Franz Janowitz, born in Podĕbrad on the Elbe (then in the Austro-Hungarian Empire), was the youngest of four children of the Jewish factory owner Gustav Janowitz (1849-1923). His brother Hans (1890-1954) was also a writer, the other brother Otto (1888-1965) was a musician. From 1903 to 1911 Franz Janowitz attended the State Gymnasium in Prague-Neustadt,. He soon became involved with the literary scene in the city and thereby met Max Brod, Willy Haas, Franz Werfel, Franz Kafka and other German-speaking writers. In December 1910, he met the Viennese satirist Karl Kraus, who was visiting Prague and who was to have a considerable influence on the young poet’s further development.

After completing his schooling in 1911, Janowitz went initially to Leipzig University to read Chemistry, but in the winter semester of 1912, he switched to philosophy in Vienna. His first poems appeared in the Herderblätter (1911/12) and were well received. Max Brod then chose further poems for the year book Arkadia, published in Kurz Wolff Verlag in 1913. After only two semesters in Vienna he was obliged to break off his studies, initially for one year’s military service, but the outbreak of war in August 1914 effectively ended his university career.

He was sent first to the Galician front and probably experienced the battle at Grodek in November. Here he became ill and was sent home to recover. In the spring of 1915, he returned briefly to his studies, but in May that year he was called for company service at Enns. Here he composed a number of poems. Eventually he was deemed fit for active service as an officer at the southern front. During an attack on Monte Rombon on October 24th, 1917, Janowitz suffered a grave chest wound and died on the 4th November in a nearby field hospital. He was buried in the military cemetery in Mittel-Breth (today Log pod Mangartom in Slovenia).

Two years later, Karl Kraus edited a small volume of his lyrics (which had been chosen by Janowitz himself) and in the years 1920-1928 a number of poems were published in Ludwig Ficker’s journal Der Brenner. The first complete edition of his work did not, however, appear until 1992. The most comprehensive study of Janowitz´ work to date is the dissertation by J. Czmero of 2012.

Franz Janowitz’s Poems

Writings and References

F. Janowitz, Auf der Erde, K. Kraus (ed.), Kurt Wolff Verlag, München 1919
F. Janowitz, Auf der Erde und andere Dichtungen. Werke, Briefe, Dokumente, D. Sudhoff (ed.) Haymon (Brenner-Studien, 12), Innsbruck, 1992
J. Adler, Franz Janowitz, in: Lost Voices of World War I, T. Cross (Ed.), Bloomsbury, London, 1988.
J. Czemero, Der unerschöpfte Tag versus All und Sterne. Dialektik der monistisch-dualistischen Erlösungsvisionen im Werk von Franz Janowitz, Dissertation, Palacky-Universität Olomouc, Lehrstuhl für Germanistik der philosophische Fakultät, 2012.
This entry was written by Penelope Monkhouse.