winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, from Denmark Andersen-Nexö and from Norway the internationally famous dramatist Ibsen. The Austrians seemed to have a monopoly on ironic observation – no wonder, as the legendary court jester Frohlich came from the Salzkammergut region. Later, Franz Grillparzer gently mocked the local dialect, though that did not stop Austrian composer Richard Strauss from premiering some of his operas in Dresden, with fellow Austrian Ernst Schuch conducting the orchestra.
What would Dresden be without these influences, for which the term ‘foreign’ has long since lost any relevance? It would not be ‘Florence on the Elbe’, maybe not even Dresden, because that name originates from the Slavonic language Sorbian. Visitors arriving in Dresden today, perhaps stepping out of a train at the main station with its bold roof designed by British star architect Norman Foster, find themselves in a multi-ethnic city, made all the more so by the many foreign students at the universities and the staff employed at the numerous scientific institutes.