Considered one of the major authors of the 20th century, Franz Kafka was a Bohemian short-story writer and novelist. Franz Kafka is credited for being one of the earliest German-speaking authors to explore themes like absurdity, existential anxiety, and alienation. The term Kafkaesque is now widely used in the English language to explain those situations experienced by his characters.
Stefan Zweig was an Austrian novelist, playwright, journalist, and biographer. He was one of the most widely translated and most popular writers in the world at the height of his career. His best-known work is Sternstunden der Menschheit, in which he wrote about decisive historical events. His later years were very difficult and he died by suicide in 1942.
Peter Handke is an Austrian novelist, poet, translator, playwright, screenwriter, and film director. One of the most respected personalities in Austria, Handke has won several prestigious awards over the course of his career. In 1973, he was awarded the Georg Büchner Prize. In 1987, he won the Vilenica International Literary Prize. In 2019, he received the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Somali model, writer, and women’s rights activist Waris Dirie is best known for her advocacy against female genital mutilation through the Desert Flower Foundation. Born into a poor nomadic family, she ran away at 13 to avoid marriage and then worked as a maid in London, before gaining a modeling contract.
Once a governess of the four daughters of the affluent Suttner family, Bertha von Suttner later married the sisters’ elder brother, Baron Arthur Gundaccar von Suttner. The Austrian novelist was known for her peace activism, which made her the first female to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
Thomas Bernhard was born to an unwed mother in Holland and spent a lot of his adolescence in hospitals due to his chronic lung disease, which eventually claimed his life at age 58. He excelled in music and drama and gained fame for his controversial and pessimistic novels and plays.
Elfriede Jelinek is an Austrian novelist and playwright who was honored with the 2004 Nobel Prize in Literature. Widely regarded as the most prominent playwright of the German language, Elfriede Jelinek has several prestigious awards and honors under her belt.
Best remembered for his incomplete novel The Man Without Qualities, Austrian-German novelist Robert Musil had worked as a librarian, editor, and journalist and was also a qualified mechanical engineer. He had also served in the army during World War I but mostly gained fame as a modernist writer.
Known for his lyrical poetry and plays, Austrian author Hugo von Hofmannsthal had initially studied law and philology but later devoted his life to writing. His collaborative works with composer Richard Strauss included libretti for many of his operas, such as The Cavalier of the Rose and Arabella.
Initially a bank clerk, Jaroslav Hašek later dedicated his life to writing. The Czech author is best known for his iconic historical satire The Good Soldier Schweik. He had also been imprisoned as a Russian prisoner of war during World War I and was known for his bohemian life.
Ingeborg Bachmann completed her PhD and worked as an editor and scriptwriter before plunging into full-time writing. The Gruppe 47 member was known for depicting the trauma of women characters who had failed in relationships. She is best remembered for her poems and her lyrical novel Malina.
Best known for his bestselling novel Tyll, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and is also being made into a Netflix series, German author Daniel Kehlmann is the son of TV director Michael Kehlmann and actor Dagmar Mettler. His other notable works include Measuring the World and Fame.
14 Eric Wolf
16 Vicki Baum
Vicky Baum was an Austrian-American novelist, who had more than fifty books to her credit, many of which were adapted into successful films. Starting to publish at the age of thirty-one, she wrote about strong women caught up in chaotic times. Vicki Baum produced her first bestseller, Stud. chem. Helene Willfüer, at forty and her best known work, Menschen im Hotel, at forty-one.
Born to an Austro-Hungarian diplomat, Ödön von Horváth grew up studying in Hungarian but later became one of the finest writers of German literature. The writer of iconic plays such as Italian Night and Tales from the Vienna Woods, he was a significant anti-fascist playwright. He died in a thunderstorm.
Ilse Aichinger and her twin sister, Helga, were half-Jews and were thus forbidden to study by the Nazis and sent to a button factory as laborers instead. Following World War II, she studied medicine but later quit studies to pen her harrowing experiences in her bestselling novel The Greater Hope.
Best known for her psychological novels which depicted the lives of both the affluent and the poor, Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach was the daughter of an Austrian baron. One of the finest German authors ever, she experimented with the bildungsroman and penned works such as The Child of the Parish.
While he initially gained fame as a novelist, Fritz Mauthner later became one of the finest Austrian theater critics. His work also involved philosophy of languages. He believed that though words have social value, they reflect imperfect sense experiences and showcase distorted reality, as they are used subjectively by people.
Friedrich von Hügel, also known as Baron von Hügel, believed in Roman Catholicism but was tolerant of other views, too, making him a significant figure of Modernist Christian theology. He believed a middle path between religion and science could be reached. The Mystical Element of Religion remains his best-known work.
Best remembered for his novel The Demons, Austrian novelist Heimito von Doderer was a five-time Nobel Prize in Literature nominee. Born into a family of famous architects and industrialists, he was an army officer in World War I and worked as a lumberjack in Siberia after being captured by the Russians.
While he initially studied mining, medicine, and architecture, Gregor von Rezzori eventually graduated in arts. Fluent in several languages, he had a successful stint as a journalist and became known for both for his light novels and the more poignant ones such as Memoirs of an Anti-Semite.
25 August Šenoa
Author August Šenoa is credited with leading Croatian literature from Romanticism to Realism. Also considered the "father of the Croatian novel," he studied law but later deviated to writing. He introduced the genre of the historical novel in Croatia and penned iconic works such as Pirates of Senj.
Born to a peasant, Peter Rosegger initially traveled around as a tailor. He grew up to write iconic works that reflected rural life and the need for social reform. The three-time Nobel Prize nominee is best remembered for his works such as The Forest Farm and The Forest Schoolmaster.
27 Walter Abish
After growing up in Shanghai and Israel as a Jewish refugee who had fled the Nazi regime, Walter Abish moved to the U.S. His iconic book about post-war Germany How German Is It won him a PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. He has also taught at Yale and other universities.
Best known for his novel Die Standarte and his plays such as Austrian Comedy and Mishmash, Austrian author and poet Alexander Lernet-Holenia had initially studied law and also fought in World War I. During World War II, he traveled as part of an army film unit.
Robert Hamerling was born into poverty but secured a place at the University of Vienna with financial assistance from people who were impressed by his talent in poetry. He is best remembered for his poems such as A Swan Song of the Romantic and Ahasuerus in Rome.
After losing his father at 5, Ludwig Anzengruber grew up amid poverty. A school drop-out, he eventually found work at a bookstore and then stepped into acting, too. He later ventured into writing and penned some of the most loved plays of his time, such as The Pastor of Kirchfeld.
Ferdinand Kürnberger was compelled to leave Austria after his involvement in the 1848 Austrian revolution and was imprisoned after the 1849 Dresden rebellion. The 19th-century Austrian writer is remembered for his iconic works such as Catilina, The House Tyrant, and The One Who Is Tired of America.
Born to a schoolteacher, Karl Schönherr initially studied philosophy and grew up to become a physician. However, he later gained fame for his iconic plays such as Faith and Homeland and The Judas of the Tirol. He was inspired by Henrik Ibsen and merged symbolism and realism in his works.