Leo Perutz

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Leo Perutz (before 1925)

Leo Perutz (actually Leopold Perutz ; born November 2, 1882 in Prague , Austria-Hungary , † August 25, 1957 in Bad Ischl ) was an Austrian writer. In his civil profession he was an actuary .



Leo Perutz was the eldest son of Benedikt Perutz, a successful textile entrepreneur, and his wife Emilie (née Austrian). The family was of Jewish-Spanish descent and had lived in Rakonitz , a small town around 50 kilometers from Prague, since at least 1730 . The family was of Jewish faith, but secularized and not very religious. In addition to Leo, there were three younger siblings, the brothers Paul (* 1885) and Hans (* 1892) and the sister Charlotte (* 1888).

School and army time

Perutz was not a good student. From 1888 to 1893 he attended the prestigious Piarist School in Prague's New Town , to which Kafka's friends Felix Weltsch and Max Brod of the same age also went, and then the Imperial and Royal German State High School in Prague, from which he was probably expelled in 1899 for bad behavior. From 1899 to 1901 he attended the kk grammar school in Krumau , but here too his performance was so poor that he was not admitted to the Matura . In 1901 the family moved to Vienna , where Perutz attended the Archduke-Rainer-Gymnasium , which he left in 1902 without a degree. Afterwards he probably worked for his father's company for some time.

From October 1, 1903, he did his military service as a one-year volunteer with the Imperial and Royal Landwehr Regiment No. 8 in Prague . At the end of the service, the one-year volunteers became reserve officers , provided they passed the final exam. This does not seem to have been the case with Perutz, because he signed up for a second year. For health reasons he resigned from the army in December 1904 with the rank of corporal .

Studies and literary beginnings

In the following year Perutz probably worked again as an employee in his father's company. For the winter semester of 1905/1906 he enrolled at the University of Vienna at the Philosophical Faculty, but as an "extraordinary student", as he did not have a university entrance qualification. He took courses in mathematics and economics. In the winter semester of 1906/1907 he moved to the Vienna University of Technology and dealt with probability theory , statistics, actuarial mathematics and economics. Although it was formally not actually possible, Perutz seems to have obtained a degree in actuarial mathematics there, at least there were documents in his estate that indicate this.

In Vienna contacts developed with budding writers who, like Perutz, presented their first literary attempts in the “Freilicht” association. Among his acquaintances from this time were Richard A. Bermann (who later became known under the pseudonym Arnold Höllriegel), Berthold Viertel and Ernst Weiß . An influential literary role model was Karl Kraus , whose torch books Perutz read regularly. A first prose sketch appeared in February 1906 in the magazine Der Weg , a novella in March 1907 in the Sonntags-Zeit .

Actuarial and coffee shop

Assicurazioni Generali - Trieste
Café Central

In October 1907 Perutz found a job as an actuary at Assicurazioni Generali ( Franz Kafka also worked for this company ) in Trieste . Alongside work, he continued to publish reviews and stories. In October 1908 he went back to Vienna, where he worked for the insurance company Anker until 1923 . As an actuary he calculated u. a. Mortality tables and insurance rates based on them. He also published on this topic in specialist journals. Perutz's formula, named after him, was used in the industry for a long time. Perutz was to be interested in mathematical problems throughout his life, which was also reflected in the construction of some of his literary works.

In Vienna, Perutz visited the literary cafés, initially the Café Museum , then the Café Central . His circle of friends included Peter Altenberg , Hermann Bahr , Oskar Kokoschka and Alfred Polgar . In the period before the First World War , Perutz took an intensive part in the literary and musical life of Vienna, also did a lot of sports such as skiing and ice skating and made several trips to France, Italy, Spain, North Africa, Turkey, Lebanon and Palestine and Egypt. He was able to afford this lifestyle, which is comparatively expensive for an employee, because, in addition to his salary, he also received income from his father's company.

First successes and war

In 1915 Perutz's first novel, The Third Ball , appeared in 1916, a second novel, The Mango Tree Miracle , which he had written with Paul Frank . Both books were quite successful, and The Third Ball received positive reviews from Kurt Tucholsky , among others . The film rights to the Mango Tree Miracle were sold in 1917, the film adaptation, directed by Rudolf Biebrach , was released in 1921 under the title The Adventure of Dr. Church iron premiered.

In 1914, Perutz was not carried away by the enthusiasm for war, which also gripped many writers. Initially, he was not drafted because of his nearsightedness. In August 1915, however, he too had to take up military service. He completed a four-month training near Budapest, from where he was sent to the Russian front at the end of March 1916. On July 4, he was shot in the lung in Galicia near Chochoniw (a village near Rohatyn ), which resulted in a long stay in the hospital. Subsequently, he was promoted to lieutenant and from August 1917 deployed in the kuk war press quarters , where he made the acquaintance of Egon Erwin Kisch . In March 1918 Perutz married Ida Weil, 13 years his junior, whom he had already met in 1913 and to whom he had been engaged since 1917.


In Vienna, Perutz followed the revolutionary events of 1918/1919 with interest and attended political meetings, taking sides with the Social Democrats . During this time he published several articles in which he sharply attacked the Austrian military justice system. At times he was a member of the workers' council in the anchor insurance company.

The period between 1918 and 1928 was Perutz's most productive literary period. He wrote six novels, mostly very successful with critics and audiences; he was also able to sell the film rights of several. He also published short stories, short stories and wrote scripts. Occasionally he also worked as an editor of some of Victor Hugo's works . In 1923 Perutz achieved great success with audiences and critics with his novel Der Meister des Jüngsten Tag ; the work was to be translated into many languages ​​in the following years and became a not unimportant source of money for the years of exile. In 1928 his novel Wohin rollst du, Äpfelchen ... appeared in sequels in the Berliner Illustrirten Zeitung and made Perutz known to an audience of millions.

Perutz's circle of friends expanded considerably as a result of these successes. The writers with whom he met or had correspondence during this time included Bertolt Brecht , Bruno Brehm , Egon Dietrichstein , Theodor Kramer , Anton Kuh , Robert Musil , Friedrich Reck-Malleczewen , Alexander Roda Roda , Walther Rode , Josef Weinheber and Franz Werfel . His regular café was the Herrenhof café . In the back room he had his own table where he played cards and where he was known for his often vicious, sometimes violent appearances. So there was a scandal there against Otto Soyka , who was also prone to malicious appearances (cf. Friedrich Torberg's aunt Jolesch ).

Vienna, Porzellangasse 37

Perutz's marriage was a happy one. From 1922 Ida and Leo Perutz lived in a four-room apartment in the Alsergrund district at Porzellangasse 37, near the Liechtenstein Park . In 1920 the daughter Michaela was born, in 1922 a second daughter, Leonore. Shortly after the birth of his son Felix, Perutz's wife Ida died in 1928, which plunged him into a deep crisis.

Crisis and withdrawal

After the death of his wife, Perutz withdrew from public life for a long time. He visited occultists with whose help he tried to contact his dead wife - although he was still skeptical of such methods. The economic crisis from the end of the 1920s also reduced Perutz's income, as on the one hand the income from book sales declined and on the other hand the company run by his brothers no longer yielded the earlier profits. Politically, Perutz turned in the 1930s, the legitimism to.

In literary terms, he tried to earn money during this time by working with authors such as Alexander Lernet-Holenia . There were also plays that he wrote with more or less success, mostly together with co-authors. In 1933, Perutz's novel St. Petri-Schnee was published in Germany , but after the National Socialists came to power it could hardly be sold there. Perutz himself was not on the list of banned authors, but his publisher Zsolnay was considered Jewish and could no longer deliver his books to Germany. For Perutz, its most important market disappeared.

Exile and stasis

In 1934 Perutz met Grete Humburger, whom he married in 1935. After Austria's annexation , Perutz and his family fled to Venice in 1938, from there to Haifa and finally settled in Tel Aviv . Perutz would have preferred exile in a European country or in the USA. However, the immigration requirements were difficult to meet there, and on top of that, his brother Hans, a staunch Zionist on whom he was heavily dependent economically, had already relocated his company to Tel Aviv and was urging Perutz to follow him there.

In Palestine, Perutz initially found it very difficult. Not only did he miss cultural life, he also had little sympathy for Zionism. Nevertheless, he settled in well after a short time, which certainly contributed to the fact that he hardly had to suffer economic worries. The modern, chaotic and hot Tel Aviv did not appeal to him, so that the family subsequently mainly spent the summer months in the cooler Jerusalem , whose old town with its narrow streets Perutz appreciated very much.

Publications were out of the question for Perutz in Palestine. He had no contact with exile magazines or the associations of exiles. Even with the few German-speaking authors who had emigrated to Palestine - for example Max Brod , Felix Weltsch and Arnold Zweig - the points of contact remained minimal. From 1941 onwards, some books by Perutz were published in Spanish through the mediation of acquaintances who emigrated to Argentina and with the support of Jorge Luis Borges . He wrote little during this time, although he continued to do research for some older projects.

Between two states

Perutz had taken citizenship of Palestine in 1940 . Soon after 1945 he thought of returning to Europe, which was not possible in the turmoil of the post-war period. In addition, at his advanced age, Perutz was not sure whether he would be able to cope with this repeated change of location. After the establishment of the State of Israel, he felt increasingly uncomfortable there. He rejected all nationalism, and he not only hated the expulsion of the Arabs by the Jews, it also destroyed the country's cherished oriental atmosphere. In addition, there was post censorship and difficulties with exit permits. In 1950, Perutz and his wife managed to travel to Austria and England for the first time. In 1952 Perutz again took on Austrian citizenship . In the following years he always spent the summer months in Vienna and the Salzkammergut .

The literary new beginning turned out to be difficult. Perutz had started to write again, but could not initially find a publisher. It was particularly problematic that as a result of the anti-Semitism that still existed, publishers either shortened overly “Jewish” passages from his works or, out of consideration for the market, did not want to publish them. When Perutz's novel Nacht unter der Steinernen Brücke was finally published in 1953 , there were many positive reviews, but shortly afterwards the publisher went bankrupt and the book could not be distributed. A second new novel, The Judas of Leonardo , appeared shortly after his death.

Grave of Leo Perutz, Bad Ischl

In 1957 Perutz collapsed while visiting the house of his friend Lernet-Holenia in Bad Ischl and died shortly afterwards in the local hospital. He was buried in the Bad Ischl cemetery.

To the work

Jorge Luis Borges valued Perutz and supported the publication of Spanish translations in Argentina. In France, his novel The Marques de Bolibar was awarded the Prix ​​Nocturne in 1962 .

Perutz's novels often follow the fate of individuals (e.g. The Swedish Horseman or The Judas of Leonardo ). They often contain an element of the fantastic (e.g. at night under the stone bridge ) and are mostly set in the past or refer to the past (e.g. St. Petri Schnee ). The plot is told in an exciting way and is playfully advanced through numerous allusions, irony and confusing, contradicting interpretations of the events. A central motif is the question “What is real?”, Whereby competing versions, often those of a first-person narrator and those of the environment, face each other without it being possible to decide which version corresponds to the “actual” events. Friedrich Torberg was of the opinion "that he belongs to the masters of the fantastic novel".

Since the late 1980s, Perutz's work has been rediscovered by the reading public and has appeared in numerous new editions. Among the more recent authors, Daniel Kehlmann is particularly one of his admirers: “Perutz is the great magical realist of German literature. He is someone who basically does what Gabriel García Márquez and Jorge Luis Borges have also discovered for themselves: namely, to tell the wonderful, the incomprehensible and the magical with - as Marquez calls it - an immobile face. "

Works by Perutz

Novels and short stories


  • The trip to Pressburg. (Drama, together with Hans Adler , premiered in Josephstadt in 1930, directed by Emil Geyer)
  • Tomorrow is a holiday. (Comedy, together with Hans Adler and Paul Frank, premiered in 1935 at the Deutsches Volkstheater )
  • Why do not you believe Me? (1936) (Comedy, with Paul Frank)


  • The field courts and the people's court. (anonymous writing against military justice in the First World War, 1919)


  • Victor Hugo: Quatrevingt-treize (1925, The Year of the Guillotine , with Oswald Levett )
  • Victor Hugo: Bug-Jargal (1929, flames on San Domingo , together with Oswald Levett)

Works after Perutz

Film adaptations

  • The adventure of Dr. Church iron. (1921)
  • The Marquis of Bolivar. (1922)
  • The birth of the Antichrist. (1922)
  • Bolibar (1929)
  • The Cossack and the Nightingale. (1935)
  • Historia de una noche. (1941)
  • Ceniza al viento. (1942)
  • Historia de una noche. (1963)
  • The Master of Judgment Day. (1990)
  • Tyro (1990)
  • St. Petri snow. (1991)

radio play

  • The Master of Judgment Day. (1988)

Stage versions


See also


  • Perutz, Leo. In: Lexicon of German-Jewish Authors . Volume 17: Meid – Phil. Edited by the Bibliographia Judaica archive. De Gruyter, Berlin a. a. 2009, ISBN 978-3-598-22697-7 , pp. 441-451.
  • Henry Keazor: "(...) as if someone had hit him in the forehead": "Meaningful portraits" by Leo Perutz. In: Matthias Bauer , Fabienne Liptay , Susanne Marschall (eds.): Art and cognition. Interdisciplinary studies on the creation of image sense. Wilhelm Fink, Munich et al. 2008, ISBN 978-3-7705-4451-6 , pp. 87–113 (analyzes in particular: “The Judas of Leonardo” and “The Sarabande”, “The painter Brabanzio” (both from: Nachts unter the stone bridge ) and "The Master of Judgment Day").
  • Peter Mario Kreuter: “It was quiet on Karlsplatze.” Leo Perutz and Paul Leppin staged Prague as a place of the occult. In: Wolfgang Müller-Funk, Christa Agnes Tuczay (ed.): Fascination of the occult. Discourses on the supernatural. Francke, Attempto, Tübingen 2008, ISBN 3-7720-8259-9 , pp. 187-200.
  • Clemens K. Stepina (Ed.): Stations. Texts on the life and work of Leo Perutz (= interfaces. Vol. 3). Edition Art Science, Vienna / St. Wolfgang 2008, ISBN 978-3-902157-35-5 .
  • Tom Kindt, Jan Christoph Meister (Ed.): Leo Perutz 'novels. From structure to meaning. With a first print of the novella “From the sad adventures of Mr. Guidotto”. (= Studies on the History of German Literature 132) Niemeyer, Tübingen 2007, ISBN 978-3-484-32132-8 .
  • Hans-Harald Müller: Leo Perutz. Biography. Zsolnay, Vienna 2007, ISBN 978-3-552-05416-5 .
  • Alexander Peer : "Lord, have mercy on me!" Leo Perutz, Leben und Werk (= materials 1). Edition Arts & Science, Vienna / St. Wolfgang 2007, ISBN 978-3-902157-24-9 .
  • Monica Strauss: Leo Perutz. Novelist of old Prague. In: Structure . No. 3, 2007, ISSN  0004-7813 , p. 14f. (The author mainly deals with “At night under the stone bridge”).
  • Marina Rauchbacher: Paths of Narration. Subject and world in texts by Leo Perutz and Alexander Lernet-Holenia . Praesens-Verlag, Vienna 2006, ISBN 3-7069-0359-8 .
  • Peter Lauener: The Hero's Crisis. The ego disorder in the short story by Leo Perutz Lang, Frankfurt am Main 2004, (Hamburg Contributions to German Studies 41) ISBN 3-631-52957-0 .
  • Brigitte Forster, Hans-Harald Müller (Ed.): Leo Perutz. Restless dreams, abysmal constructions. Dimensions of the work, stations of effect. Contributions to the second International Perutz Symposium, which was held from September 20-23, 2000 in Vienna and Prague. Special number, Vienna 2002, ISBN 3-85449-197-2 .
  • Yvonne-Patricia Alefeld: Poetic History and Jewish Identity. On themes and motifs in Leo Perutz's work. In: Frank-Lothar Kroll (ed.): German authors of the East as opponents and victims of National Socialism. Contributions to the problem of resistance (= literary landscapes 3). Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2000, ISBN 3-428-10293-2 , pp. 297-319.
  • Arndt Krieger: "Mundus symbolicus" and semiotic recurrence. On the ironic play of the signals of reality in Leo Perutz's novels. Tenea, Berlin 2000, ISBN 3-932274-44-X (also: Düsseldorf, Univ., Diss., 2000).
  • Ulrike Siebauer: Leo Perutz - “I know everything. Everything, just not me ”. A biography. 2nd, corrected edition. Bleicher, Gerlingen 2000, ISBN 3-88350-666-4 (also: Regensburg, Univ., Diss., 1998).
  • Ulrike Siebauer: “Comradeship above all else. Even about drinking and women’s stories. ”Leo Perutz and Friedrich Reck-Malleczewen , 1926–1931. In: Georg Braungart et al. (Ed.): Mirroring art. Encounters on the side paths of literary history. Attempto, Tübingen 2004. ISBN 3-89308-341-3 , pp. 231-243.
  • Karl Sigmund : Musil, Perutz, Broch - Mathematics and the Viennese literati. In: Communications of the DMV (German Mathematicians Association). Issue 2, 1999, ISSN  0947-4471 , pp. 47-54.
  • Michael Mandelartz: Poetics and History. Christian and Jewish theology of history in the historical novels of Leo Perutz (= Conditio Judaica 2). Niemeyer, Tübingen 1992, ISBN 3-484-65102-4 (also: Aachen, Techn. Hochsch., Diss., 1989), table of contents and abstract .
  • Hans-Harald Müller: Leo Perutz (= Beck'sche series 625 authors' books ). Beck, Munich 1992, ISBN 3-406-35051-8 .
  • Hans-Harald Müller, Brita Eckert: Leo Perutz 1882–1957 (= special publications of the German Library 17). An exhibition by the Deutsche Bibliothek Frankfurt am Main. Zsolnay, Vienna / Darmstadt 1989, ISBN 3-552-04139-7 .
  • Dietrich Neuhaus: memory and horror. The unity of history, fantasy and mathematics in the work of Leo Perutz (= European university publications. Series 1: German language and literature. Vol. 765). Lang, Frankfurt am Main et al. 1984, ISBN 3-8204-7771-3 (At the same time: Paderborn, Gesamtthochsch., Diss., 1982).
  • Michael Mandelartz:  PERUTZ, Leo (pold). In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). Volume 18, Bautz, Herzberg 2001, ISBN 3-88309-086-7 , Sp. 1141-1149.
  • Tom Kindt:  Perutz, Leo (pold). In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 20, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2001, ISBN 3-428-00201-6 , pp. 207 f. ( Digitized version ).

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. literaturepochen.at
  2. Ulrike Siebauer: Leo Perutz - “I know everything. Everything, just not me ”. P. 265: "On September 20, 1940 Leo Perutz acquired the Palestinian citizenship."
  3. Perutz's grave in the Bad Ischl cemetery
  4. See Hans-Harald Müller: Leo Perutz. Biography . Zsolnay, Vienna 2007, p. 254.
  5. See also Ulrike Siebauer: Leo Perutz - I know everything. Anything but me. Bleicher, Gerlingen 2000, p. 151 u. P. 192.
  6. Friedrich Torberg: The Aunt Jolesch or The Downfall of the Occident in Anecdotes . dtv, Munich 3rd edition 1978, p. 141.
  7. Color-saturated psychological thriller in a historical setting: Leo Perutz biography published . Deutschlandradio, August 22, 2007.
  8. Chronology at theaterbrett.at
  9. Description at salon5.at ( Memento from September 20, 2013 in the Internet Archive )
  10. Archived copy ( memento of the original from October 30, 2010 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 / editionas.over-blog.de