Authors: Heimito von Doderer

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Austrian novelist and short-story writer

Author Works

Long Fiction:

Die Bresche, 1924

Das Geheimnis des Reichs, 1930 (The Secret of the Empire, 1998)

Ein Mord den Jeder begeht, 1938 (Every Man a Murderer, 1964)

Ein Umweg, 1940

Die erleuchteten Fenster, 1950 (The Lighted Windows: Or, The Humanization of the Bureaucrat Julius Zihal, 2000)

Die Strudlhofstiege: Oder, Melzer und die Tiefe der Jahre, 1951

Das letzte Abenteuer, 1953 (novella)

Die Dämonen: Nach der Chronik des Sektionsrates Geyrenhoff, 1956 (The Demons, 1961)

Die Merowinger: Oder, Die totale Familie, 1962 (The Merowingians: Or, The Total Family, 1996)

Roman No. 7, Erster Teil: Die Wasserfälle von Slunj, 1963 (The Waterfalls of Slunj, 1966)

Roman No. 7, Zweiter Teil: Der Grenzwald, 1967 (fragment)

Short Fiction:

Die Posaunen von Jericho, 1958

Die Peinigung der Lederbeutelchen, 1959

Meine neunzehn Lebensläufe und neun andere Geschichten, 1966

Unter schwarzen Sternene, 1966

Frühe Prosa, 1968

Die Erzählungen, 1972


Gassen und Landschaft, 1923

Ein Weg im Dunkeln, 1957


Der Fall Gütersloh, 1930

Julius Winkler, 1937

Grundlagen und Funktion des Romans, 1959

Tangenten: Tagebuch eines Schriftstellers, 1940-1950, 1964 (diaries)

Repertorium, 1969

Die Wiederkehr der Drachen, 1970

Commentarii: Tagebücher 1951 bis 1956, 1976

Commentarii: Tagebücher 1957-1966, 1986

Heimito von Doderer-Albert Paris Gütersloh: Briefwechsel, 1928-1962, 1986


All the important works of the Austrian novelist Heimito von Doderer (DOH-duh-rur) were written during his mature years, in the second half of his life, even though the experimental works written during his early years definitely predicted his great talent. Franz Carl Heimito Ritter von Doderer was born in 1896 in what is today a district of Vienna. His father, Wilhelm Ritter von Doderer, was a wealthy contractor; his grandfather had been ennobled in 1877 for his contributions to the field of architecture; and his mother, Luise Wilhelmine, née von Hügel, also belonged to the Austrian nobility. After attending the Gymnasium, Doderer enrolled at the University of Vienna in 1914 in order to study law. He was called into military service, however, and fought at the Russian front, where he was taken prisoner. Doderer worked in several Russian prison camps, escaped in 1920, and on foot returned to Vienna from the Kirgiz Steppes.{$I[AN]9810001295}{$I[A]Doderer, Heimito von}{$I[geo]AUSTRIA;Doderer, Heimito von}{$I[tim]1896;Doderer, Heimito von}

From 1920 to 1925 he studied history and psychology and earned a doctorate in history for his dissertation on bourgeois historiography in Vienna during the fifteenth century. His first publications were a book of poems, Gassen und Landschaft (alleys and landscape), and short prose pieces about his war experiences. Between 1927 and 1931, he wrote many articles for newspapers, as well as his so-called divertimenti, short prose pieces written expressly for his own public readings. Doderer became an admirer of the artist Albert Paris Gütersloh (a pseudonym for Albert Kiehtreiber, 1887-1973) after reading his autobiography. He venerated Gütersloh all of his life, and throughout Doderer’s works one can find Gütersloh quotations. Doderer also created a literary monument to Gütersloh in the figure of Kyrill Scolander in The Demons.

In 1933, Doderer joined Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party, when that organization was still illegal in Austria, but he left it in 1938, at the time of Austria’s subsumption into the German Reich. For two years Doderer lived in Germany, where he came in contact with the publishing house of C. H. Beck. His novel Every Man a Murderer was published in 1938. In it, the protagonist, Conrad Castiletz, goes to great lengths to discover who murdered his sister-in-law (secretly the great love of his life), who died mysteriously during a train ride, only to discover that he caused her death.

In 1940 Doderer converted to Catholicism. He had begun to write his major novel, The Demons, but had reached a critical impasse with it. Again, the author was drafted for service in the war; he was first sent to France, then again to Russia. In Norway he was taken prisoner by the British forces in 1945, and in 1946 he returned to Vienna.

Reflections about the problems writing The Demons brought forth his novel Die Strudlhofstiege (the Strudlhof stairs), whose characters overlap with those of The Demons. The subtitle of the novel is “Melzer, or the depth of years,” and the work indeed chronicles the development of Melzer, who in his younger years had been an officer in the Austrian army and who during the time narrated by the novel is a public official within the Austrian tobacco ministry. He is a simple soul, but his maturing process is intricate and complex. The novel is at the same time a family novel, a love novel (in the sense of trivial literature), a society novel, a biographical-developmental novel, and a detective novel. It is, however, not a historical novel but a consciously ahistorical novel, or, to paraphrase the historian Doderer’s own words, “a novel with things that occur on the sidelines of history.” On the most elementary level, Die Strudlhofstiege is a tale, a tale of everyday life in the city of Vienna, centered on the genius loci of that set of stairs named “Strudlhofstiege,” which connects two Viennese streets, the Boltzmanngasse and the Liechtensteinstrasse.

The Demons has even vaster dimensions and represents the labor of more than twenty-five years, with two distinctly different periods of composition. Doderer worked on the novel continuously between 1930 and 1936, when he decided to center it on Kajetan von Schlaggenberg’s fixation on extraordinarily fat women, on one hand, and on his own hopes for a renewal of the state through National Socialism, on the other. Both of these elements were central to the second phase of the novel’s composition, from 1951 to 1956, but they were integrated as more pointedly “demonic” elements. Doderer during that time called them the “demonic of a second reality,” which he defined as an invented reality which becomes more “real” as it becomes more trusted. He subsumed under this definition all things doctrinaire, ideological, and totalitarian. The laborer Leonhard Kakabsa becomes the developmental hero, and July 15, 1927, the day of the burning of the Palace of Justice in Vienna, the final focal point.

Doderer’s last great project was what he called, in admiration of Ludwig van Beethoven’s principles of composition, Roman No. 7. It was to have, in emulation of symphonic construction, four parts, of which he finished one, The Waterfalls of Slunj; at the time of his death in 1966 he left the second part as a fragment, Der Grenzwald (the Grenz forest). The structural components of these novels are the same as those of Doderer’s previous great novels, and society as a whole is the center of his attention. Yet he has taken one step back from the reality of his characters: Reality is in the process of becoming unreal because humankind, though interconnected with other beings in a vast network of relations, is ultimately unaware of other beings. “Fatological web” is Doderer’s designation for the human state of being.

In his last years, many literary honors were bestowed upon Doderer. In 1956 he became a member of the Berlin Academy of the Arts. He was also the recipient of the Austrian State Prize, the Pirkheimer Prize, the Literary Prize of the City of Vienna, the Literary Prize of the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts, and the Wilhelm Raabe Prize of the city of Braunschweig.

BibliographyBachem, Michael. Heimito von Doderer. Boston: Twayne, 1981. Contains biography as well as close analysis of Doderer’s works and a bibliography of primary and secondary sources.Dassanowsky, Robert von. Review of The Lighted Windows. Southern Humanities Review 35 (Fall, 2001). Reviews the republication of Doderer’s novel, with notes and forward by John S. Barrett.Hesson, Elizabeth. Twentieth Century Odyssey: A Study of Heimito von Doderer’s “Die Dämonen.” Columbia, S.C.: Camden House, 1983. A thorough study of Doderer’s most important work.Jones, David L. “Heimito von Doderer and Man’s ‘Existential Fear.’” Papers on Language and Literature 20 (Spring, 1984). A psychological/philosophical analysis.Kling, Vincent. Afterword to A Person Made of Porcelain, and Other Stories, by Heimito von Doderer. Riverside, Calif.: Ariadne Press, 2005. Useful commentary on Doderer’s short fiction.Pfeiffer, Engelbert. The Writer’s Place: Heimito von Doderer and the Alsergrund District of Vienna. Translated by Vincent Kling. Riverside, Calif.: Ariadne Press, 2001. Study of the neighborhood in which Doderer lived and its importance to understanding his work.
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