Mitgutsch, Anna 1948-

views updated

MITGUTSCH, Anna 1948-
(Waltraud Anna Mitgutsch)


Born 1948, in Linz, Austria. Education: University of Salzburg, Ph.D., 1974.


Home—Linz, Austria; Boston, MA.


University of Innsbruck, Institut for Amerikanistik, Innsbruck, Austria, assistant professor, 1975-78; instructor at Hull University, Hull, England, University of East Anglia, and Seoul, South Korea, 1978-79; assistant professor at Amherst College, Sarah Lawrence, Simmons College, and instructor at Tufts University, 1979-85; Standard, Vienna, Austria, journalist, 1989-2003; writer in residence at Oberlin College, Allegheny College, Lafayette College.


Brüder Grimm Preis and Goldene Claassen Rose award, both for Die Züchtigung; Anton Wildgans Prize, 1992; Austrian Prize for Literature, 1996; Austrian Staatspreis für Literatur, 2000; Solothurner Literaturpreis for German-language literary achievement, 2001.



Die Züchtigung, Claassen (Hamburg, Germany), 1985, translated by Liesel Müller as Three Daughters, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1987.

(As Waltraud Anna Mitgutsch) Das andere Gesicht (title means "The Other Face"), Claassen (Dusseldorf, Germany), 1986.

Ausgrenzung, Luchterhand (Frankfurt am Main, Germany), 1989, translated by Deborah Schneider as Jakob, Harcourt, (New York, NY), 1991.

In fremden Städten, Luchterhand (Hamburg, Germany), 1992, translated by Lowell A. Barngerter as In Foreign Cities, Ariadne Press (Riverside, CA), 1995.

Abschied von Jerusalem, Rowohlt (Berlin, Germany), 1995, translated by Roslyn Theobald as Lover, Traitor: A Jerusalem Story, Metropolitan Books (New York, NY), 1997.

Haus der Kindheit, Luchterhand (Munich, Germany), 2000, translated by David Dollenmayer as House of Childhood, Other Press (New York, NY), 2006.

Familienfest, Luchterhand (Munich, Germany), 2003.

Zwei Leben und ein Tag (title means "Two Lives and a Day"), Luchterhand (Munich, Germany), 2007.


(As Waltraud Mitgutsch) Zur Lyrik von Ted Hughes: eine Interpretation nach Leitmotiven (bound with Ted Hughes and the Drama by James Hogg), Institut für Englische Sprache und Literatur, Universität Salzburg (Salzburg, Austria), 1974.

On Poets and Poetry: Second Series, Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik, Universität Salzburg (Salzburg, Austria), 1980.

(As Waltraud Mitgutsch) The Image of the Female in D.H. Lawrence's Poetry (bound with Peter Russell, the Muse's Servant, by James Hogg), Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik, Universität Salzburg (Salzburg, Austria), 1981.

Erinnern und Erfinden: Grazer Poetik-Vorlesungen (title means "Remembering and Fictionalizing"), Droschl (Graz, Austria), 1999.

Also translator of poetry, including the work of Philip Larkin, and contributor of articles on British and American writers to anthologies and journals.


Austrian writer Anna Mitgutsch is the author of numerous novels, many of which have been translated into English. Additionally, Mitgutsch has written critical studies of literary figures from Paul Celan to Ted Hughes and D.H. Lawrence. Her debut novel, Die Züchtigung, won prestigious German literary prizes and was translated into English as Three Sisters. Set in a small town in Austria, it is the story of three generations of women that spans the late-eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, from the era of peasantry to the Third Reich, and finally to postwar prosperity; all of this is set against a background of child abuse. The bleakness of this first novel set the tone for much of Mitgutsch's later work.

Mitgutsch's next book in English-language translation is the novel Jakob, an "unrelievedly bleak tale," according to a Publishers Weekly contributor, about autism and a mother's loyalty. When her four-year-old son, Jakob, is diagnosed as autistic, it is also suggested that his mother, Marta, is in some way responsible for the condition. Nothing his parents do seems to help the child, and his worsening condition divides his parents. Ultimately, Marta leaves her husband in order to devote her full attention to her son. This full-time devotion helps Jakob, and he is able to live a near-normal existence, until he becomes a teenager and falls in love. Then his condition once more causes disruptions in his and his mother's lives. The Publishers Weekly critic felt that Jakob is an "impassioned plea for tolerance."

With her 1995 novel, Abschied von Jerusalem, translated as Lover, Traitor: A Jerusalem Story, Mitgutsch "enlarges the territorial and personal/emotional boundaries of her former novels considerably," asserted World Literature Today reviewer Marie Luise Caputo-Mayr. Reviewing the German-language edition of the novel, Caputo-Mayr noted that up to that point in her career Mitgutsch had focused on novels that are "sociocultural portraits of certain classes and societies and the frustrated attempts of outsiders to be accepted by them." These outsiders consisted mainly of women and children. With Lover, Traitor, however, Mitgutsch appears to present a detective story of sorts, with events detailing the three journeys made to Jerusalem by the Austrian female protagonist, Hildegard. Caputo-Mayr further commented: "Here the central woman character has learned, or is learning, lessons from past mistakes and accepts life's unpredictable turns." These trips to Jerusalem awaken in the divorced Hildegard a new appreciation of her Jewish heritage. Though she is a baptized Christian, Hildegard starts to use the name her grandmother gave her, Devorah, and begins to deal with her own family's Nazi past. Jerusalem is also the focal point of great loves for Hildegard/Devorah. She is attracted to the much younger Sivan, a mysterious man who may or may not be a Palestinian terrorist. Writing in Library Journal, Michael T. O'Pecko related that Mitgutsch's novel "explores a modern woman's encounter with religion, fanaticism, and the mutability of identity." Caputo-Mayr concluded that "Mitgutsch powerfully conveys the eternal attraction between cultural, religious, and ethnic opposites and effectively portrays Jerusalem as a locus of revelation, insight, and despair, but also of maturation and some measure of happiness for her new heroine." Similar praise came from a Publishers Weekly contributor, who felt that "Mitgutsch draws strong, credible parallels between the personal and the political, connecting tensions in Israel, the more intimate battles between Devorah and Sivan."

In Haus der Kindheit (translated as House of Childhood), Mitgutsch focuses on a male protagonist in a novel about a transatlantic soul searching for one's roots. Nomadic Max, a New Yorker, is middle-aged and unmarried, though he is a successful architect. However, his mother, Mira, has instilled in him a desire to retrace his family origins in Austria, which she fled when the Nazis came to power. Part of the occupation forces in 1945, Max was turned away from his property. Now, decades later, he finally returns to the little Austrian village and his family property, only to discover that his ownership is still in question. For Max, this is a journey of personal discovery and an exploration of his Austrian-Jewish identity. Sidney Rosenfeld, reviewing the German edition of the novel in World Literature Today, felt that it "stands out for its authenticity as well as its artistry." Rosenthal also pointed out that Mitgutsch "poignantly portrayed aging as a core theme of her multithreaded novel." Writing in Booklist, Whitney Scott particularly praised Mitgutsch's "richly evocative prose."



Booklist, August 1, 2006, Whitney Scott, review of House of Childhood, p. 43.

Entertainment Weekly, August 25, 2006, Melissa Rose Bernardo, review of House of Childhood, p. 89.

Library Journal, September 1, 1997, Michael T. O'Pecko, review of Lover, Traitor: A Jerusalem Story, p. 219; June 15, 2006, Caroline Hallsworth, review of House of Childhood, p. 58.

Publishers Weekly, August 23, 1991, review of Jakob, p. 43; August 4, 1997, review of Lover, Traitor, p. 65;

World Literature Today, fall, 1996, Marie Luise Caputo-Mayr, review of Abschied von Jerusalem, p. 949; summer, 2000, Sidney Rosenfeld, review of Haus der Kindheit, p. 638, and Renata Cinti-Gehrmann, review of Erinnern und Erfinden: Grazer Poetik-Vorlesungen, p. 691.


Ariadne Books Web site, (October 26, 2006), "Anna Mitgutsch—In Foreign Cities."