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.
Austrian-British philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein is remembered for his works related to logic, the philosophy of mind, the philosophy of mathematics, and the philosophy of language. He taught at the University of Cambridge for many years. He published only one book during his lifetime. Most of his manuscripts were collected later and published posthumously.
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.
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.
10 Senta Berger
It is believed Austrian actor Senta Berger was suspended by the Max-Reinhardt-Seminar, where she studied drama, after she bagged her first movie role. The three-time Bambi Award winner is known for her roles in films such as The Quiller Memorandum. She is also involved with peace and environmental activism.
11 Alma Mahler
Alma Mahler, remembered as the wife of composer Gustav Mahler and the daughter of landscape painter Emil Schindler, initially studied art but later acquired skills as a pianist. However, Mahler discouraged her from composing after marriage. She later had other affairs and married architect Walter Gropius and author Franz Werfel.
12 Joy Adamson
Best known for her iconic book Born Free, which describes her experiences of raising a lion cub named Elsa, Joy Adamson was a noted Austro-Hungarian wildlife conservationist. She excelled in music and medicine in her younger days and later settled in Kenya with her third husband, conservationist George Adamson.
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.
Austro-Hungarian journalist Leopold Weiss was a descendant of rabbis and ran away from home in his teens, taking up odd jobs, before finally becoming a journalist in Germany. His work took him to the Middle East, where he converted to Islam and adopted the name Muhammad Asad.
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.
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.
21 Robert Musil
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.
24 Gitta Sereny
Known for her persistent researches on some of history’s most reviled characters, Gitta Sereny was an investigative journalist and author of five biographical works that attempted to make sense of their crimes. Notable among her works are Albert Speer: His Battle with Truth and The Case of Mary Bell: A Portrait of a Child Who Murdered.
25 Joseph Roth
Nikolaus Harnoncourt began his musical career as a classical cellist and grew up to be one of the finest conductors of Austria. He ruled the music scene with the ensemble Concentus Musicus, focusing on historical performance, and later also worked with modern ensembles such as the Chamber Orchestra of Europe.
28 Hans Holzer
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.
30 Karl Kraus
Initially aspiring to be a lawyer, Austrian writer Karl Kraus later deviated to philosophy and German literature before quitting studies altogether. He had also been a stage performer but later made his mark as one of the finest aphorists and playwrights in German history, with works such as Nights.
32 Victor Gruen
Born in Austria, architect Victor Gruen had his own firm in Vienna but moved to the U.S. after Germany invaded his country. He then launched Victor Gruen Associates and revolutionized the shopping experience of Americans by pioneering the shopping center and mall designs of the country.
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.
One of the finest German lyric poets of the Middle Ages, Walther von der Vogelweide was a regular at various royal courts. His works mostly include love songs such as Under der linden, apart from elegies and religious poems. He had also been given a small fief by Frederick II.
Known as the father of the pill, Carl Djerassi is best remembered for chemically synthesizing a steroid mimic of the hormone progesterone, which paved the way for the production of contraceptive pills. That apart, he made important contributions to the synthesis of antihistamines, pest control, mass spectrometry etc. Also a successful author, he wrote several non-fictions, novels, dramas and poems.
Following a 40-year stint with the German military, Karl Maria Wiligut retired to practice occult studies. He believed he belonged to a royal lineage and was later sent to an asylum for his schizophrenic beliefs. He later became a Nazi lieutenant-brigadier and joined Heinrich Himmler’s inner circle.
38 Felix Salten
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.
39 Georg Trakl
Georg Trakl had had a tumultuous early life, having been addicted to drugs, apart from being attracted to his own sister. He initially aspired to be a pharmacist but later became one of Austria’s finest elegists. The Expressionist poet wrote masterpieces such as Grodek. He died of a drug overdose.
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.
41 Jean Améry
Jean Améry went from being a prisoner at the Auschwitz labor camp to being one of the finest essayists of the post-war era. His best-known work, At the Mind's Limits, depicts his experiences during World War II. He eventually committed suicide by consuming sleeping pills in a Salzburg hotel.
42 Joseph Mohr
44 Alfred Kubin
45 Eric Wolf
Paul Watzlawick was an Austrian-American psychologist and philosopher, specializing in family therapy and communication theory. The most influential figure in the Palo Alto Mental Research Institute, he worked extensively on how communication is effected within families and proposed Interactional View Theory. Paul Watzlawick authored 22 books and more than 150 articles and book chapters. His books have been translated into 80 languages
Born into an affluent family, Hermann Broch sold his family’s textile factory to focus on studying physics, math, and philosophy. Mostly known for his literary works such as The Sleepwalkers, he had ventured into writing only after 40. He was imprisoned by the Nazis and later fled to the U.S.
48 Ernst Fuchs
49 Ulrich Seidl
Austrian director-producer Ulrich Seidl is best known for his iconic films Dog Days and Paradise: Love. He uses a distinctive documentary style to make his movies more authentic. Born into a Catholic family, he had initially aspired to be a priest and had also studied journalism, before stepping into films.