Franz Werfel was a leading Bohemian-Austrian expressionist writer of novels, plays, poems and libretti. He began writing poetry while still at school in Prague. Here he became involved with the literary circle around Max Brod and Franz Kafka. He was born in Prague as the son of the well-to-do Jewish glove manufacturer Rudolf Werfel. In 1910 he worked for a transport company in Hamburg, then served in the military on the Hradschin in Prague. From 1912-1915 he was a Lektor at the Kurt-Wolff-Verlag in Leipzig, editing the expressionist series Der jüngste Tag and here met Rainer Maria Rilke, Walter Hasenclever, Karl Kraus and other writers.

Despite being a strong critic of the war, he served in the years 1915-1917 at the east (Galician) front. After this he was sent to work at the war press quarter in Vienna. He continued living in Vienna post-war, where became friends with Alma Mahler, Gustav Mahler’s widow, whom he married in 1929. Following the annexation of Austria in 1938, he and Alma emigrated, first to Sanary-sur-Meer in the south of France, and in 1940 to the USA. He died in Beverley Hills, California in 1945 following a heart attack.

Writings and References:

Poetry by F. Werfel: Der Weltfreund (1911); Wir sind (1913); Gesänge aus den drei Reichen (selected poems )(1917); Der Gerichtstag (1919); Beschwörungen (1923); Neue Gedichte (1928)
P.S. Jungk: Franz Werfel. Eine Lebensgeschichte. Frankfurt am Main: Fischer 2001. ISBN 3-596-14975-4
N. Abels: Franz Werfel. Mit Selbstzeugnissen und Bilddokumenten. 2. Aufl. Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt 1993. (= Rowohlts Monographien; 472) ISBN 3-499-50472-3

This entry was written by Penelope Monkhouse