Friedell, Egon

views updated


FRIEDELL, EGON , pseudonym of Egon Friedmann (1878–1938), Austrian playwright and cultural historian. Born in Vienna, Friedell studied there and at Heidelberg. A witty and versatile bohemian, he not only wrote plays but often acted in them, particularly at Max Reinhardt's theaters in Berlin and Vienna. Among the plays he wrote was Die Judastragoedie (1920). Beside his occupation as drama critic, theater director, and cabaret artist, he wrote essays and satires for popular dailies as well as Karl Kraus' Fackel, the Schaubühne and the Neue Wiener Journal. Friedell's magnum opus was the three-volume Kulturgeschichte der Neuzeit (1927; A Cultural History of the Modern Age, 1931–32). Ranging from the Reformation to World War i, this highly original work is no solemn historical study but a brilliant, aphoristic, and sometimes ironic survey of world history and culture. He also wrote Kulturgeschichte des Altertums (2 vols., 1936–49) and Das Jesusproblem (1921). Friedell, who converted to Protestantism at the age of 19, continuously displayed controversial attitudes toward Judaism until the Nazi rise to power in Germany. Refusing to emigrate, he stayed in Austria until 1938. On March 16 he committed suicide by jumping out of a window, when the sa came to arrest him a few days after the arrival of the German troops in Vienna.


W. Schneider, Friedell-Brevier (1947); H. Zohn, Wiener Juden in der deutschen Literatur (1964), 61–64. add. bibliography: G. Patterson, "Race and Antisemitism in the Life and Work of Egon Friedell," in: Jahrbuch des Instituts für Deutsche Geschichte, 10 (1981), 3319–39; R. Innerhofer, Kulturgeschichte zwischen den beiden Weltkriegen. Egon Friedell (1990); W. Lorenz, Egon Friedell: Momente im Leben eines Ungewöhnlichen (1994); R. Reschke, "Ecce Poeta; Nachdenken über den Künstler in der Moderne; Egon Friedells eigenwillige Nähe zu Friedrich Nietzsche," in: Werner Stegmaier and Daniel Krochmalnik (eds.), Jüdischer Nietzscheanismus (1997).

[Harry Zohn /

Mirjam Triendl (2nd ed.)]