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Hofmannsthal, Hugo von


HOFMANNSTHAL, HUGO VON (1874–1929), Austrian poet and playwright; one of the outstanding exponents of Viennese impressionism and symbolism. He was a great-grandson of Isaac Loew *Hofmann but his grandfather and father both converted to Roman Catholicism. While the poet never denied his Jewish ancestry and in his early years even reflected on the meaning of being "Jewish" – as unpublished documents prove – the preoccupation with Judaism hardly entered his oeuvre. Hence there are only a few vague hints of it in his verse, such as the lines: "I cannot rid my eyelids of the weariness of forgotten races" ("Ganz vergessener Voelker Muedigkeit kann ich nicht abtun von meinen Lidern"). Hofmannsthal matured early and was still a schoolboy when he became the protégé of Arthur *Schnitzler, who introduced him to Theodor *Herzl as a promising writer for the newspaper Neue Freie Presse. Melancholy and solitary by nature, and revolted by the decadence of Viennese society, Hofmannsthal turned for solace to the great writers of the past, and many of his most important works are adaptations of Greek, English, and Spanish dramas. One of the most successful was Jedermann (1911), a modern version of the medieval English mystery play Everyman, commissioned by Max Reinhardt for the Salzburg Festival. Several of his plays were turned into operas by Richard Strauss, notably Elektra (1909) and Der Rosenkavalier (1911). Der Turm (1925–7), a tragedy inspired by one of Grillparzer's plays, introduces a Jewish character, Simon, who speaks in a typical Yiddish dialect.

add. bibliography:

H.A. Koch, Hugo von Hofmannsthal (2004); T.A. Kovach, A Companion to the Works of Hugo von Hofmannsthal (2002); M. Kane, "From Ghetto to Nation. Hofmannsthal's Poetic of Assimilation," in: Fuchs and Krobb (ed.), Ghetto Writing (1999), 140–55; A.E. Gillman, "Hofmannsthal's Jewish Pantomime," in: dvjs, 71 (1997), 437–60; J. Rieckmann, "Zwischen Bewusstsein und Verdrängung: Hofmannsthals juedisches Erbe," in: dvjs, 67 (1993), 466–83.

[Sol Liptzin /

Philipp Theisohn (2nd ed.)]

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