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.
Wilhelm Reich was an Austrian psychoanalyst and doctor of medicine. He is credited with shaping innovations like body psychotherapy, primal therapy, and Gestalt therapy. Also a writer, Reich's books like The Sexual Revolution and The Mass Psychology of Fascism influenced generations of intellectuals. Also a controversial figure, some of Wilhelm Reich's practices caused a disturbance in the psychoanalytic community.
Award-winning Austrian film director and screenwriter Michael Haneke, who teaches film direction at the Film Academy Vienna, is best-known for films like The Piano Teacher, Caché, The White Ribbon and Amour. Haneke has made films in English, French and German, and mostly deals with subjects that examine social issues and portrays feelings of individuals facing social alienation in modern society.
German-Austrian actress, author, and businesswoman Christine Kaufmann gained attention of post-war German movie audiences with her performances in films like Rosen-Resli, Der schweigende Engel and Ein Herz schlägt für Erika. She became the first German to be honoured with Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year – Actress for her performance in the drama film Town Without Pity.
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.
Natascha Kampusch is an Austrian woman who was kidnapped at age 10 and held captive in a cellar by Wolfgang Přiklopil, who raped and abused her repeatedly. She escaped after 8 years, following which she hosted a show and became a PETA activist. Her book 3096 Tage inspired a movie.
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.
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.
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.
Austrian artist, playwright, poet and teacher Oskar Kokoschka CBE is counted among the prominent exponents of Expressionism whose works influenced the Viennese Expressionist movement. Notable works of Kokoschka include paintings like The Bride of the Wind and Portrait of Lotte Franzos and writings like the short play Murderer, the Hope of Women and the play Orpheus und Eurydike.
Austrian thinker Otto Weininger, whose main areas of interests included philosophy of religion, logic, gender and psychology, lived in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His book Geschlecht und Charakter (Sex and Character), which gained popularity following his suicide by gunshot, became a sourcebook for anti-Semitic propagandists. Some of his writings were used by Nazi propaganda.
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.
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.
Austrian-American author and parapsychologist Hans Holzer, often credited for coining the term ghost hunter, penned over 120 books like Murder in Amityville on supernatural and occult subjects. He believed in life after death, reincarnation and the existence of spirits, ghosts, and stay behinds, and remained involved in researching the supernatural in some prominent haunted locations across the globe.
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.
Austrian forest caretaker, naturalist, pseudoscientist, biomimicry experimenter, inventor and philosopher, Viktor Schauberger came up with his own concepts based on his observations of nature. He mentioned in the Implosion magazine that the propeller was incorrectly designed by the aeronautical and marine engineers.
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.
Freelance author, journalist, and broadcaster Clementine Ford is known for her columns in the Sunday Mail and Drum. She generally writes about feminist issues and pop culture. Interestingly, she was once banned from Facebook for using abusive language and also courted controversy for a tweet that stated "All men must die."
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.
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.
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.
Anton Zeilinger, a noted Austrian quantum physicist who mostly researches in the area of fundamental aspects and applications of quantum entanglement, was conferred with the Inaugural Isaac Newton Medal by the Institute of Physics for his significant contributions in the field. He presently serves as Senior Scientist at the IQOQI and as professor of physics at the University of Vienna.
After fleeing to Chile with his family during the Nazi regime, Otto F. Kernberg studied medicine and then psychiatry. He eventually moved to the U.S. on a Rockefeller fellowship and grew up to be one of the finest psychoanalysts of the country. He now teaches at the Weill Cornell Medicine.
Alfred Schutz was an Austrian philosopher and social phenomenologist. He is recognized as one of the leading philosophers of social science in the 20th century. A lawyer by qualification, he had a prominent career in international banking and did academic work in his spare time. Philosopher Edmund Husserl described him as “a banker by day and a philosopher by night.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Paintings, sculpture, and prints of Austrian painter, sculptor, poet, composer, singer, architect, draftsman, printmaker, and stage designer Ernst Fuchs addressed themes of religion and mysticism. Student of the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts, Fuchs co-founded the Vienna School of Fantastic Realism. He acquired the Otto Wagner Villa in Hütteldorf, which was later transformed and inaugurated as the Ernst Fuchs Museum.
Born to an automobile designer at Austro-Daimler, Porsche AG CEO Ferdinand Anton Ernst Porsche, better known as Ferry Porsche, grew up working in auto workshops and racing the cars he and his father designed. Ferry and his father were commissioned by Hitler to build a low-cost "people’s car," the Volkswagen.
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.
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.
Remembered as "the Greatest Hungarian,” István Széchenyi was a reformer and author who had initially fought against Napoleon I. He had served as the minister of public works and transport and improved his country’s waterways and roadways. Charged with sedition against Austria’s reign over Hungary, he later committed suicide.
Archduke Wilhelm of Austria, or Vasyl Vyshyvani, the son of Archduke Karl Stephan, had been a Ukrainian army colonel. He had also served as a spy for the French and the British, against the Nazis and the Soviets. It is believed he was homosexual and a fine poet, too.