Demetz, Peter 1922-
DEMETZ, Peter 1922-
PERSONAL: Born October 21, 1922, in Prague, Czechoslovakia; immigrated to United States in 1952 (one source says 1953), naturalized citizen, 1958; son of Hans and Anna (Brod) Demetz; married Hans Mueller, April 21, 1950; children: Anne-Marie Bettina. Education: Charles University, Dr.Phil., 1948; Columbia University, M.A., 1954; Yale University, Ph.D., 1956.
CAREER: Radio Free Europe editor, 1950-52; Yale University, New Haven, CT; instructor, 1956-58, assistant professor, 1958-60, associate professor of German, 1960-62, professor of German and comparative literature, beginning 1962, chair of department, 1963-69, currently professor emeritus.
MEMBER: Modern Language Association of America, American Association of Teachers of German, PEN, Berliner Akademie der Kuenste.
AWARDS, HONORS: Yale Morse fellow, 1959-60; Guggenheim fellow, 1965-66; Golden Goethe Medal, Federal Republic of Germany, 1971.
Goethes "Die Aufgeregten:" Zur Frage der politischen Dichtung in Deutschland, F. Nowack, 1952.
René Rilkes Prager Jahre, E. Diederichs, 1953.
(Compiler) Neviditelny domov: Verse exulantu, 1948-53, Sokolova, c. 1954.
Marx, Engels, und die Dichter: Zur Grundlagenforschung des Marxismus, Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt (Stuttgart, Germany), 1959, translation of revised and enlarged edition by Jeffrey L. Sammons published as Marx, Engels, and the Poets: Origins of Marxist Literary Criticism, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1967.
(Editor and author of introduction) Brecht: A Collection of Critical Essays, Prentice-Hall (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1962.
Formen des Realismus: Theodor Fontane, Kritische Untersuchungen, C. Hanser, 1964.
(Editor and author of documentation) Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Nathan der Weise, Ullstein, 1966.
(Editor, with W. T. H. Jackson) An Anthology of German Literature, 800-1750, Prentice-Hall (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1968.
(Editor, with Thomas Greene and Lowry Nelson, Jr.) The Disciplines of Criticism: Essays in Literary Theory, Interpretation, and History, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1968.
Kitsch, Belletristik, Kunst: Theodor Fontane, Akademie der Kuenste (Berlin, Germany), 1970.
Postwar German Literature: A Critical Introduction, Pegasus (New York, NY), 1970.
(Editor and author of introduction) Karl Ferdinand Gutzkow, Energie: Eine Sammlung seiner kritische Schriften, Wien (Berlin, Germany), 1974.
(Editor, with Hans Dieter Zimmerman) Arsenal: Beitrage zu Franz Tumler, Piper (Munich, Germany), 1977.
(Editor and author of Introduction) Walter Benjamin, Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings, translated by Edmund Jephcott, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1978, Schocken (New York, NY), 1986.
(Editor) Theodor Fontane, Short Novels and Other Writings, foreword by Peter Gay, Continuum (New York, NY), 1982.
(Contributor) From Kafka and Dad to Brecht and Beyond: Five Essays, edited by Reinhold Grimm, Peter Spycher, and Richard A. Zipser, University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, WI), 1982.
After the Fires: Recent Writing in the Germanies, Austria, and Switzerland, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (San Diego, CA), 1986.
(Editor) Theodor Fontane, Delusions, Confusions; and, The Poggenpuhl Family, foreword by J. P. Stern, introduction by William L. Zwiebel, Continuum (New York, NY), 1989.
Worte in Freiheit: der italienische Futurismus und die deutsche literarrische Avantgard (1912-1934): mit einer ausführlichen Dokumantation, Piper (Munich, Germany), 1990.
(Editor) T. G. Masaryk, Polemiken und Essays zur Russischen und Europäischen Literatur- und Geistesgeschichte: Dostojevskij, von Puskin zu Gorkij, Musset, Byron, Goethe, Lenau, Böhlau (Wein, Germany), 1995.
Bohmische Sonne, Mährischer Mond: Essays und Erinnerungen, Deuticke (Wein, Germany), 1996.
Prague in Black and Gold: Scenes from the Life of a European City, Hill and Wang (New York, NY), 1997.
(With Joachim W. Storck and Hans Dieter Zimmermann) Rilke, ein Europäischer Dichter aus Prag, Königshausen & Neumann (Würzburg, Germany), 1998.
René: Prazská letá Rainera Marii Rilka, Nadace Spolecnosti Rainera Marii Rilka (Prague, Czechoslovakia), 1998.
The Air Show at Brescia, 1909, Farrar, Strauss, & Giroux (New York, NY), 2002.
Contributor of articles to professional journals. Marx, Engels, und die Dichter: Zur Grundlagenforschung des Marxismus has been translated into Spanish and Japanese.
SIDELIGHTS: Peter Demetz is a professor emeritus at Yale University and prolific author of German history, political, and literary criticism. The son of a Christian father and Jewish mother, Demetz is a native of Prague who has lived in the United States since the early 1950s. His essays and books deal primarily with the history of German and Czech nationals, such as Rainer Maria Rilke and Franz Kafka, and the history of his homeland. Two of his books received widespread recognition beyond academic circles: The Air Show at Brescia, 1909 and Prague in Black and Gold: Scenes from the Life of a European City are both historical criticism, but Demetz's handling of his subject matter has attracted a wide English-language readership.
Kirkus Reviews quoted Demetz as saying he is "intrigued by the Brescia air show as a unique encounter of resourceful engineers, daring pilots, visionaries from the province, and eminent artists and writers." He manages to communicate the commotion and bustle that was the 1909 air show in northern Italy. Demetz focuses on the attendees as well as the pilots, including Czech writer Franz Kafka and Max Brod, as well as Italian composer Giacomo Puccini and poet Gabrielle d'Annunzio. The book drew praise not only for the detail Demetz brings to the somewhat obscure air show (six years after the Wright brothers' attempt at Kitty Hawk) but for his "relaxed storytelling voice that ambles along, curious, graceful and esoteric" according to a reviewer in Kirkus Reviews.
In Prague in Black and Gold, Demetz takes on not one event, but the history of a nation and the lives that infuse Prague into the currents of history. Because of Demetz's exile and religious background, he is able to tell the tumultuous story of Prague's origins and evolution with an objectivity and detachment. He is also able to do justice to the myriad influences of different religious and ethnic groups that have shaped Prague, such as Czechs, Germans, Italians, Catholics, Jews, and Hussites. New Criterion reviewer Eric Ormsby described Demetz as a "firm if somewhat garrulous cicerone, [who] guides the reader through the many twisting thickets of Bohemian history." Reviewers also noted the sheer magnitude of history covered and the illumination of often neglected historical figures whose stories Demetz recounts.
In reviewing Prague in Black and Gold, critics noted the choppy grammar and Demetz's apparent neglect for rules of composition, quite different from his writing in The Air Show at Brescia, 1909. This is thought to be possibly the result of Demetz having written the book in English rather than his native German. Critics also noted Demetz's pronounced rejection of Prague being associated with a mysticism that has become synonymous with accounts of the city. While Demetz does not validate this association, the city has indeed been associated with many mystical works, and mysticism is an integral part of its history and culture. For example, Demetz's position on mysticism in Prague in Black and Gold directly opposes that of Italian Slavist Angelo Maria Ripellino in Magic Prague, published in 1973.
Demetz humanizes the tome in his preface, and most notably in his postscript. These sections were written in German and translated into English by Professor Harry Zohn of Brandeis University. Demetz deals with his feelings toward Prague—a love/hate relationship characterized by admiration of its inhabitants' contribution to history and a sadness at the stain of war and other atrocities that has colored the city.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, June 1, 1997, Brad Hooper, review of Prague in Black and Gold: Scenes from the Life of a European City, p. 1650.
Books, spring, 1998, review of Prague in Black and Gold, p. 17.
Book World, September 14, 1997, review of Prague in Black and Gold, p. 7.
Choice, March, 1987, review of After the Fires: Recent Writing in the Germanies, Austria, and Switzerland, p. 1070.
Contemporary Review, October, 1998, review of Prague in Black and Gold, p. 220.
Economist, December 13, 1997, review of Prague in Black and Gold, p. 5.
German Quarterly, winter, 1988, review of After the Fires, p. 155; winter, 1999, Egon Schwarz, review of Prague in Black and Gold, p. 101.
History Today, October, 1997, review of Prague in Black and Gold, p. 57.
Journal of English and Germanic Philology, October, 1988, review of After the Fires, p. 612.
Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 1997, review of Prague in Black and Gold, p. 691; April 15, 2002, review of The Air Show at Brescia, 1909, p. 1191.
Library Journal, September 1, 1986, Carol J. Lichtenberg, review of After the Fires, p. 201; October 1, 2002, Robert C. Jones, review of The Air Show at Brescia, 1909, p. 112.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, August 17, 1997, review of Prague in Black and Gold, p. 2.
Modern Fiction Studies, winter, 1987, Myra N. Love, review of After the Fires, p. 754.
New Criterion, March, 1998, Eric Ormsby, review of Prague in Black and Gold, p. 59.
New York Review of Books, October 21, 1999, R. J. W. Evans, review of Prague in Black and Gold, p. 61.
New York Times Book Review, December 28, 1986, Judith Ryan, review of After the Fires, p. 23; August 3, 1997, Larry Wolff, review of Prague in Black and Gold, p. 23.
Partisan Review, spring, 1988, Peter Filkins, review of After the Fires, p. 347.
Publishers Weekly, June 2, 1997, review of Prague in Black and Gold, p. 62; September 16, 2002, review of The Air Show at Brescia, 1909, p. 60.
Queen's Quarterly, winter, 1988, review of After the Fires, p. 929.
Slavic and East European Journal, winter, 1998, Alisa Gayle Mayor, review of Prague in Black and Gold, p. 790.
Spectator, November 29, 1997, review of Prague in Black and Gold, p. 52.
Southern Humanities Review, spring, 1988, review of After the Fires, p. 186.
Times (London, England), January 8, 1998, Ivan Klima, review of Prague in Black and Gold, p. 34.
Times Literary Supplement, January 1, 1999, review of Prague in Black and Gold, p. 3.
World Literature Today, spring, 1987, review of After the Fires, p. 281.*