Frisch, Efraim

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FRISCH, EFRAIM (1873–1942), Austrian author and journalist. Born at Stry in the Ukraine, Frisch was a member of an Orthodox family. Following the success of his novel Das Verloebnis (1902), he worked at Max *Reinhardt's Deutsches Theater in Berlin as director of drama from 1904 to 1908. In 1902 his writing was also included in the first volume published by the Jüdischer Verlag, the Jüdischer Almanach, among contributions from Stefan Zweig and Max Liebermann. His views on the stage are contained in Von der Kunst des Theaters (1910). After some years with a Munich publishing house, Frisch co-edited with Wilhelm Hausenstein Der Neue Merkur (1914–1925), a literary and political monthly whose contributors included Gottfried Benn, Bertholt Brecht, Martin Buber, André Gide, Yvan Goll, Bernard Shaw, and Arnold Zweig. He also published translations from the French (Giraudoux, Cocteau), English (Priestley), Polish, and Yiddish (Mendele Mokher Seforim).

Zenobi (1927), a brilliantly written novel generally considered Frisch's masterpiece, shows how a gentle, impractical, and naïve fool becomes the touchstone for a depersonalized and corrupt world of materialism, militarism, and technology. Frisch's positive attitude toward Judaism is clear from the frequent and sympathetic presentation of the East-European Jewish milieu in his fiction. He once published a special Jewish issue of Der Neue Merkur and in 1935 delivered four public lectures on Judaism at Ascona, Switzerland, where he later died.


Stern, in: lbiy, 6 (1961), 125–49. add. bibliography: G. Stern, War, Weimar, and Literature: The Story of Der Neue Merkur (1971); G. Mattenklott, "Literarische Kritik im Kontext deutscher Judaica (1895–1933)"; M. Heimann and E. Frisch, in: Studi germanici. Rivista bimestrale dell'istituto italiano di studi germanici. (1990), 303–20; idem, in: W. Barner (ed.), Literaturkritik – Anspruchund Wirklichkeit (1992), 87–97; idem, in: M. Ponzi (ed.), Tradizione ebraica e cultura di lingua tedesca (1995), 150–62; Juedische Autoren Ostmitteleuropas im 20. Jahrhundert (2000).

[Harry Zohn]