Marie Luise Kaschnitz

January 31, 1901, Karlsruhe – October 10, 1974, Rome, Italy

Born into an aristocratic family of Baden, Marie Luise von Holzing-Berslett grew up in Potsdam and Berlin. Her father was a Prussian general. Because it was not common for young women from conservative families like hers to attend university, Kashnitz was trained as a book dealer. She worked at a publishing house in Munich and later at a bookstore in Rome.

In 1925, while working in Rome, she met her future husband Guido von Kaschnitz-Weinberg. He was an archeologist whom she accompanied after marriage on expeditions to Italy, Yugoslavia, Greece, Hungary, Turkey, and northern Africa. It is during these travels, she gathered her impressions and ideas for writing.

The first two novels Liebe beginnt and Elissa were published in 1933 and 1936 respectively but went unknown until their republications came after fifty years later. Both stories focus on young women and the complications faced by them.

Soon after the World War II, she started composing poetry. In 1947, the collection Gedichte (Poetry), which included highly original lyric poems was published. In the same year came Totentanz und Gedichte zur Zeit (Death of Dance and Poems of the Times). The latter two depicted the harrowing and sorrowful postwar world but also gave the hints of a promising future.

A volume of short stories Das dicke Kind under andere Erzӓhlungen (1952; The fat child and other stories) came out after Kaschnitz’s collections of Poetry. The fat child narrates the events from her own childhood, thus making it more or less and autobiographical tale. Three years later, Kaschnitz was awarded the Georg Büchner Prize, the most prestigious award in German literature.

In 1962 Dein Schweigen, meine Stimme (Your silence, my voice) was published which reflected the grief and sorrow, she felt after the death of her husband. Another autobiographical novel Wohin denn ich (1963; Whither Then I) and selected poetry collection Überallnie (1965, Everywherenever) came out in the coming years apart from radio plays, essays and literary criticisms.

Still writing into her seventies, Kaschnitz was awarded the Roswitha Prize in 1973. She died in Rome on October 10, 1974.

Kaschnitz's stories are like springs, feeding the wells of narrative art and emotional truth. Her essays on Greek myths and literary criticism show a keen awareness of the problems of women in the society.  Often her narrations are full of ambiguities. Her poetary ranges from very skeptical to an almost epiphanic spiritualism. She rarely writes clear, concise prose, her writing can come across as vague because her purpose is not to state facts baldly, but to evoke understanding and feeling through inferences, images and allusions.