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Neumann, Robert


NEUMANN, ROBERT (1897–1975), novelist and satirist. Born in Vienna, the son of a mathematician and bank director, Neumann studied chemistry and literature and got his Ph.D. with a thesis on Heinrich Heine. After losing his money in the inflation of the 1920s, he went to sea. His two early verse collections Gedichte (1919) and Zwanzig Gedichte (1923) attracted little attention, but Mit fremden Federn (1927), a volume of parodies, brought him fame. Of the works that followed, the anti-Nazi novels Sintflut (1929) and Die Macht (1932; Eng. tr. Mammon, 1933), and Unter falscher Flagge (1932), another book of parodies, were particularly successful. In February 1934, less than a year after the public burning of his books by the Nazis, he moved to England. Other works of his pre-World War ii period were the novels Karriere (1931; On the Make, 1932); Sir Basil Zaharoff, der Koenig der Waffen (1934; Zaharoff, the Armaments King, 1935); Struensee (1935; The Queen's Doctor, 1936); and An den Wassern von Babylon (written 1937–38, Ger. orig. publ. 1945; By the Waters of Babylon, 1939).

Neumann also began to write in English, later novels including The Inquest (1944; Bibiana Santis (Ger.), 1950); Children of Vienna (1946; Kinder von Wien, 1948); and Blind Man's Buff (1949). A witty and ironical writer and a gifted political and social satirist, he had a fondness for the erotic and a genius for parodying modern poets. After the war, when he settled in Switzerland, he wrote an autobiography, Mein altes Haus in Kent (1957), and then turned to somber themes relating to the Holocaust. Works of this kind are the documentaries, Ausfluechte unseres Gewissens (1960), on Hitler's "Final Solution"; Hitler, Aufstieg und Untergang des Dritten Reiches (1961); The Pictorial History of the Third Reich (1962); and Der Tatbestand oder Der gute Glaube der Deutschen (1965). Neumann also wrote plays for radio and television and another autobiography, Vielleicht das Heitere, was published in 1968. Selected editions of his parodies appeared as Typisch Robert Neumann (with a preface by R.W. Leonhardt) in 1975 and Meisterparodien (ed. by J. Jessen) in 1988.


Robert Neumann: Stimmen der Freunde… Zum 60. Geburtstag… (1957), incl. bibl.; H. Zohn, Wiener Juden in der deutschen Literatur (1964), 89–94. add. bibliography: U. Scheck, Die Prosa Robert Neumanns: mit einem bibliographischen Anhang (1985); F. Fuerbeth, "'Iwrí anochí. Ich bin Hebraeer'. Juedische Identitaet bei Friedrich Torberg und Robert Neumann in der Literaturkritik; nur ein Formproblem?" in: I. Wintermeyer (ed.), Kleine Lauben, Arcadien und Schnabelewopski (1995), 148–162; R. Dove, "'Ein Experte des Überlebens'. Robert Neumann in British Exile 1933–45," in: AliensUneingebuergerte (1994), 159–173; T. Hilsheimer, "Das Scheitern der Wirtschaftsmacht an den politischen Umstaenden. Robert Neumanns Exilerzaehlung 'Sephardi'." in: C.D. Krohn (ed.), Exil und Avantgarden, (1998), 127–141; R. Dove, Journey of No Return. Five German-Speaking Literary Exiles in Britain, 19331945, (2000); idem, "Fremd ist die Stadt und leer…". Fünf deutsche und oesterreichische Schriftsteller im Londoner Exil 19331945 (2004).

[Sol Liptzin]

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