S. Fischer Verlag By Barndt, Kirsten
Founded in Berlin in 1886 by Samuel Fischer, S. Fischer Verlag quickly became one of the most important publishing houses of German and European modernism. Émile Zola and Henrik Ibsen headlined the publisher’s first list of authors. The company went on to bring European and world literature to the German reading public, including works by Joseph Conrad, John Dos Passos, and Virginia Woolf. Yet the main focus of S. Fischer Verlag was to launch important new German-language writers who would soon come to shape the canon of modernism, including Gerhart Hauptmann, Thomas Mann, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Hermann Hesse, Arthur Schnitzler, Franz Werfel, Robert Musil, and Alfred Döblin.
During the first decade of its existence, S. Fischer Verlag was instrumental in shaping naturalist drama in Germany, with Gerhart Hauptmann as its leading literary voice. This success was due to an engagement on various fronts: the founding of a private theatre association, the Freie Bühne (Free Stage), where new plays could premiere despite censorship; the promotion of naturalism in the publisher’s own literary journal; and the publishing concept of ‘Collected Works’. These multi-volume editions of complete works by living writers successfully accelerated the canonization of many of Fischer’s authors, adding economic and cultural value in the process.