Johannes Urzidil

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Johannes Urzidil

Johannes Urzidil (born February 3, 1896 in Prague , † November 2, 1970 in Rome ) was a German-Bohemian- American writer, cultural historian and journalist.

Origin and life

Johannes Urzidil's father, Josef Uržidil, came from a Catholic German-Bohemian family and was born in Schippin ( Šipín ) near Konstantinsbad as the son of the teacher there. A great-grandfather on Urzidil's paternal side was a doctor in the service of the rulers of Weseritz , the princes of Löwenstein-Wertheim-Rochefort . Urzidil's father was transferred to Prague as a railway engineer.

Johannes Urzidil's mother Elise, née Metzeles, widowed Steinitz, was a native of Prague, converted from Judaism to Catholicism before the marriage with Urzidil's father and already had seven children from her first marriage; she died shortly before Urzidil's fourth birthday. The German national father married Marie Mostbeck, a nationally conscious Czech woman, in 1903; this marriage remained childless. Many topics and problems are suggested here that would shape Urzidil's later literary work.

While still at school, Urzidil ​​published his first poems in the Prager Tagblatt under the pseudonym "Hans Elmar" in 1913 , and soon afterwards - he spoke fluent Czech in addition to German - translations of poems by the Czech poet Otokar Březina followed . During this time Urzidil ​​made friends with writers like Max Brod , Franz Kafka , Felix Weltsch , Paul Kornfeld , Franz Werfel and Ludwig Winder and was a regular at Café Arco , the meeting place of the Prague district . Urzidil ​​also maintained close friendships with Czech writers and artists such as Petr Bezruč , Jan Zrzavý and the brothers Josef and Karel Čapek .

Memorial plaque for Johannes Urzidil, Prague, Na příkopě 16 (former German State High School)

From 1914 to 1918 Urzidil ​​studied German studies (with August Sauer , among others ), Slavic studies and art history (with a brief interruption due to his military service in 1916) at the German Karl Ferdinand University in Prague . After the end of the First World War , Urzidil ​​became a translator at the German Consulate General (from 1919: Embassy) in Prague in November 1918 and was a correspondent for the Prager Tagblatt from 1918 to 1939 , from 1921 for the Berliner Börsen-Courier , from 1922 for the Wolffsche Telegraphenbureau and from 1923 still working for Prague Bohemia . In reports by the German envoy Walter Koch at the end of the 1920s, he was listed as “ press chief ” of the embassy. The expressionist volume of poetry Fall of the Damned , published in 1919 as part of the renowned series The Youngest Day published by Kurt Wolff Verlag in Leipzig, was Urzidil's first book.

Shortly after his father's death, Urzidil ​​married Gertrude Thieberger (1898–1977) in 1922 , who came from a Jewish family of scholars and was herself a poet. In the same year Urzidil ​​was appointed to the press advisory board of the German embassy in Prague.

During the time of the First Czechoslovak Republic , Johannes Urzidil ​​published numerous essays and articles on literature, art, history and daily politics in addition to literary texts. In 1930 his volume of poetry, The Voice , came out and in 1932 the first version of his extensive study Goethe in Böhmen , the second, heavily revised and expanded version, appeared in 1962.

In 1933, after Hitler came to power, Urzidil ​​was dismissed from the diplomatic service of the German Reich as a so-called “ non-Aryan ”, and he also had to stop working as a correspondent for the German press. Urzidil ​​and his wife spent the following years partly in Josefsthal ( Josefův Důl ) near Glöckelberg in the Bohemian Forest . During these years his important art historical monograph Wenceslaus Hollar appeared . The Baroque Engraver (1936) and his collection of essays Contemporary Czech Painters: Čapek , Filla , Justitz , Špála , Zrzavý (1936).

In June 1939, three months after the German invasion of Prague, succeeded Urzidil - in accordance with the Nuremberg Laws Jewish because of his wife not as a " half-Jew ", but even as a " Jew was" - and leave his wife, the German sphere ; Via Italy, generously supported by the British writer Bryher , they came to England, where Urzidil ​​was in contact with the Czechoslovak government in exile under Edvard Beneš . It was Bryher again who made it possible for the Urzidil ​​couple to move to the USA in 1941, where they had to live in cramped material conditions in New York. Urzidil ​​began to work as a leather artisan; from this activity later his essays on the craft emerged.

After the war, Urzidil ​​worked for the Austria department of Voice of America from 1951 , which meant that he was financially secure. In 1955 he published two books, the story The Trauermantel about Adalbert Stifter, already published in New York in 1945, and the translation of the volume of poems By Avon River by Bryher's partner, the American avant-garde poet HD. A year later, in 1956, the volume of short stories Die lost Beloved who established Urzidil's reputation as the “great troubadour of that forever sunken Prague” (Max Brod). During a few stays in Israel, he stayed in touch with old friends from Prague such as Max Brod , the Zionist philosopher Felix Weltsch and Hugo Bergman .

His hometown Prague is also the location of his second best-known book Prague Triptych (1960). Urzidil ​​had found his form in the narrative, and a new volume was subsequently published every two years - Das Elefantenblatt (1962), Abduction and seven other events (1964), The captured women (1966), Is it you, Ronald ? (1968) and posthumously The Last Tombola (1971). Urzidil ​​mostly describes his Bohemian homeland or his country of exile in the USA precisely and proves himself to be an author of classical modernism with stylistic devices such as irony, ambiguous humor or the alternation between different styles and genres, without forgetting the role models Goethe and Stifter. Urzidil's only novel, The Great Hallelujah (1959), is committed to assembly technology and offers a diverse panorama of the USA.

In addition, Urzidil ​​wrote a large number of articles and essays, often on Bohemian subjects (e.g. The Czechs and Slovaks , 1960) or on writers who were close to him (above all Goethe, Stifter, Kafka, but also Henry David Thoreau and Walt Whitman ). The regular lecture tours also contributed to his success. Urzidil ​​died on one of these on November 2, 1970 in Rome, where he was buried on Campo Santo Teutonico .

Urzidil ​​was almost completely forgotten in the German and Czech-speaking areas soon after his death, in contrast to Italy and France, for example. After the political change in 1989 he was rediscovered in the Czech Republic , i.e. in his Bohemian homeland, which is reflected in the founding of the Společnost Johannese Urzidila (Johannes Urzidil ​​Society) in 2005, in addition to numerous translations into Czech . Scientific conferences on Urzidil ​​took place in Rome in 1984, in Prague in 1995 and in Ústí nad Labem in 2010.

Urzidil ​​liked to refer to himself as “behind the world”, i. H. standing behind the nations. As a Catholic he was averse to cosmopolitan Christianity and as a Freemason he was deeply human and averse to any nationalism.

Awards and memberships

Urzidil ​​Museum

The Společnost Johannese Urzidila set up an Urzidil ​​Museum in Zvonková (Glöckelberg) in the Bohemian Forest in spring 2006 .

Asteroid "Urzidil"

The Czech astronomers Jana Tichá and Miloš Tichý from the Kleť Observatory (near Český Krumlov ) named one of the asteroids they discovered in 1999 after the writer “ 70679 Urzidil ”.


  • Fall of the damned . Poems. Wolff, Leipzig 1919 (= The Judgment Day. 65).
  • The voice . Poems. Lyrical leaflets of the cartel of lyrical authors and the Bund Deutscher Lyriker, Berlin 1930. (= The Anthology. 8).
  • Goethe in Bohemia . Monograph. Epstein, Vienna / Leipzig 1932;
    greatly expanded and revised edition: Artemis, Zurich / Stuttgart 1962.
  • Wenceslaus Hollar . The Baroque engraver . With the collaboration of Franz Sprinzels (monograph) Vienna / Leipzig, Passer 1936.
  • Contemporary Czech painters: Čapek , Filla , Justitz , Špála , Zrzavý . Essays. Wawra / Forum, Bratislava (Preßburg) 1936 DNB 362395667 .
  • Hollar, a Czech émigré in England . Monograph. Translated by Paul Selver , Czechoslovak, London 1942.
  • The mourning gown . Narrative. Krause, New York 1945.
  • About the craft . Essay. Agis, Krefeld 1954.
  • The lost lover . Stories. Langen Müller, Munich 1956; as paperback: Ullstein, Frankfurt am Main 1982, ISBN 3-548-20190-3 .
  • The Memnon Column . Poems. Bergland, Vienna 1957.
  • Gibacht Memories . Narrative. Langen Müller, Munich 1958.
  • The happiness of the present. Goethe's image of America . Essay. Artemis, Zurich / Stuttgart 1958.
  • The great alleluia . Novel. Langen Müller, Munich 1959.
  • Prague triptych . Stories. Langen Müller, Munich 1960.
  • The elephant leaf . Stories. Langen Müller, Munich 1962.
  • Gifts of life . Text selection. Ed. And with an introduction by v. Ernst Schönwiese . Stiasny, Graz / Vienna 1962.
  • America and the ancient world . Essay. Artemis, Zurich 1964.
  • Kidnapping and seven other incidents . Stories. Artemis, Zurich 1964.
  • There goes Kafka . Essays. Artemis, Zurich / Stuttgart 1965; extended edition: Munich, dtv 1966. (= dtv. 390.)
  • Literature as a creative responsibility . Essay. Artemis, Zurich / Stuttgart 1965.
  • The captured women. Seven dramatic stories . Stories. Artemis, Zurich / Stuttgart 1966. New edition by Elsinor Verlag, Coesfeld 2013.
  • Prague as a spiritual starting point. Ceremonial address on October 21, 1965 on the occasion of Erich von Kahler's 80th birthday . Essay. Leo Baeck Institute , New York 1966.
  • The living part of Jewish Prague in modern German literature . Essay. In: Bulletin of the Leo Baeck Institute . Leo Baeck Institute, Tel Aviv 1967. pp. 267-297.
  • Is it you ronald Stories. Artemis, Zurich 1968.
  • Fatherly from Prague and handicraft from New York . Autobiographical texts. Artemis, Zurich 1969.
  • The last raffle . Stories. Artemis, Zurich / Stuttgart 1971.
  • I'm going home tomorrow. Bohemian tales . Stories. Epilogue v. Heinz Politzer . Langen Müller, Munich 1971.
  • Confessions of a Pedant. Stories and essays from the autobiographical estate . Autobiographical texts and essays. With a foreword by Hansres Jacobi and a bibliography of Urzidil's works by Věra Macháčková-Riegerová . Artemis, Zurich / Munich 1972, ISBN 3-7608-0306-7 .
  • Život s českými malíři. Vzájemná korrespondence s Janem Zrzavým. Vzpomínky - texty - documenty . (Letters, essays and documents, some in Czech, some in German.) Ed. By Vladimír Musil . Translated by VM and Milada Urbanová . Fraktál, Horní Planá / Oberplan 2003, ISBN 80-902860-0-3 .
  • Ferdinand Peroutka and Johannes Urzidil: O české a německé kultuře . Conversations. Ed. V. Jaromir Loužil u. a. Dokořan / Maj, Prague 2008, ISBN 978-80-7363-098-0 .
  • BehindNational - Johannes Urzidil. A reading book by Klaus Johann and Vera Schneider. With a CD with audio documents. German Cultural Forum for Eastern Europe , Potsdam 2010, ISBN 978-3-936168-55-6 . (Brief description, table of contents, index, over 40 reviews of the book)
Translations into German
  • Edvard Beneš : Masaryk's Way and Legacy. Speech at the coffin of the presidential liberator September 21, 1937 . Orbis, Prague 1937.
  • Jaroslav Papoušek : Dr. Edvard Beneš. His life . Orbis, Prague 1937 (= thought and action. 4).
  • HD : Avon (Original Title: By Avon River ). Suhrkamp, ​​Berlin / Frankfurt am Main 1955 (= thousand prints, volume 1 - DNB 450045269 ).


  • Gerhard Trapp: The prose of Johannes Urzidils. To understand a literary career from Expressionism to the present (= European University Writings , Series 1: German Language and Literature , Volume 2, ISSN  0721-3301 ). Lang, Frankfurt am Main / Bern 1965, DNB 481378847 ; 1967, DNB 458437794 (Dissertation, University of Frankfurt am Main, Philosophical Faculty, July 24, 1965, 235 pages).
  • Stella P. Rosenfeld: Johannes Urzidil's Prague and Bohemian stories. Major aspects of subject matter and theme . University Microfilms International, Ann Arbor, MI / Cleveland, OH 1976, OCLC 917935977 (Dissertation, Case Western Reserve University Cleveland, OH 1976, 177 pages)
  • Hedwig Pistorius: Johannes Urzidil ​​und das Exil (1 microfilm reel ; 35 mm), Vienna 1978, OCLC 86086535 (Thesis (doctoral), dissertation, University of Vienna 1978, X + 209 pages.)
  • Christa Helling: Johannes Urzidil ​​and Prague. Attempt at an interpretation (= Università degli studi di Trieste . Publicazione N. 7). Del Bianco Industrie Grafiche, Trieste 1981.
  • Peter Herren: Persistence and transformation (= language and poetry . NF 32). Haupt, Bern / Stuttgart 1981, ISBN 3-258-03007-3 (dissertation, University of Bern, Faculty of Philosophy and History 1980, 290 pages).
  • Johann Lachinger, Aldemar Schiffkorn sen. and Walter Zettl (ed.): Johannes Urzidil ​​and the Prager Kreis. Lectures of the Roman Johannes Urzidil ​​Symposium 1984 (= series of publications by the Adalbert Stifter Institute of the State of Upper Austria . Volume 36). Adalbert Stifter Institute of the State of Upper Austria, Linz 1986, ISBN 3-900424-04-7 .
  • Isabelle Ruiz: Johannes Urzidil. Le dernier conteur pragois de langue Allemande entre l'engagement et la distance . Paris 1997, OCLC 490465328 (Dissertation (Thèse de doctorat), University of Paris 3, Etudes germaniques 1997, 478 pages).
  • Aldemar Schiffkorn jun. (Ed.): Bohemia is everywhere. International Johannes Urzidil ​​Symposium in Prague . Anthology of the lectures. Primary bibliography and index (= Grenzgänger edition . Volume 26). Edition Grenzgänger, Linz 1999, ISBN 3-901246-17-7 .
  • Anja Bischof: The function and meaning of memory in Johannes Urzidil's narrative work: “... entirely invented, but from a reality” (= Hamburg Contributions to German Studies. Volume 53). Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main a. a. 2012, ISBN 978-3-631-63344-1 (dissertation, University of Hamburg 2012, 202 pages)
  • Steffen Höhne, Klaus Johann and Mirek Němec (eds.): Johannes Urzidil ​​(1896-1970). A “post-international” writer between Bohemia and New York (= intellectual Prague in the 19th and 20th centuries. 4). Böhlau, Cologne / Weimar / Vienna 2013, ISBN 978-3-412-20917-9 )
  • Verena Zankl: Christine Busta and Johannes Urzidil. Correspondence 1957 to 1970. Critical text and commentary. Innsbruck, 2013 (dissertation, University of Innsbruck 2013, 443 pages),
  • Kateřina Kovačková: Figures of the “Others” in German-Bohemian exile literature: using the example of Gerold Tietz , Josef Holub and Johannes Urzidil (= Tea edition ), Rogeon, Munich 2015, ISBN 978-3-943186-14-7 . (Dissertation, Ludwig Maximilians University Munich 2013, 309 pages.)
  • Valentina Sardelli: A colloquio con il proprio passato: la corrispondenza inedita di Johannes Urzidil. Il Campano, Pisa 2015. ISBN 978-88-6528-292-2 . (Dissertation, University of Pisa 2010, 243 pages).
  • Christiana Puschak, Jürgen Krämer: “A centerpiece stayed behind in Prague. In America I live while traveling ”- a picture of life. The poet Gertrude Urzidil ​​(1898-1977) between Prague and New York (= BiografiA - New Results of Women's Biography Research , Volume 17). Praesens, Vienna 2016, ISBN 978-3-7069-0799-6 .
  • Klaus Johann: Bibliography of secondary literature on Johannes Urzidil. In: Bridges. Germanistic Yearbook Czech Republic - Slovakia . NF 13. 2005. pp. 383-428.


  1. CV in Czech
  2. See HinterNational - Johannes Urzidil. A reading book by Klaus Johann and Vera Schneider. With a CD with audio documents. German Cultural Forum for Eastern Europe, Potsdam 2010, ISBN 978-3-936168-55-6 . P. 71.
  3. See HinterNational - Johannes Urzidil. A reading book by Klaus Johann and Vera Schneider. With a CD with audio documents. German Cultural Forum for Eastern Europe, Potsdam 2010, ISBN 978-3-936168-55-6 . Pp. 15-17 and 71.
  4. See HinterNational - Johannes Urzidil. A reading book by Klaus Johann and Vera Schneider. With a CD with audio documents. German Cultural Forum for Eastern Europe, Potsdam 2010, ISBN 978-3-936168-55-6 . P. 18 and 72.
  5. Johann Josef Nepomuk Adolf Urzidil a timing chart as detailed CV ( Czech ).
  6. Files on German foreign policy: 1918 - 1945. Ser. B, 1925-1933: Vol. 16 October 1, 1930 to February 28, 1931 , p. 98
  7. ^ Gerhard Trapp: Johannes Urzidil's activity as a press adviser at the embassy of the German Reich in Prague 1918-1934. In: Peter Becher and Peter Heumos (eds.): Drehscheibe Prag. On German emigration in Czechoslovakia 1933-1939. Oldenbourg, Munich 1992. (= Publications of the Collegium Carolinum. 75.) ISBN 3-486-55951-6 . Pp. 131-150.
  8. Conference announcement, program and report  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. on the website of the Germanic Department of the Jan Evangelista Purkyně University in Ústí nad Labem .@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /  
  9. Johannes Urzidil: Predella. Relief of the city. In: Johannes Urzidil: Prague Triptych. Ed. U. Nachw. V. Peter Demetz . Salzburg u. Vienna: Residenz 1997. pp. 7–28. P. 12.
  10. Review by Volker Strebel in the Prager Zeitung
  11. ^ Review by David Axmann in the Wiener Zeitung
  12. a b Review by Rüdiger Görner in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung .
  13. Brief description, table of contents, introduction ( memento of the original dated May 12, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  14. a b Review by Volker Strebel on .
  15. ( short description , table of contents (PDF file; 227.66 kB
  16. Review by Martin A. Hainz on
  17. Review by Justus H. Ulbricht in Bohemia. Journal of the history and culture of the Czech lands .
  18. University and State Library of Tyrol - Main Library
  19. ( Updated and expanded online version as PDF file. ) (PDF; 448 kB)

Web links