November 1, 1921, Vienna – November 11, 2016, Vienna
“May it always cost the head as long as it does not cost the heart” – Ilse Aichinger
A Jewish Austrian writer, lyricist and author of radio plays, Aichinger was born in Vienna (1921) and lived in Linz as a child. Her mother was an assimilated Jew, while her father was Catholic. Her family was persecuted by the Nazis because of their Jewish heritage, and her grandmother died in a concentration camp in 1942. Aichinger's mother, a doctor, was forced to labor in a factory.
Aichinger’s education was interrupted by World War II when, because she was half Jewish, she was refused entrance to medical school. Although she eventually did begin medical school in 1947, she left to concentrate on writing. Her only novel, Die größere Hoffnung (Herod’s Children), was published in 1948. The novel explores the angst and suffering of both the Jews and their pursuers during the Third Reich. The text reflects Aichinger's commitment to the weak and her skepticism about the German language.
In addition to her novel, Aichinger’s works include Rede unter dem Galgen (The Bound Man and Other Stories); Knöpfe (Buttons), a radio play in which workers in a button factory slowly turn into the products they make; Plätze und Straßen (Squares and Streets), a series of meditations on places in Vienna; Zu keiner Stunde (Never at Any Time), a collection of surreal dialogues; and the short-story collection Schlechte Wörter (Inferior Words), in which language is sometimes seen as a barrier to communication.
In 1953 she married the German poet Günther Eich, whom she had met through her participation in the Gruppe 47, a postwar group of German-speaking writers. They had a daughter, Mirjam, and a son, Clemens. She continued to write and began to receive acclaimed prizes, such as the Austrian State Prize for the Encouragement of Literature (1952), the Literary Prize of the City of Bremen (1955), the Bavarian Literature Prize (1961) and the Nelly Sachs Prize of Dortmund (1971).
During these years she lived with her family near Salzburg, until Günter’s death in 1972. Then, she moved to a secluded town on the Austrian-Bavarian border and retired from public life after her son’s death in 1998.
Her fictions could be compared to Franz Kafka, for her stories seem dreamlike, hallucinatory, and subtly allegorical. Like Kafka, she creates a fictional world that is both real and visionary at once. It also displays distinct signs of Christian mysticism.
Her radio plays illustrate existential borderline experiences between assimilation and resistance. In her narratives, she examines a range of human emotions, including angst, alienation, paradox, and ambivalence. Her poetics stand for the conviction that too much light, blinding clarity, does not correspond to reality; the shadow, the nuances, the realm of in-between, on the other hand, offer the possibility of accessing realness. Her fondness of experimentation and attempts to provide texts that are deliberately open to multiple layer of interpretation have made her work an intriguing challenge for the readers.
In our library, you find following books by Ilse Aichinger:
Aichinger, Ilse: The greater hope / Translator: Geoff Wilkes. Königshausen & Neumann, 2016. 252 Seiten.
ISBN: 9783826059216; 3826059212
Aichinger, Ilse: Selected poetry & prose. Logbridge-Rhodes, 1983. 141 Seiten
In our eLibrary you find following eBooks and audiobooks on Ilse Aichinger:
Schmid-Bortenschlager, Sigrid: Österreichische Schriftstellerinnen 1800-2000. Eine Literaturgeschichte. Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2009. ISBN: 9783534704538
"Wir waren voller Hoffnung": Zeitzeuginnen des 20. Jahrhunderts im Gespräch (Audiobook) / Editor: Lerke von Saalfeld. Speaker: Ilse Aichinger, Wibke Bruhns and others. Hörverlag, 2016.