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Hermann Broch


Hermann Broch was born in November 1886 in Vienna. His father was a textile wholesaler and tried to push his son into business. Broch studied textile engineering, travelled to the United States to learn about cotton production and went to work in his father’s factory. He married the daughter of a sugar manufacturer, Franziska von Rothermann, after converting to Catholicism. They had one son. However, the marriage was not successful and they became estranged though, being Catholics, they could not divorce. Broch gradually took full charge of the family’s textile business in Teesdorf, particularly after his brother enlisted at the start of the First World War. However, to escape the tedium of his work, he started frequenting the literary cafés in Vienna, where he got to know literary figures such as Franz Blei, the film-maker Willy Haas, Robert Musil and the philosopher Paul Schrecker. In 1918 he published his first story in Blei’s magazine, Summa.

In 1925 Broch went to the University of Vienna where he studied for five years, attending lectures given by members of the Wiener Kreis (Vienna Circle). Two years later he sold the textile factory and started a course of psychoanalysis with Hedwig Schaxel, a student of Freud. However, he became disillusioned with his professors and turned to literature. He became friends with the popular novelist Frank Thiess, despite their very different approaches to literature. In 1930 he met Daniel Brody, whose firm Rhein Verlag published the first German translation of Ulysses. Brody published Die Schlafwandler (The Sleepwalkers), first as a part work and then in complete form. The book was a critical and commercial success and was soon translated into other languages, including English.

After this novel, he turned to literary criticism and drama before writing the novel Die unbekannte Grösse (The Unknown Quantity), which was a critical and commercial failure. He also wrote poetry, short stories and a film script at this time but none was successful. He started work on the novel that would become Die Verzauberung (The Spell) but was sidetracked by his involvement in the peace movement and in legal disputes over his inheritance with his brother. He had started work on Der Tod des Vergil (The Death of Virgil) when the Nazis took over Austria and he was arrested as a Marxist. With the help of Joyce, Aldous Huxley and other writers he was able to escape, once released on bail, and flew to London. He subsequently went to the United States, where he started work on his study of mass psychology, with the aid of various grants. The study was continually interrupted and never completed.

Der Tod des Vergil (The Death of Virgil) was published at the end of the war but, while it received critical acclaim in the United States, Broch seemed to have been forgotten in Europe. Broch became an American citizen and spent the rest of his life in the United Stated, dying of a heart attack in 1951.

Die Schlafwandler (The Sleepwalkers) and Der Tod des Vergil (The Death of Virgil) are two of the outstanding works of European literature of this century and deserve far greater recognition.

Books about Hermann Broch

Lützeler, Paul Michael: Hermann Broch (Hermann Broch: a Biography)
Schlant, Ernestine: Hermann Broch
Aler, Jan and Enklaar, Jattie: Hermann Broch (in German)
Durzak, Manfred: Hermann Broch in Selbstzeugnissen und Bilddokumenten

Other links

Hermann Broch
Hermann Broch
Hermann Broch (in German)
Broch, Hermann (in German)
Zeittafel zu Hermann Broch (in German)


1931 Pasenow, oder Die romantik 1888 (Vol 1 of Die Schlafwandler)
1931 Esch; oder, Die anarchie 1903 (Vol 2 of Die Schlafwandler)
1932 Huguenau; oder, Die Sachlichkeit 1918 (Vol 3 of Die Schlafwandler)
1932 Die Schlafwandler (The Sleepwalkers)
1933 Die unbekannte Grösse (The Unknown Quantity)
1936 James Joyce und die Gegenwart
1945 Der Tod des Vergil (The Death of Virgil)
1948 Schuldlosen (The Guiltless)
1954 Die Versucher
1953 Gedichte
1953 Gesammelte Werke
1955 Essays
1957 Briefe, von 1929-1951
1959 Massenpsychologie; Schriften aus dem Nachlass
1961 Die Entsühnung : Schauspiel, in der Hörspiel fassung
1961 Die unbekannte Grösse (The Unknown Quantity)
1962 Das Heimkehr
1964 Hofmannstahl und seine Zeit: eine Studie (Hugo von Hofmannsthal and His Time : the European Imagination, 1860-1920)
1964 Hermann Broch der Dichter; eine Auswahl aus dem dichterischen Werk
1966 Hermann Broch, der Denker. Eine Auswahl aus dem essayistischen Werk und aus Briefen
1966 Short Stories
1967 Demeter
1967 Die Erzählung der Magd Zerline
1968 Die Idee ist ewig; Essays und Briefe
1969 Bergroman
1969 Zur Universitätsreform
1970 Gedanken zur Politik
1971 Briefwechsel, 1930-1951
1973 Barbara und andere Novellen
1975 Novellen, Prosa, Fragmente
1975 Schriften zur Literatur
1976 Kommentierte Werkausgabe
1976 Die Verzauberung (The Spell)
1977 Philosophische Schriften
1978 Menschenrecht und Demokratie: politische Schriften
1979 Dramen
1979 Massenwahntheorie : Beiträge zu einer Psychologie der Politik
1981 Briefe : Dokumente und Kommentare zu Leben und Werk
1986 Briefe über Deutschland, 1945-1949
1995 Das Teesdorfer Tagebuch für Ea von Allesch