Kornfeld, Paul

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KORNFELD, PAUL (1889–1942), German playwright and novelist. Born and raised in Prague in the circle of the young Franz *Werfel, Ernst Deutsch, Willy *Haas, Franz *Kafka and Max *Brod, Kornfeld moved to Frankfurt in 1914 working as a drama adviser while publishing his first tragedy, Die Verführung (1916), which won him a reputation as an important expressionist playwright. Kornfeld's technique may be described as symbolic realism. His aim was to avoid any imitation of physical reality, and he urged the actors in his plays to refrain from any suggestion of realism. Soon he became known for the stories "Legende" (1917) and "Die Begegnung" (1917) as well as for the important programmatic expressionist essay "Der beseelte und der psychologische Mensch" (1918), a fundamental critique of psychology and at the same time the foundation of his anti-mimetic program of acting. After the less successful tragedy Himmel und Hölle (1919) Kornfeld turned towards comedy in the 1920s, writing Der ewige Traum (1922), Palme oder Der Gekraenkte (1924), Kilian oder Die gelbe Rose (1926), Smither kauft Europa (1930) and, after moving to Berlin in 1928, the important historical drama Jud Suess (1930), dealing with the problem of assimilation and antisemitism. In Berlin, Kornfeld also wrote essays and criticism for Leopold Schwarzschild's Das Tage-Buch. In 1932, he returned to his native Prague, was captured by the Nazis in 1941, and deported to the Lodz ghetto, where he died soon after. In his last years he wrote the novel Blanche oder Das Atelier im Garten, a comédie humaine far removed from expressionism, which was published posthumously in 1957 and ever since has been considered his most important work.


Sborowitz, in: G. Krojanker (ed.), Juden in der deutschen Literatur (1922), 219–30; M. Maren-Grisebach, Weltanschauung und Kunstform im Fruehwerk Paul Kornfelds (Thesis, Hamburg, 1960). add. bibliography: S. Nugy, Paul Kornfeld, Jud Süss (1995); W. Haumann, Paul Kornfeld (1996).

[Rudolf Kayser /

Andreas Kilcher (2nd ed.)]