Hermann Broch

Hermann Broch, Writer
The author Hermann Broch with a pipe, around 1945.
Hermann Broch Collection, F AR 1022. Courtesy of the Leo Baeck Institute, New York.

Hermann Broch

Es ist eine Welt im Fluß, eine Welt der Krise, eine Welt allgemeiner Lebensverwandlung. Diese Krise, diese Verwandlung aller Formen und Werte, ist das eine, einzige Thema von Brochs gesamter Arbeit.

[It is a world in flux, a world in crisis, a world of a fundamental life transformation. This crisis, this transformation of all forms and values, is the one, sole topic of Broch’s entire oeuvre (ed. trans.)]

Erich von Kahler, speech on Hermann Broch, 1952

Bornon 1 November 1886 in Vienna
Diedon 30 May 1951 in New Haven/Connecticut, USA
ExileGreat Britain (United Kingdom), United States of America

Hermann Broch studied mathematics, philosophy and physics. The trilogy of novels “Die Schlafwandler” (The Sleepwalkers) (1930–32) established him as an author. From the outset, processes of dissolution and moral decline, human rights and totalitarianism formed the central themes of his poetic and essayistic work. In 1937, he wrote the story “Die Heimkehr des Vergil” (The Return of Virgil), which he later turned into his novel “Der Tod des Vergil” (The Death of Virgil), as well as a League of Nations resolution, with which he sought to implore the organisation to act against the terror in National Socialist Germany.

On 13 March 1938, the day of the annexation of Austria, the author was arrested. He managed to flee to Great Britain, where he arrived penniless in June 1938. A few months later, he was able to emigrate onward to the USA with the assistance of Thomas Mann and Albert Einstein. He continued working on his Virgil material, supported in part by a scholarship from the Yaddo artist residency, where he stayed at the same time as Richard A. Bermann in the summer of 1939. In collaboration with the American Guild for German Cultural Freedom and the Emergency Rescue Committee, Broch worked to help support other colleagues.

In the summer of 1942, the author moved from New York to Princeton to work on his mass psychology research at the university there. However, this work was never completed, and neither was his last novel “Die Verzauberung” (The Enchantment).

Selected works:
Die Schlafwandler (Novel Trilogy, 1930-32)
Völkerbund-Resolution (Pamphlet, 1937)
Der Tod des Vergil (Novel, 1945)
Die Schuldlosen (Novel, 1950)

Further reading:
Kessler, Michael/Lützeler, Paul Michael (Hg.): Hermann-Broch-Handbuch. Berlin: DeGruyter 2016.