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Ödön von Horváth in 1919

Ödön Edmund Josef von Horváth (9 December 1901, Sušak, Rijeka, Austria–Hungary (now Croatia) – June 1 1938, Paris) was one of the most important German-language playwrights and authors of the twentieth century.

Horváth was born as an illegitimate child of the Hungarian diplomat, Dr. Edmund (Ödön) Horváth, and Maria Hermine Prehnal. He was named after his father, but only ever called Ödön. (Ödön is the Hungarian cognate of Edmund.)

From 1908 onwards he attended elementary school in Budapest and later the Rákóczianum, where he was educated in Hungarian. In 1909, his father was ennobled (indicated by the "h" on the end of his last name) and sent to work in Munich, but Ödön did not accompany him. Later Ödön went to school in Vienna and Munich, where he also studied Germanistics. After that, he lived in Berlin, Salzburg and Murnau am Staffelsee in Upper Bavaria. In 1931, he was awarded, along with Erik Reger, the Kleist Prize. In 1933, at the beginning of the Nazi regime in Germany, he relocated to Vienna, but Austria's Anschluss with Germany in 1938, led him to emigrate to Paris. There, Horváth, who lived in fear of being struck by lightning all his life, was hit by a falling branch and killed during a thunderstorm on the Champs-Élysées, opposite the Théâtre Marigny. Ödön von Horváth was buried in Saint-Ouen cemetery in northern Paris but his remains were transferred to Heiligenstädter Friedhof in Vienna in 1988 on the 50th anniversary of his death.

Important topics in Horváth's works were popular culture, politics and history. He especially tried to warn of the dawn of fascism and its dangers. Christopher Hampton's play Tales from Hollywood (1984, a version for television followed in 1992 featuring Jeremy Irons) portrays a fictional Horváth, who survives the falling branch and moves to America, where expatriate Germans like Bertolt Brecht and Thomas Mann ply their craft for the motion picture industry. Among Horváth's most enduringly popular works, Jugend ohne Gott chronicles the coming of fascism from a young person's point of view.



The following of Horváth's works (out of a total of 25) are available in English:

  • Don Juan Comes Back From the War, Faber & Faber, ISBN 057111301X
  • Kasimir and Karoline, Faith, Hope, and Charity, Figaro Gets a Divorce, Judgement Day, AJ Publishing Company, ISBN 1555540031 or ISBN 1555540023
  • Sladek, A Sexual Congress (Plays One), Oberon, ISBN 1840021330
  • Italian Night, Tales from the Vienna Wood (Plays Two), Oberon; ISBN 1840021527


  • Das Buch der Tänze. 1920
  • Mord in der Mohrengasse. 1923
  • Zur schönen Aussicht. 1926
  • Die Bergbahn. 1926, originally Revolte auf Côte 3018
  • Sladek der schwarze Reichswehrmann. 1929, originally Sladek oder Die schwarze Armee
  • Rund um den Kongreß. 1929
  • Italienische Nacht. 1930
  • Geschichten aus dem Wiener Wald (Tales from the Vienna Wood). 1931, winner of the Kleist Prize the same year
  • Glaube, Liebe, Hoffnung. 1932
  • Kasimir und Karoline. 1932
  • Die Unbekannte aus der Seine. 1933
  • Hin und her. 1934
  • Don Juan kommt aus dem Krieg. 1936
  • Figaro läßt sich scheiden. 1936 (basis for the 1963 opera of the same name by Giselher Klebe)
  • Pompeji. Komödie eines Erdbebens. 1937
  • Ein Dorf ohne Männer. 1937
  • Himmelwärts. 1937
  • Der jüngste Tag. 1937 (basis for the 1980 opera of the same name by Giselher Klebe)


  • Der ewige Spießer. 1930
  • Jugend ohne Gott. 1938 (The Age of the Fish, English translation, 1939)
  • Ein Kind unserer Zeit. 1938 (A Child of Our Time, English translation, 1939)

Other prose

  • Sportmärchen. 1924–1926
  • Interview. 1932
  • Gebrauchsanweisung. 1932


  • "Nothing conveys the feeling of infinity as much as stupidity does." (Motto of Geschichten aus dem Wienerwald)
  • "Eigentlich bin ich ganz anders, nur komme ich so selten dazu."
  • Ödön von Horváth was once walking in the Bavarian Alps when he discovered the skeleton of a long dead man with his knapsack still intact. Von Horváth opened the knapsack and found a postcard reading "Having a wonderful time". Asked by friends what he did with it, von Horváth replied "I posted it".
  • "If you ask me what is my native country, I answer: I was born in Fiume, grew up in Belgrade, Budapest, Pressburg [Bratislava], Vienna and Munich, and I have a Hungarian passport, but I have no fatherland. I am a very typical mix of old Austria–Hungary: at once Magyar, Croatian, German and Czech; my country is Hungary; my mother tongue is German."


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Ödön (Edmund Josef) von Horváth (December 9, 1901June 1, 1938) was one of the most important German-language playwrights and authors of the twentieth century.


  • "Nichts gibt so sehr das Gefühl der Unendlichkeit als wie die Dummheit."
  • Translation: Nothing conveys the feeling of infinity as much as stupidity does.
    • Motto of Geschichten aus dem Wienerwald (Tales from the Vienna Wood) (1931)

External links

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