Born October 30, 1931 in Vienna, Austria
Born to Alma Klüger and her second husband Viktor Klüger in Vienna on October 30, Ruth spent the early years of her childhood in the Austrian capital, witnessing the tumultuous historic changes that soon affected her family. Evicted from the public school system, she attended eight different schools designated for Jewish children, each poorer and shabbier than the last, and it was not too long before, at the suggestion of her mother, she stopped going to school altogether.
Earlier on, Alma Klüger had lost the custody battle over her son, Ruth’s half-brother Georg, who, after living with the Klügers in Vienna, had to return to his father’s home in Prague. Ruth’s father Viktor, a pediatrician and gynecologist, was imprisoned after performing an illegal abortion in 1938.
He returned home in 1940 and shortly afterwards fled the country for Italy and then France, where he was imprisoned in Drancy, transported to the Baltics and murdered. Georg was deported to Theresienstadt (late 1941/early 1942) and then to Riga, where he was murdered.
Not surprisingly, these severe losses had a profound impact on Klüger’s life and the ghosts of her brother and father frequently appear in her writings. After Shoah (the mass murder of Jews under the German Nazi regime), which Ruth survived, she moved to New York. She studied at Hunter College and the University of California at Berkeley, from which she received a PhD in German in 1967.
Klüger became a professor of German at the University of California. She also taught at the University of Virginia and chaired the department of Germanic Languages and Literatures at Princeton University. She received the ‘Rauriser prize for Literature‘ (1993), the ‘Marie-Luise-Kaschnitz-Prize’ (1994), and the ‘Testimonial of the Heine Society’ (1997).
In her well-known work weiter leben, Ruth Klüger not only recounts her childhood in Vienna and her imprisonment in three concentration camps, but also her experiences in post-war Germany and as an immigrant in the United States. The continuation of her account into the present and the coupling of her recollections with critical commentary on a number of issues make this book an unusual, even unconventional Holocaust autobiography.
In addition to weiter leben (Still alive), she published The early German Epigram: A study in Baroque Poetry in 1971, Katastrophen: Über deutsche Literatur (Catastrophes: On German Literature), Von hoher und niedriger Literatur (On highbrow and lowbrow literature), Frauen lesen anders (Women read differently) and numerous articles on Lessing, Kleist, Grillparzer, Stifter, Thomas Manna and Schnitzler.
Klüger lives in both California and Göttingen, Germany. She is known primarily as a literary scholar of the Early Modern period (Baroque poetry, in particular) and of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century German literature. In addition to her numerous publications in these fields, she explored feminist issues such as gender-specific interpretations of texts and representations of femininity in popular culture.
In her narratives, she is almost interactive, she tells part of her story, and then stops to consider how you, as the reader, might be feeling, or what you are thinking. She might let you have it for being too sentimental, or for making too many assumptions. She dismisses clichés and "appropriate" responses, and sometimes contradicts herself, then admits it. She writes almost like a dispassionate observer, with no sentimentality.
In our library, you find the following books by Ruth Klüger:
Klüger, Ruth: Was Frauen schreiben. Zsolnay, 2010. 261 S.
Klüger, Ruth: weiter leben. Eine Jugend; [mit MP 3-Hörbuch gelesen von der Autorin]. Wallstein, 1992. 285 S. + 1 CD
In our eLibrary you find the following eBook by Ruth Klüger and an audiobook on her life:
Klüger, Ruth: Dichter und Historiker: Fakten und Fiktionen. Wiener Vorlesungen im Rathaus; Bd. 73. Picus-Verlag, 2012
"Wir waren voller Hoffnung": Zeitzeuginnen des 20. Jahrhunderts im Gespräch (Audiobook) / Editor: Lerke von Saalfeld. Speaker: Ilse Aichinger, Wibke Bruhns and others. Hörverlag, 2016.