April 11, 1920, Frauenstein (Gemeinde Molln), Austria – March 21, 1970, Vienna, Austria
“External freedom has probably never existed, but neither have I ever known anyone who knew inner freedom.” Marlen Haushofer, The Wall
Marlen Haushofer (born Maria Helene Frauendorfer) was one of Austria's most astute women writers of the immediate postwar period. She was born in Frauenstein, Molln, Austria on April the 11th, 1920. Her father, who had graduated from the forestry school in České Budějovice, practiced the profession of forester in Effertsbach. Her mother was known to be a deeply religious and strict woman.
Haushofer had a tense relationship with her mother since childhood, which was strengthened in June 1924 by the birth of her brother Rudolf, who was four years younger. Because of her mother's distantness, she turned to her father, with whom she shared a more close relation, but he also seemed ambivalent in his behavior. With her brother Rudolf Frauendorfer, to whom she devoted the book Himmel, der nirgendwo endet (Heaven that knows no end), she had close contact during her lifetime.
She went to a Catholic gymnasium that was turned into a public school under the Nazi regime. She started her studies on German Language and Literature, in 1940 in Vienna and later on in Graz. She married the dentist Manfred Haushofer in 1941, they divorced in 1950 but reunited in 1957 and had two sons.
Haushofer lived as a housewife and writer in Steyr after a short episode as an aspiring young author in postwar Vienna. Simone de Beauvoir’s assessment of the European woman’s condition, The second sex (1949), influenced her profoundly. Alienated by the oppressive gender roles in catholic Austria, she nostalgically records her childhood memories, associated with nature, life in the country and freedom from social constraints in Die Vergissmeinnichtquelle (The Spring of Forget-me-nots), and published in 1956.
In the year 1969 came out Die Mansarde (The Attic) which shows how women’s adolescence and adult lives get overshadowed by bondage, humiliation and exploitation. However, her most famous work remains Die Wand (The Wall). It was published 1963, and the story is about a quite ordinary, unnamed middle-aged woman who awakens to find that she is the last living human being. Surmising her solitude is the result of a military experiment gone awry, she begins the terrifying work of not only survival but also self-renewal. Because of the open ending, the novel has allowed a big variety of interpretations.
Haushofer has also published numerous children’s books, including Brav sein ist schwer (It’s hard to be good) and Schlimm sein ist auch kein Vergnügen (Being bad is not fun either). Her awards include the Theodor-Körner Prize (1963), the Arthur-Schnitzler Prize (1963) and the Austrian State Prize (1970).
Although Marlen Haushofer won prizes for her work and gained critics laud, she was an almost forgotten author until the Women's Movement rediscovered her, with special attention of the role of women in the male-dominated society themes in her work. In most of her texts, Haushofer represents the inability of women to escape the constraints of married domesticity, yet women are not pure victim in her work; as mothers they are often complicit in even the most shocking abuses of patriarchy. Her writing has influenced authors like Nobel Prize winner Elfriede Jelinek, who dedicated one of her Princess Plays to Haushofer.
Marlen Haushofer came down with bone cancer and died on March the 21st 1970, when she was only 49 years old.
In our library, you find following books by Marlen Haushofer and audiobooks of her works:
Haushofer, Marlen: Die Mansarde: Roman. Fischer-Taschenbuch-Verlag, 1994. 200 S.
Haushofer, Marlen: Nowhere ending sky. Quartet Books, 2013. 178 S.
Original: Himmel, der nirgendwo endet
Haushofer, Marlen: Die Tapetentür. Roman. Zsolnay, 2000. 197 S.
Haushofer, Marlen: The Wall. Cleis Press, 2012. 250 S.
Original: Die Wand (engl.)
Haushofer, Marlen: Die Wand. Roman. Claassen, 1997. 275 S.
Haushofer, Marlen: Die Wand, gekürzte Lesung. HörbuchHamburg, 2005. 140 Min., 2 CDs