Fried, Erich

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FRIED, Erich

Nationality: British and Austrian (originally Austrian: immigrated to England, 1938, granted British citizenship, 1949; regained Austrian citizenship, 1982). Born: Vienna, 6 May 1921. Education: State schools in Vienna. Family: Married 1) Maria Marburg in 1944 (divorced 1952), one son; 2) Nan Spence-Eichner in 1952 (divorced 1965), one son and one daughter; 3) Katherine Boswell in 1965, one daughter and two sons. Career: Child actor, Vienna, 1926-27; chemist, United Dairies; librarian and glass-factory worker, London, 1938-46; worked for the Jewish Refugee Committee, London, 1939; editor, Neue Auslese, English Central Office of Information, London, 1946-49; co-editor, Blick in die Welt, London, 1949-50; part-time work for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), London, 1950-52; translator, German language division, BBC, London, 1952-68. Beginning of association with Gruppe 47, 1963. Awards: Co-recipient, Schiller-Gedächtnispreises des Landes Baden-Württemberg, 1965; Österreichischer Würdigungspreis für Literatur, 1973; International Publishers' prize, 1977, for Hundert Gedichte ohne Vaterland; City of Vienna prize for literature, 1980; Bremen literary award, 1983; Vienna golden decoration, 1985; Austrian state prize and Carl-von-Ossietzky medal, both in 1986; Georg Büchner prize, 1987. Honorary degree: University of Osnabrück, 1988. Died: 22 November 1988.



Gesammelte Werke, in 4 Bänden [Collected Works in 4Volumes], edited by Volker Kaukoreit and Klaus Wagenbach. 1993.


Deutschland [Germany]. 1944.

Österreich [Austria]. 1945.

Gedichte. 1958.

Reich der Steine [Realm of Stones]. 1963.

Überlegungen [Reflections]. 1964.

Warngedichte [Poems of Warning]. 1964.

Und Vietnam und … [And Vietnam and … ]. 1966.

Anfechtungen [Arguments]. 1967.

Zeitfragen. 1968.

Last Honours [German and English]. 1968.

Befreiung von der Flucht [Deliverance from Flight]. 1968; revised edition, 1983.

Die Beine der grösseren Lügen [The Legs of the Bigger Lies].1969.

On Pain of Seeing. 1969.

Unter Nebenfeinden. 1970.

Aufforderung zur Unruhe: Ausgewählte Gedichte. 1972.

Die Freiheit den Mund aufzumachen. 1972.

Gegengift. 1974.

Höre, Israel! 1974; revised edition, 1983.

Kampf ohne Engel. 1976.

Die bunten Getüme. 1977.

So kam ich unter die Deutschen. 1977.

Hundert Gedichte ohne Vaterland. 1978; as One Hundred Poems without a Country, 1978.

Liebesgedichte [Love Poetry]. 1979.

Lebensschatten. 1981.

Zur Zeit und zur Unzeit. 1981.

Das Missverständnis. 1982.

Das Nahe suchen. 1982.

Es ist was es ist: Liebesgedichte, Angstgedichte, Zorngedichte. 1983.

Trost und Angst: Erzählungen über Juden und Nazis [Consolation and Anxiety: Stories about Jews and Nazis] (selection of short memoirs and poems). 1983.

Beunruhigungen. 1984.

Um Klarheit. 1985.

In die Sinne einradiert. 1985.

Von Bis nach Seit: Gedichte aus den Jahren 1945-1958. 1985.

Frühe Gedichte [Early Poems]. 1986.

Wächst das Rettende auch?: Gedichte für den Frieden, withClaudia Hahm and David Fried. 1986.

Unverwundenes: Liebe, Trauer, Widersprüche: Gedichte. 1988.

Gründe: Gesammelte Gedichte, edited by Klaus Wagenbach.1989.

Einbruch der Wirklichkeit: Verstreute Gedichte 1927-1988 (selections), edited by Volker Kaukoreit. 1991.

Love Poems (selections from Liebesgedichte and Es ist was es ist in German and English). 1991.


Ein Soldat und ein Mädchen [A Soldier and a Girl]. 1960.

Kinder und Narren [Children and Fools]. 1965.

Short Stories

Fast alles Mögliche. 1975.

Das Unmass aller Dinge. 1982.


Unter dem Milchwald, adaptation of a work by Dylan Thomas (produced Berlin, 1956).

Ein Sommernachtstraum, adaptation of a work by WilliamShakespeare (produced Bremen, 1963).

Arden muss sterben (opera libretto), music by Alexander Göhr (produced Hamburg, 1967).1967; as Arden Must Die, 1967.

Und alle seine Mörder. 1984.

Radio Plays:

Unter dem Milchwald (adaptation), 1954; Izanagi und Izanami, 1960; Die Expedition, 1962; Indizienbeweise, 1966; Welch Licht scheint dort, 1980.


Intellektuelle und Sozialismus, with Paul A. Baran and GastonSalvatore (essays and lectures). 1968.

Ich grenz noch an ein Wort und an ein andres Land: Über Ingeborg Bachmann; Erinnerung, einige Anmerkungen zu ihrem Gedicht "Böhmen liegt am Meer" und ein Nachruf (essay). 1983.

Und nicht taub und stumpf werden: Unrecht, Widerstand, und Protest. 1984.

Kalender für den Frieden 1985, with David Fried and PavelUttitz. 1984.

Die da reden gegen Vernichtung: Psychologie, bildende Kunst und Dichtung gegen den Krieg, with Alfred Hrdlicka and Erwin Ringel, edited by Alexander Klauser, Judith Klauser, and Michael Lewin. 1986.

Mitunter sogar Lachen: Zwischenfälle und Erinnerungen. 1986.

Die Umrisse meiner Liebe: Lyrik, Erzählung, Essay, edited byIngeborg Quaas. 1986.

Nicht verdrängen, nicht gewöhnen: Texte zum Thema Österreich, edited by Michael Lewin. 1987.

Gedanken in und an Deutschland: Essays und Reden, edited by Michael Lewin. 1988.

Von der Nachfolge dieses jungen Menschen, der nie mehr alt wird, with Herbert Heckmann und Volker Kaukoreit. 1988.

Misstrauen lernen: Prosa, Lyrik, Aufsätze, Reden, edited byIngeborg Quaas. 1989.

Anfragen und Nachreden: Politische Texte, edited by VolkerKaukoreit. 1994.

Die Muse hat Kanten: Aufsätze und Reden zur Literatur, edited by Volker Kaukoreit. 1995.

Editor and translator, Der Stern, der tat sie lenken. 1966.

Editor, with Helga M. Novak and Peter-Paul Zahl, Am Beispiel Peter-Paul Zahl. 1976.

Translator, Am frühen Morgen: Autobiographisches, Radio-Essays, Gedichte und Prosa, by Dylan Thomas. 1957.

Translator, Unter dem Milchwald, by Dylan Thomas. 1958.

Translator, Ein verdienter Staatsmann, by Thomas StearnsEliot. 1959.

Der verbindliche Liebhaber, by Graham Greene. 1960.

Die Bacchantinnen, by Euripides. 1960.

Ein Sommernachtstraum, by William Shakespeare. 1964.

Lysistrata, by Aristophanes. 1985.


Critical Studies:

"Erich Fried: Poetry and Politics" by Rex Last, in Modern Austrian Writing: Literature and Society after 1945, edited by Alan Best and Hans Wolfschutz, 1980; "From Solipsism to Engagement: The Development of Erich Fried As a Political Poet" by Martin Kane, in Forum for Modern Language Studies (England), 21(2), April 1985, pp. 151-69; "Erich Fried's Ein Soldat und ein Madchen " by Ilse Newbery, in German Life and Letters (England), 42(1), October 1988, pp. 46-59; "In the Dark: Erich Fried's Portrayal of Austria," in German Life and Letters, 45(3), 1992, pp. 230-33, "Between Austrian Centre and Free German League of Culture: Erich Fried's Literary Beginnings in London," in New German Studies (England), 17(2), 1992/1993, pp. 109-31, Erich Fried: A Writer without a Country, 1996, "'Das grosse Turnierfeld, auf dem sie sich versuchen': Erich Fried's Work for German Radio," in German Life and Letters, 51(1), January 1998, pp. 121-46, and "Erich Fried-Language and Heimat," in German-Speaking Exiles in Great Britain, edited by Ian Wallace, 1999, all by Steven W. Lawrie; "… und … Fried … und … : The Poetry of Erich Fried and the Structure of Contemporaneity" by Nora M. Alter, in Studies in 20th Century Literature, 21, Winter 1997, pp. 79-109.

* * *

Erich Fried is primarily known for his poetry that addresses various political and social matters. As a young child, he began to show his interest in political issues, and this interest mounted as the social and political situation in Austria began to deteriorate for the Jews. He witnessed the killing of 83 people on Bloody Friday in Vienna. His father was kicked to death during an interrogation, and his mother served 13 months in prison. He left at age 17 for London and took up life as a translator for the BBC and as a writer. Fried's translations of over 20 Shakespearean plays continue to be the standard edition in the German language today.

Fried's profound gift for language gained prominence in the 1940s. He published his first work entitled Deutschland ("Germany") in 1944. His poetry uses very few words, yet he manipulates word order and uses double meanings to create a puzzle of words that evoke deep contemplation at the end. It is in poetry that Fried revealed his most profound thoughts on the direction of mankind and man's treatment of man. Rex Last stated of Fried in his essay "Erich Fried: Poetry and Politics," that "the negative elements in his work form an essential part of his world view, and his provocations derive directly from his keen, almost ruthless intelligence and penetrating insight into any situation to which he directs his attention."

In 1960 Fried published his work Ein Soldat und ein Mädchen ("A Soldier and a Girl"), a novel which centers on a Jewish GI who meets a woman, Helga, who was in charge of a Nazi camp. She has been condemned to death but wants to make her final act an act of love with a man, and the man she has chosen is the Jewish GI. Indeed, this is a bizarre twist in the novel and their behavior is something that Fried used as a symbolic gesture of reconciliation between two factions that hated one another. This is not an unusual thematic technique when considering Fried—his work evokes thought from the reader; it asks questions; it offers no solutions but instead presents awkward and seemingly impossible situations that the reader must sort and ponder.

Fried was an optimist, though to many this would not seem to be the case. As a prolific poet, his ability to weave his work at such high rates of speed is mind-boggling. He had intense hopes that his poems would make people think of their actions and their own emotions. His work Trost und Angst: Erzählungen über Juden und Nazis ("Consolation and Anxiety: Stories about Jews and Nazis") presents poetry and short stories about his experiences as a young man in Vienna at the onset of World War II. He addresses his native Austrians and the Germans in "Volksgenossen, deutsche Männer und Frauen!" ("Fellow Countrymen, German Men and Women") and begs them to come to their senses. In the afterword of the work, he states, "I have personally experienced everything that has been reported in these stories." He does not allow his readers to forget that it was not only Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust but also Gypsies and innocent Germans. He addresses the neo-Nazi issue in Europe as well, blaming miserable family circumstances that have led children to give themselves over to deceitful ideas.

Throughout all of his works, Fried never lets us forget that there are good and bad people, that much can be solved via dialogue, and that hatred can disappear if we take time to understand one another. He sees the Holocaust as an expression of hatred between people that never knew one another. As a Jew, he remained an outsider due to his expressive voice against Zionism, which he perceived as another form of dehumanization that was ignored by the rest of the world. He maintains that, "Humanism and struggle against injustice and war, I believe, belong together today as they did then."

He remained an activist against all that he perceived as unjust, and he protested wars and dehumanizing efforts that were financed by the industrialized world. Even though he himself was a socialist, he protested the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956 and supported the Czechs and Slovaks during the Prague Spring of 1968. Wherever there was a small voice of protest, Fried was ready to lend a hand with a loudspeaker of poetic support and personal participation. He is considered to be one of the most avid and passionate poets and novelists of the twentieth century.

—Cynthia A. Klíma

See the essay on Trost und Angst: Erzählungen über Juden und Nazis.