Kisch, Egon Erwin

views updated


KISCH, EGON ERWIN (1885–1948), German author and journalist. He was born in Prague, where he was active in Czech-Jewish literary circles. Kisch joined the staff of the Berliner Tageblatt in 1913 and had an adventurous career as a leftist writer and politician. In 1918, Kisch led the Communist "Red Guard" in Vienna and a year later was sentenced to three months' imprisonment and expelled from Austria. He returned to Berlin and, after the Reichstag Fire in 1933, was arrested and deported to Czechoslovakia. Refused admission to Australia as an "undesirable alien" in 1934, Kisch caused a sensation by throwing himself overboard in Perth harbor. He was sentenced to six months' imprisonment and was deported. Kisch fought in the Spanish Republican Army in 1937–38, emigrated to New York in 1939, and eventually settled in Mexico. He returned to Prague in 1946, and became honorary president of the Prague Jewish community. His books reflect the times in which he lived and his own tumultuous journeys through many different lands (including the U.S.S.R. and China) and cultures. Always an exponent of the ideals of the "good European," he opposed all forms of nationalism. His most successful book was Der rasende Reporter ("The Rushing Reporter," 1924). After the Communist coup d'etat of February 1948 Kisch was appointed by the authorities to the "Action Committee," which supervised the activity of the Council of Jewish Religious Congregations in Bohemia and Moravia. His works include books about Prague and World War i, the anthology Klassischer Journalismus (1923), Hetzjagd durch die Zeit (1925), Zaren, Popen, Bolschewiken (1927), and Paradies Amerika (1930). He also wrote Prager Pitaval (1931), an account of Czech scandals, lawsuits, and the Prague underworld; books on Prague Jewish life, such as Geschichten aus sieben Ghettos (1934; Tales from Seven Ghettos, 1948); and the autobiographical Marktplatz der Sensationen (1945; originally published as Sensation Fair, 1941). Collections of Kisch's writing appeared in Czech (3 vols., 1947–49) and in German (8 vols., from 1960). A last book appeared in Czech as Karel Marx v Karlových Varech ("Karl Marx in Karlsbad," 1949).


E. Utitz, Egon Erwin Kisch (Ger., 1956); D. Schlenstedt, Deutsche Reportage bei Egon Erwin Kisch (1959); Věstnik židovské náboženské obce v Praze, 10 (1948), 165–7; 11 (1949), 136–8, 164, 230, 304–5; 12 (1950), 149; D. Hamšík and A. Kusák, O zuřivém reportéru E.E. Kischovi (1962; includes bibliography).

[Rudolf Kayser]