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.
Bohemian-Austrian poet and author Rainer Maria Rilke is best remembered for his numerous poetry collections and his only novel, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge. His works contain metaphors, contradictions, and elements drawn from Greek mythology. Though most of his works were in German, he had also written in French.
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.
Leopold von Sacher-Masoch lent his name to the term masochism, a form of sexual deviation. Best known for his novel Venus in Furs, one of his rare books that have been translated in English, he depicted Galician romance and fantasies. He spent his final years in a mental asylum.
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.
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.
Born to a doctor, Arthur Schnitzler had initially followed in his father’s footsteps and practiced medicine, gaining expertise in psychiatry. He later made a mark as an author and playwright with works such as Anatol and None but the Brave, which became hallmarks of modernism and the decadent movement.
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.
Austrian journalist and novelist Joseph Roth is noted for his novels Radetzky March and Job. He chronicled the decline and fall of Austria-Hungary in his family saga Radetzky March and wrote about plight of the Jews who migrated from eastern to western Europe following the First World War and the Russian Revolution in his short non-fiction book The Wandering Jews.
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.
Max Brod was a Czech German-speaking Jewish author, composer, and journalist. He studied law at the German Charles-Ferdinand University and proceeded to pursue a career as a journalist and composer. He worked as an editor and literary adviser for the Israeli national theatre for three decades. He was a close friend and biographer of writer Franz Kafka.
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.
Franz Werfel worked in a shipping house and fought in World War I before making his mark as an Expressionist poet. His fame rests on the iconic novels The Song of Bernadette and The Forty Days of Musa Dagh, with the former being turned into a four-time Academy Award-winning film.
Best known for penning the children’s classic Bambi, Felix Salten was forced to flee Vienna during the Nazi regime and eventually settled in Switzerland. His books were banned in Austria after Germany annexed the country, but that didn’t dent his popularity as an author. He was a skilled hunter, too.
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.
Austrian author, novelist, dramatist, translator, and banker, Gustav Meyer, who used the pseudonym Gustav Meyrink, is best-known for his novel The Golem. Gustav established his own bank but was eventually charged with fraud and jailed for two months. He depicted his jailhouse experiences in The Golem. A prolific translator, Gustav’s translation works include translating fifteen-volumes of Charles Dickens into German.
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.
The son of an affluent weaver and merchant, Adalbert Stifter had initially studied law but quit without earning a degree. He later turned to writing and created masterpieces such as Witiko and Der Nachsommer. His tales mostly had pastoral backdrops, influenced by the countryside he grew up in.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.