Peter Altenberg

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Peter Altenberg 1907
Peter Altenberg (signature) .gif

Peter Altenberg (born March 9, 1859 in Vienna ; † January 8, 1919 there ; actually Richard Engländer ) was an Austrian writer . He chose his pseudonym after the nickname "Peter" of his childhood sweetheart Berta Lecher, who lived in Altenberg an der Donau (today part of the community of St. Andrä-Wierter ).


Richard Engländer was the son of Moritz Engländer, a Jewish merchant, and his wife Pauline, b. Schweinburg. He first studied law, then medicine, but broke off his studies and started an apprenticeship as a bookseller at the court bookstore Julius Weise in Stuttgart . He broke this off as well as another attempt to study law. In 1895 he wrote his first literary works, and through his contact with Karl Kraus , publications began in 1896 (sketch book Wie ich seeh eshees ). In March and April 1900 he resigned from “the Israelite religious community ”, then remained without a denomination for ten years and was finally baptized in 1910 in the Karlskirche . His godfather was the architect Adolf Loos . Altenberg, who had returned to Vienna after a short time in Munich, was already a well-known figure there during his lifetime, around whom the legends entwined. In 1904 he advised Marie Lang's eighteen-year-old son Heinz , who had turned to him because his lover Lina Loos had ended their mutual affair, that he should kill himself, which he then did. Arthur Schnitzler processed the incident in the unfinished "PA piece" "The Word" .

After several unsuccessful attempts to start a normal professional life, a doctor certified that he was unable to pursue a job because of “hypersensitivity of the nervous system”. He has since led the life of a bohemian , spending most of his time in coffee houses .

Despite its success, Altenberg remained dependent on donations, which his friends - including Karl Kraus and Adolf Loos - called for. For the last six years of his life he lived in a room in the Graben Hotel on Dorotheergasse in the city center. After he had often been to alcohol deprivation and mental hospitals in the last ten years of his life , he died on the morning of January 8, 1919 at the III. Medical clinic (see: Franz Chvostek junior ) of the Vienna General Hospital . He was buried on January 11, 1919 in the Vienna Central Cemetery in a grave later dedicated by the city administration in honor of the city (group 0, row 1, number 84). Karl Kraus concluded his funeral speech with the words: "Woe to the descendants who fail to recognize you!"


Portrayed by Gustav Jagerspacher in 1909
Peter Altenberg's grave

The Peter Altenberg's work consists solely of short prose, mostly as prose sketches or prose poems are categorized. These are snapshots of an occasional artist - fleeting impressions and encounters as well as conversations overheard by chance, which sketch the social life of Viennese modernism as so-called coffee house literature.

Altenberg himself described the process of creating these texts in a letter to Arthur Schnitzler as follows:

"How do I write ?!
Completely free, completely without hesitation. I never know my topic beforehand, I never think about it. I take paper and write. I even write the title that way and hope that something will come up that is related to the title. You have to rely on yourself, don't do violence to yourself, let yourself be horribly free, fly there -. What comes out of it is surely what was really and deeply within me. If nothing comes out, then nothing was really and deep in it and that doesn't matter. "

Peter Altenberg's art consists in suggesting a whole network of relationships with a few “literary brushstrokes” and sometimes “between the lines”. He does not try to reduce life to an ideological denominator, but rather shows it in its often contradicting diversity. Sensual impressions such as colors and smells play an important role in the sketches. Altenberg is one of the most important representatives of impressionism .

Some of the short texts are suitable for the stage. Altenberg dedicated the scene “Masks” for nine speakers and their choir, comprising only two book pages, to the architect Josef Hoffmann ; it was performed in the cabaret Fledermaus in 1907 , the designs for the set and costumes came from Carl Otto Czeschka . The writer Egon Friedell , who was a friend of Altenberg and also worked as a cabaret artist and conférencier , repeatedly read texts by Altenberg. Parts of Friedell's conversations with Altenberg later appeared as anecdotes , with Friedell claiming sole authorship. Friedell also gave Das Altenbergbuch with texts by Altenberg, Hugo von Hofmannsthal , Alfred Polgar and others. a. as well as correspondence from, to and about Altenberg.

Some of Altenberg's texts were set to music by Alban Berg and Hanns Eisler .


Figure of Peter Altenberg in Café Central, Vienna

In 1929 in Vienna in Döbling (19th district) the Peter-Altenberg-Gasse was named after him.

In the Viennese Café Central he was set up as a life-size figure sitting at a coffee house table. (The figure was once made for the Wiener Festwochen .) In the office of the mayor of Vienna there is a similar figure: Peter Altenberg reads the newspaper.


  • Peter Altenberg: As I see it . S. Fischer, Berlin 1896.
  • Peter Altenberg, Burkhard Spinnen: As I see it . Manesse, Zurich 2007, ISBN 978-3-7175-2128-0 .
  • Ashantee . S. Fischer, Berlin 1897; Loecker, Vienna 2008, ISBN 978-3-85409-460-9
  • What the day brings me. Fifty-five new studies . S. Fischer, Berlin 1901 (and 6th edition 1917)
  • Prodromos . S. Fischer, Berlin 1906
  • Fairy tale of life . S. Fischer, Berlin 1908; change A. ibid. 1919
  • The selection from my books . S. Fischer, Berlin 1908
  • Picture sheets of the little life . Erich Reiss, Berlin 1909
  • New old . S. Fischer, Berlin 1911 ( digitized version of the Bielefeld University Library )
  • Semmering 1912 . S. Fischer, Berlin 1913; probably A. ibid. 1919
  • Fechung . S. Fischer, Berlin 1915
  • Nachfechung . S. Fischer, Berlin 1916
  • Vita ipsa . S. Fischer, Berlin 1918
  • My old age . S. Fischer, Berlin 1919 ( digitized version of the Bielefeld University Library )
  • The estate of Peter Altenberg , compiled by Alfred Polgar. S. Fischer, Berlin 1925.
  • Peter Altenberg . Selected by Karl Kraus, edited by Sigismund von Radecki. Atlantis, Zurich 1963
  • The book of books by Peter Altenberg , compiled by Karl Kraus. 3 volumes. Wallstein, Göttingen 2009, ISBN 978-3-8353-0409-3
  • The self-invention of a poet. Letters and Documents 1892–1896 . Ed. And with an afterword by Leo A. Lensing. Wallstein, Göttingen 2009, ISBN 978-3-8353-0552-6


  • Alban Berg : From the youth songs for voice and piano (approx. 1901–1908; ed. 1985):
    • Sadness ("Weep, gentle girls ...") (1906)
    • Hope ("What do you still hope for , girl ?!") (1906)
    • Flute player ("Freed from the burden of thought and soul") (1906)
  • Alban Berg: Five orchestral songs based on postcard texts by Peter Altenberg (1912, two of these songs, namely numbers 2 and 3, were premiered by Arnold Schönberg as part of the infamous scandal concert of 1913)
    • 1. Soul, how are you more beautiful, deeper, after blizzards
    • 2. Did you see the forest after the thunderstorm?
    • 3. You looked thoughtfully beyond the limits of space
    • 4. Nothing has come, nothing will come for my soul
    • 5. Here is peace. Here I cry myself over everything
  • Hanns Eisler : And finally ("And finally the longing dies") (1953)
  • Konrad Scherber : Vision - New Romanticism (1908) Presented in the cabaret Fledermaus by Lina Vetter-Loos


  • English Richard. In: Austrian Biographical Lexicon 1815–1950 (ÖBL). Volume 1, Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Vienna 1957, p. 253.
  • Eugen Thurnher:  Altenberg, Peter. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 1, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1953, ISBN 3-428-00182-6 , p. 213 f. ( Digitized version ).
  • Egon Friedell : Ecce Poeta . S. Fischer, Berlin 1912; Diogenes, Zurich 1992, ISBN 3-257-22543-1
  • Egon Friedell: Peter Altenberg . In: Small portrait gallery. Five essays . Beck, Munich 1953 ( digitized by Gutenberg-DE )
  • Egon Friedell (ed.): The Altenberg book . Wiener Graphische Werkstätte, Vienna 1921
  • Karl Kraus (Ed.): Peter Altenberg. Selection from his books . Schroll, Vienna 1932; Insel Taschenbuch, Frankfurt am Main 1997, ISBN 3-458-33551-X
    • New edition as: What the day will bring me. Selection from his books . Marix, Wiesbaden 2009, ISBN 978-3-86539-200-8
  • Wolfgang Kraus (Ed.): Peter Altenberg: The luck of the lost hours. Selection from the factory . Kösel, Munich 1961
  • Helga Malmberg: echo of the heart. A Peter Altenberg book . Langen-Müller, Munich 1961
  • Felix Mitterer : The Fool of Vienna . From the life of the poet Peter Altenberg. A screenplay, Residenz, Salzburg 1982, ISBN 3-7017-0304-3
  • Gisela von Wysocki : Peter Altenberg. Images and stories of liberated life . Essay. Hanser, Munich 1979, ISBN 3-446-12841-7 (dissertation University of Frankfurt am Main 1976 under the title: Potentials of subjectivity in irrationalistic thinking ); New edition: European Publishing House, Hamburg 1994, ISBN 3-434-50049-9 .
  • Andrew Barker, Leo A. Lensing: Peter Altenberg: Recipe to see the world: critical essays, letters to Karl Kraus, documents on reception, title index of the books (= studies on Austrian literature of the 20th century , volume 11), Braumüller, Vienna 1995, ISBN 3-7003-1022-6 .
  • Thomas Markwart: The theatrical modern. Peter Altenberg, Karl Kraus , Franz Blei and Robert Musil in Vienna , Kovač, Hamburg 2004, ISBN 3-8300-1680-8 (dissertation TU Berlin 2002).
  • Heinz Lunzer: Peter Altenberg - Extracts of Life. On the trail of a writer . Residence, Salzburg 2003, ISBN 3-7017-1320-0 .
  • Christian Rößner: The author as literature. Peter Altenberg in texts of 'classical modernism' (= Helicon , Volume 32), Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main 2006, ISBN 3-631-54965-2 (dissertation Uni Bamberg 2005).
  • Ricarda Dick: Peter Altenberg's imagery. Two postcard albums from his collection. Wallstein, Göttingen 2009, ISBN 978-3-8353-0431-4 .
  • Simon Ganahl: Karl Kraus and Peter Altenberg: a typology of modern attitudes , Konstanz University Press, Paderborn 2015, ISBN 978-3-86253-059-5 .

Web links

Commons : Peter Altenberg  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Peter Altenberg  - Sources and full texts


  1. ^ Among other things, from December 1910 to September 1911 in the Dr. E (mil) frieze for nervous and mentally ill people in (see :) Inzersdorf near Vienna .

Individual evidence

  1. a b Hedwig Abraham (Red.): Peter Altenberg . In: , accessed on July 23, 2014.
  2. Information on the pseudonym at
  3. birth book. Retrieved October 19, 2016 .
  4. Law degree in Vienna; Retrieved November 25, 2016.
  5. LU:  Peter Altenberg - died. In:  Wiener Allgemeine Zeitung , 6 Uhr-Blatt , No. 12213/1919, January 8, 1919, p. 2, top right (online at ANNO ). Template: ANNO / Maintenance / waz.
  6. ^ Peter Altenberg: Letter to Arthur Schnitzler (1894) . In: Gotthart Wunberg (Ed.): Die Wiener Moderne. Literature, art and music between 1890 and 1910 . Reclam, Stuttgart 2000, ISBN 3-15-007742-7 .
  7. Peter Altenberg: Märchen des Lebens , p. 197 ff.
  8. ^ M. Buhrs, B. Lesák, Th. Trabisch: Fledermaus Kaberett 1907 to 1913. The total work of art of the Wiener Werkstätte . Austrian Theater Museum 1907, p. 175 (images)
  9. The Altenberg Book. Edited by Egon Friedell . Verlag der Graphische Wiener Werkstätte, Leipzig / Vienna 1922, see table of contents, p. 419 ff., Textarchiv - Internet Archive .
  10. This art hangs in the politicians' offices, March 17, 2018, accessed March 18, 2018.