Ilse Aichinger

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Ilse Aichinger (born November 1, 1921 in Vienna ; † November 11, 2016 there ) was an Austrian writer . She is regarded as an important representative of German-language post - war literature .


Childhood and youth

Ilse Aichinger and her twin sister Helga Michie were born in Vienna as the daughters of a teacher and a Jewish doctor. Until the early divorce of her parents (1927) she spent her childhood in Linz . The mother moved back with the children to Vienna, where Ilse Aichinger mostly lived with her Jewish grandmother or in monastery schools.

The annexation of Austria meant persecution and mortal danger for the family. On July 4, 1939, Helga was able to flee to Great Britain on a Kindertransport , but the rest of the family could not follow because the war broke out. Ilse Aichinger stayed with her mother in order to protect her from deportation as the guardian of a still underage “half barbarian”. The mother lost her job, but was not actually bothered until 1942.

Ilse Aichinger lived completely isolated from the public and was denied a place at university. She and her mother were conscripted during the war years; Ilse Aichinger ran the risk of being deported and killed herself because, after reaching the age of majority, she hid her mother in one of the rooms assigned to her daughter directly opposite the Gestapo headquarters in the former Hotel Metropol on Morzinplatz. The mother's grandmother and younger siblings were abducted in 1942 and perished in the Maly Trostinez extermination camp near Minsk .

Study and writing

1945 Ilse Aichinger began Medicine to study, but broke off after five semesters to her partly autobiographical novel The greater hope to write. It was created “in the kitchen of a poor apartment in an outer district” of Vienna as well as in the office “of an institution for the incurable, the elderly and the deported”, where her mother worked as a doctor. The critic Hans Weigel recommended that she introduce herself and her texts to Bermann-Fischer Verlag , which eventually published her works. But even before that, Aichinger's earlier texts - published in newspapers and magazines such as Wiener Kurier , Plan , Der Turm - caused a sensation, so that, according to Hans Weigel, Austrian literature only began after 1945 with Ilse Aichinger. In 1949/50 Ilse Aichinger worked as a publishing editor for S. Fischer, in 1950/51 as Inge Aicher-Scholl's assistant at the Ulm School of Design .

In 1951 she was invited to group 47 by Hans Werner Richter for the first time , where she met her future husband Günter Eich . In 1952 she won the group's prize for her mirror story . In the same year the much-noticed speech appeared under the gallows . From 1956 to 1993 she was a member of the Akademie der Künste (Berlin West). In 1953 she married the writer Günter Eich. The couple lived with their children, Clemens , who also became a writer, and Mirjam, first in Lenggries , then in Breitbrunn am Chiemsee and, from 1963, in Großgmain in the Salzburg region . In 1967 she went on a long reading tour to the USA. In the year of his marriage to Eich, Aichinger's radio play debut, Buttons , was broadcast for the first time.

In 1957 she became a member of the writers' association PEN Center Germany .

Late years

In 1972 Günter Eich died. Nine years later, after her mother's death, Ilse Aichinger moved to Frankfurt am Main and in 1988 to Vienna, where she began to write again in the late 1990s after a lengthy creative break. She regularly won prestigious literary prizes, although her publications became fewer and shorter. In 1996 she signed the Frankfurt Declaration on the Spelling Reform and in 1997 forbade adapting her text in school books to the new rules.

From 1977 she was a member of the German Academy for Language and Poetry in Darmstadt . She was also a regular member of the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts and was following the merger of West Berlin Academy of Arts with the Academy of Arts of the GDR since 1993 the Academy of Arts in Berlin in.

In 1984 she first moved to Frankfurt am Main at the invitation of S. Fischer Verlag and then returned to Vienna in 1988.

After the accidental death of her son Clemens in February 1998, the author withdrew almost completely from the literary public. Two years later, after a 14-year break in writing, some autobiographical essays appeared in a series of weekly articles from the end of 2001 to 2003, initially for the Viennese daily Der Standard . However, in 2004 there was a break with the newspaper because of a column about the Nobel Prize by Elfriede Jelinek . In December 2004 Ilse Aichinger started working on columns for the weekly supplement "Spectrum" of the newspaper Die Presse . Some of these late texts were summarized in the book Film und Verfahrnis (2001) and the two small volumes Unbelievable Travels (2005) and Subtexte (2006).

In Vienna, where she lived until her death, Ilse Aichinger stayed almost every day in her regular café, Café Demel on Kohlmarkt, and often went to the cinema.

Ilse Aichinger died on November 11, 2016 at the age of 95.

In 2018, Ilse-Aichinger-Gasse in Vienna- Donaustadt (22nd district) was named after her.


Early works

Cover of The Greater Hope , 1991 edition, based on a design by Otl Aicher

From the beginning, Aichinger called for criticism of political and social conditions in her works and spoke out against false harmony and historical oblivion. As early as 1945 she wrote a text about the world of the concentration camps (The fourth gate) , the first in Austrian literature. A year later, in the essay Call to Suspicion , she wrote : “We must distrust ourselves. The clarity of our intentions, the depth of our thoughts, the goodness of our actions! We have to distrust our own truthfulness! ”With this appeal against the repression of history and for a relentless self-analysis, Ilse Aichinger turned against German clear-cut literature , whose followers propagated a radical new beginning after the end of the Second World War.

In 1948 she wrote her only novel The Greater Hope , in which, with reference to her own biography, she describes the fate of a young " half-Jewish " under National Socialism . The Greater Hope is a book about the fact that the high hopes no longer exist. The novel does not offer a concrete-realistic representation of humiliation, fear and desperate hope, but an allegorical description in ten chronologically arranged pictures from the subjective perspective of a fifteen-year-old girl. It is not told in a chronologically comprehensible manner, the text is more of a network of dreams, fairy tales, myths and history. Monologues alternate with dialogues, authorial narration with personal. "Through the symbolic exaggeration, the horror is in no way played down, but only lifted to another level and linked with timeless topics."

The greater hope , together with Musil's Moosbrugger and Clarisse studies in Man without Qualities , is the first deconstructive and language-themed novel in Austrian literature that also deals with history.

In her early stories, which show the influence of Franz Kafka , Aichinger describes the “existential shackling of people by fears, compulsions, dreams, delusions and feverish fantasies”. The subject of the difficult relationship between dream and reality and between freedom and coercion recurs again and again, for example in the prose volume Where I Live (1963). The title story of the same name also deals with the topic of alienation and the question of autonomy and responsibility.

Language criticism

From the very beginning, Aichinger's work showed a pronounced tendency towards scarcity, which can be seen, for example, in the adaptation of her first and only novel The Greater Hope . The anthology Bad Words (1976) showed a change in theme for Ilse Aichinger: "Once the search for truth dominated, it now comes to subversive language criticism." Language seemed to the author more and more to be an unusable means of expression. The increasingly rare writing matched this view, and the texts became shorter and shorter, right up to the aphorism .

Ilse Aichinger herself explained this as a reaction to the lack of connections in the contemporary world: “You can't just write on and artificially create connections.” Her poetics of silence is a consequence of the rejection of any form of conformism : “Against the very common opinion of 'that's just the way it is', which unquestionably accepts what it finds. The world demands to be countered. "


About the war time

“The war was my happiest time. The war was helpful to me. What I saw was the most important thing in life for me. The war time was full of hope. One knew very well where friends were and where they weren't, something that is no longer known in Vienna today. The war cleared things up. "

“I once said […] that World War II was my happiest time. Although I saw my loved ones being dragged away in cattle wagons, I certainly believed that they would come back. That's why the time AFTER World War II was the most difficult for me, because nobody came back. "

“The sight of my grandmother in the cattle truck on the Schwedenbrücke in Vienna. And the people around me who watched with a certain amount of pleasure. I was very young and I knew that my grandmother, who was the dearest person in the world to me, was coming back. Then the war was over, prosperity broke out, and people shot past you. That was even worse than the war. "

About writing

“I've always thought [writing] to be a very difficult job. And I never wanted to be a writer. I wanted to become a doctor, but that failed because of my clumsiness. At first I just wanted to write a report about the war. I didn't even think about a book, I just wanted to record everything as precisely as possible. When the book [ The Greater Hope ] was published by Fischer, there was still far too much in it. I wanted to say everything in one sentence, not twenty. "

“Writing is not a job. Not today. The language is fragmented, one ought to know that. Robert Musil saw through this completely. But most of them write quickly in chronological order and inattentively. Defining yourself as an author alone is no longer possible today. It doesn't matter whether you are a plumber, a nurse or in the office. It's another world, even if it bores you. When someone asks me about my job, I say 'privately'. "

“The role of writing is that it may seem to me that everything has a certain meaning. If I manage two or three sentences, then I have the feeling that my existence is not completely absurd, as if there is still a spark of meaning left. "


Awards accepted by Ilse Aichinger

Awards rejected by Ilse Aichinger

Ilse Aichinger did not accept the following decorations and medals.



  • The fourth gate. Short story. Wiener Kurier, Vienna September 1, 1945.
  • The greater hope . Novel. Bermann-Fischer, Amsterdam 1948.
  • Mirror story . Short story. Wiener Tageszeitung, Vienna 1949.
  • Talk under the gallows. Stories. Jungbrunnenverlag , Vienna 1952.
  • The bound one. Stories. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1953 (therein: The Window Theater )
  • Eliza Eliza. Stories. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1965.
  • News of the day. Stories. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1970.
  • My language and me. Stories. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1978.
  • Kleist, moss, pheasants. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1987.
  • Ice crystals. Humphrey Bogart and the Titanic. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1997.
  • Film and doom. Flash lights on a life. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2001.
  • The wolf and the seven young goats. (After Jacob Grimm ), Edition Korrespondenzen, Vienna 2004, ISBN 978-3-902113-30-6 .
  • Incredible trips. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2005, ISBN 978-3-596-17076-0 .
  • Subtexts. Edition Korrespondenzen, Vienna 2006, ISBN 978-3-902113-46-7 .


  • Advice given away . S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1978.
  • Short circuits . Edition Korrespondenzen, Vienna 2001.

Radio plays

  • Buttons . 1953.
    • 1953: Production SDR / NWDR. With Liselotte Köster (Ann), Karin Schlemmer (Rosy), Ingeborg Engelmann (Jean), Heinz Reincke (John), Erwin Linder (Bill) and others. a. Composition: Rolf Unkel, Director: Otto Kurth .
    • 1962: Production of Norddeutscher Rundfunk. With Gustl Halenke (Ann), Wolfgang Wahl (John), Karin Bohrmann (Rosie), Julia Costa (Jean), Hanns Lothar (Bill) u. a. Composition: Johannes Aschenbrenner, Director: Fritz Schröder-Jahn.
    • 1974: Production DRS. With Herlinde Latzko (Ann), Verena Buss (Jean), Krista Stadler (Rosie), Ulrich Kuhlmann (John), Hans Gerd Kübel (Bill), Volker Spahr (Jack). Director: Joseph Scheidegger.
    • 1989: Production of Radio DDR. With Suheer Saleh (Ann), Arianne Borbach (Jean), Franziska Troegner (Rosie), Gunnar Helm (John), Uwe Müller (Bill). Director: Peter Groeger.
  • At no hour . S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1957.
  • French embassy . With Rudolf Rhomberg (The Policeman), Renate Grosser (The Girl), Michael Paryla (Speaker), Christoph Wille (The Little One in the Park). Director: Hans Dieter Schwarze . Production: Bayerischer Rundfunk 1959. First broadcast: May 20, 1960.
  • White chrysanthemums . With Hans Zesch-Balloth (general), Anne Kersten (general), Edith Schultze-Westrum (flower woman). Director: Hans Dieter Schwarze . Production: Bayerischer Rundfunk 1959. First broadcast: May 20, 1960.
  • Visit to the rectory. A radio play. Three dialogues . S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1961.
  • Afternoon in Ostend . 1968.
  • The Jouet sisters . With Elisabeth Flickenschildt (Josepha), Blandine Ebinger (Anna), Grete Mosheim (Rosalie). Director: Ludwig Cremer . Production: Bayerischer Rundfunk, Süddeutscher Rundfunk, Westdeutscher Rundfunk, ORF 1969.
  • Auckland . Four radio plays. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1969.
  • Gare Maritime . 1976.
  • At no hour. Scenes and dialogues . S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1980.


  • Where I live. Stories, poems, dialogues . Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1963.
  • Heinz F. Schafroth (ed.): Dialogues, stories, poems . Reclam, Stuttgart 1971.
  • Bad words . S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1976.
  • Poems and prose . Weilheim High School, Weilheim i. IF. 1980.
  • Nothing has to be left. Interviews 1952–2005 . Edition Korrespondenzen, Vienna 2011.
Works in eight volumes

S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1991. Paperback edition 2015:

Radio play adaptations

Audio books


  • 1991: Ilse Aichinger, writing is learning to die , TV film, D: Brita Steinwendtner, 45 min
  • 2001: Die Kinoogängerin , television documentary, D: Nobert Beilharz, 60 min
  • 2014: where I live. A film for Ilse Aichinger , documentary, D: Christine Nagel, 81 min


  • Gisela Lindemann : Ilse Aichinger . Beck, Munich 1988, ISBN 3-406-32276-X .
  • Antje Dertinger : “Learning to look in the dark”. The poet Ilse Aichinger in group 47 . In: Antje Dertinger: Women of the First Hour. From the founding years of the Federal Republic , Latke, Bonn 1989, pp. 11–24, ISBN 3-925068-11-2 .
  • Kurt Bartsch , Gerhard Melzer (ed.): Ilse Aichinger . Droschl, Graz / Vienna 1993, ISBN 3-85420-350-0 .
  • Samuel Moser (Ed.): Ilse Aichinger. Life and work . Fischer Taschenbuchverlag, Frankfurt am Main 1995, ISBN 3-596-12782-3 .
  • Barbara Thums: "If you don't believe the arrivals, the farewells are true": Myth, memory and mysticism in Ilse Aichinger's prose (= Rombach-Wissenschaften, Series Cultura , Volume 14), Rombach Freiburg im Breisgau 2000, ISBN 978-3-7930- 9251-3 (Dissertation Freiburg im Breisgau 2000, 443 pages).
  • Britta Herrmann, Barbara Thums (Ed.): "What we can use is sobriety". About Ilse Aichinger's work . Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 2001, ISBN 3-8260-2091-X .
  • Roland Berbig: Ilse Aichinger . In: Text + Critique 175. edition text + kritik, Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-88377-902-7 .
  • Richard Reichensperger: Ilse Aichinger's early deconstructions. In: Land registers of Austrian literature since 1945. First delivery. Edited by Klaus Kastberger and Kurt Neumann. Vienna: Paul Zsolnay Verlag 2007, pp. 11-17, ISBN 978-3-552-05418-9 .
  • Verena Auffermann : Ilse Aichinger - Born to disappear . In: Verena Auffermann, Gunhild Kübler , Ursula März , Elke Schmitter (eds.): Passions. 99 women authors of world literature . C. Bertelsmann, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-570-01048-8 , pp. 17-20.
  • Berlin booklet on the history of literary life 9 (2010) ( special issue Ilse Aichinger , edited by Roland Berbig / Hannah Makus [196 pages]), ISSN  0949-5371 .
  • Simone Fässler: From Vienna, towards Vienna. Ilse Aichinger's "Geography of Your Own Existence". Böhlau, Vienna / Cologne / Weimar 2011, ISBN 978-3-205-78594-1 .
  • Beatrice Eichmann-Leutenegger: 'This addiction to just stay away'. For Ilse Aichinger's 90th birthday . In: Voices of the Time , Issue 11, November 2011, pp. 767–775. Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau.
  • Stefan Willer: Aging in the mirror. Reversed CVs for F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ilse Aichinger. In: Journal for German Studies, New Series, Vol. 22, No. 2 (2012), pp. 345-361.
  • Gail Wiltshire: A Spatial Reading of Ilse Aichinger's Novel "The Greater Hope" . Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 2015, ISBN 978-3-8260-5707-6 (German).
  • Hannah Markus: Ilse Aichinger's poetry. The printed work and the manuscripts . de Gruyter, Berlin 2015, ISBN 978-3-11-043172-8 .
  • Iris Radisch : Ilse Aichinger turns 75: A ZEIT interview with the Austrian writer . In: Die Zeit , No. 45/1996.
  • Xenia Wotschal: Writing and traveling across genre boundaries. Genre mixing and formation with Rolf Dieter Brinkmann, Ilse Aichinger and Herta Müller. Heidelberg: Winter 2018, ISBN 978-3825367183 .
  • Zsusanna Gahse: In memory of Ilse Aichinger. In: Yearbook of the German Academy for Language and Poetry. 2016-2017. Göttingen: Wallstein 2018, pp. 123–125.
  • Theresia Prammer, Christina Vescoli (Ed.): What kind of sentences. To Ilse Aichinger . Vienna: Edition Korrespondenzen 2019, ISBN 978-3902951342 .

Web links

Commons : Ilse Aichinger  - Collection of images

Individual evidence

  1. Ilse Aichinger . teachSam, accessed November 11, 2016.
  2. Cf. Ilse Aichinger: Have to believe in it (Günter Eich) , in: Renatus Deckert (Ed.): The first book. Writer on her literary debut . Suhrkamp Verlag 2007, pp. 17-18.
  3. Weigel, Hans: “It started with Ilse Aichinger. Fragmentary memories of the hour of the rebirth of Austrian literature after 1945 ”, in: Protocols 1 (1966), pp. 2–3. Weigel refers explicitly to the texts “Please, Stefan Zweig” (1946 in the Wiener Kurier ) and “Call to distrust” (1946 in the plan ). The first text can be viewed at the following link: (as of November 17, 2017).
  4. Christine Ivanovic: The measure of hope. Ilse Aichinger's leaps in time. In: The hammer. Issue 50, June 2011, p. 5 (PDF).
  5. ^ Peter Mohr: Everything comical helps me: For the 85th birthday of the writer Ilse Aichinger . , October 30, 2006, accessed November 11, 2016.
  6. ^ Writer Ilse Aichinger is dead . Sü , November 11, 2016, accessed on November 11, 2016.
  7. a b Meike Fechner, Susanne Wirtz: Ilse Aichinger. Tabular curriculum vitae in the LeMO ( DHM and HdG )
  8. Klaus Kastberger: Survival. Child's play - Ilse Aichinger: The Greater Hope (1948). In: Klaus Kastberger and Kurt Neumann (eds.): Land registers of Austrian literature since 1945. First delivery . Paul Zsolnay Verlag, Vienna 2007, ISBN 978-3-552-05418-9 , p. 20 .
  9. Dieter Wunderlich: Ilse Aichinger: The greater hope ., 2006/2007, accessed on November 11, 2016.
  10. ^ Richard Reichensperger: Ilse Aichinger's early deconstruction. In: Klaus Kastberger and Kurt Neumann (eds.): Land registers of Austrian literature since 1945. First delivery. Paul Zsolnay Verlag, Vienna 2007, ISBN 978-3-552-05418-9 , p. 12 .
  11. Aichinger, Ilse . Books Wiki, accessed November 11, 2016.
  12. ^ Inga Schnekenburger: Ilse Aichinger biography ., September 12, 2014, accessed on November 11, 2016.
  13. a b c d e Iris Radisch : Ilse Aichinger is 75: A ZEIT conversation with the Austrian writer . In: Die Zeit , No. 45/1996.
  14. Carola Hilmes: Approach. Stefan Moses: Ilse Aichinger. A picture book by Stefan Moses . Review in querelles-net: Review magazine for women and gender research , 21, 2007, ISSN  1862-054X , accessed on November 11, 2016.
  15. ^ A b Günter Kaindlstorfer: Ilse Aichinger records . Deutschlandfunk broadcast “Büchermarkt”, November 15, 2005, accessed on November 11, 2016.
  16. Literature Committee - Projects and Prize Winners since 1953 . (PDF) Kulturkreis der Deutschen Wirtschaft in BDI e. V., accessed on December 13, 2018.
  17. Ilse Aichinger receives the Grand Art Prize of the State of Salzburg . APA article on , November 1, 2015, accessed on November 11, 2016.
  18. See on this Reichensperger, Richard: "VI Appendix", in: Ilse Aichinger. Life and work. Information and material on literature , ed. v. Samuel Moser, 2nd updated and expanded new edition, Frankfurt am Main: S. Fischer Verlag 2003, p. 344. Cf. also the brief vita of Aichinger, Ilse: “Äpfel, Schule, Quittenkäse”, in Die Presse , May 21, 2005 , P. 7.
  19. Award-winning film: "To write is to learn to die". In: Retrieved August 14, 2018 .
  20. Die Kinoogängerin (2001) in the Internet Movie Database (English)
  21. Where I live . Vienna Film Fund , accessed on November 11, 2016.