Die Schlafwandler, 1931-1932 (The Sleepwalkers, 1932)
Die unbekannte Grösse, 1933 (The Unknown Quantity, 1935)
Der Tod des Vergil, 1945 (The Death of Virgil, 1945)
Die Schuldlosen, 1950 (The Guiltless, 1974)
Der Versucher, 1953 (revised as Demeter, 1967, Die Verzauberung, 1976, and Bergroman; English translation, The Spell, 1986)
Methodologische Novelle, 1933
Methodisch konstruiert, 1949
Short Stories, 1966
Die Entsühnung, pb. 1933 (also known as . . . Denn sie wissen nicht, was sie tun; English translation, The Atonement, 1972)
“James Joyce und die Gegenwart,” 1936 (“James Joyce and the Present Age,” 1949)
Dichten und Erkennen: Essays I, 1955
Erkennen und Handeln: Essays II, 1955
Hofmannsthal und seine Zeit, 1964 (Hugo von Hofmannsthal and His Time: The European Imagination, 1860-1920, 1984)
Zur Universitätsreform, 1969
Gedanken zur Politik, 1970
Hermann Broch-Daniel Brody: Briefwechsel, 1930-1951, 1970
Menschenrecht und Demokratie, 1971
Briefe über Deutschland, 1945-1949, 1986
Gesammelte Werke in zehn Bänden, 1952-1961 (10 volumes)
Die Heimkehr, 1962
Kommentierte Werkausgabe in dreizehn Bänden, 1974-1981
Many artists and scholars consider Hermann Broch (browk) to be among such great twentieth century writers as James Joyce, André Gide, Franz Kafka, and Thomas Mann. Broch was born to Joseph Broch, a wealthy textile merchant and owner of a spinning mill, and Johanna (Schnabel) Broch, who was from one of Vienna’s distinguished and wealthy families. As was customary at the time, Broch, as the oldest son, was destined to take over the family textile company. Consequently, he attended a modern secondary school, where he studied the natural sciences and French before advancing to the Vienna Institute for Weaving Technology. His period of apprenticeship was served in textile mills in Germany, England, and Bohemia, as well as the United States, in Atlanta, Memphis, and New Orleans. He entered the family business in 1908.
In 1909, he became a reserve officer in the Austrian army and attained the rank of lieutenant. At this time, he converted from the Jewish faith to Catholicism out of social considerations. That same year, he married Franziska (“Fanny”) von Rothermann; they were divorced in 1922. His only child, Hermann Friedrich Broch de Rothermann, was born in 1910.
Working as an unpaid director of the family spinning mill in Teesdorf, a tiny village in Lower Austria, was most disagreeable to Broch. In his nightly solitary hours, Broch began to study philosophy and mathematics, which eventually led him to enroll at the University of Vienna. Once in the capital again, he frequented the Viennese literary and artistic cafés, where he met writers such as Karl Kraus, Robert Musil, and Franz Werfel and painters Albert Paris Gütersloh and Georg Krista. He read the works of the psychologist Otto Weininger and began a systematic study of the philosophers Arthur Schopenhauer and Immanuel Kant.
To his interest in philosophy and literature Broch added a third lifelong concern, politics. For the rest of his life, he devoted considerable energy to promoting welfare programs and reforms. His various interests and activities led Broch in 1927 to sell the textile plant and devote himself completely to his studies and writings.
Broch’s first major literary work was the trilogy The Sleepwalkers. In this “polyhistorical novel,” Broch presents a panoramic view of the political, social, economic, and philosophical development in Germany in three parts representing three different times: 1888 (“The Romantic”), 1903 (“The Anarchist”), and 1918 (“The Realist”). The first volume of this trilogy, which illustrates the decline of German bourgeois society, presents a Prussian world of fossilized conventions and an empty concept of honor symbolized by the uniform of the imperial guardsman Joachim von Pasenow. Pasenow’s entire life is determined by the obligation to maintain “the family honor.” From this semifeudal, aristocratic society of the first book the scene shifts in the second volume to a Rhenish metropolis, where the insignificant bookkeeper August Esch fights for advancement to chief accountant, using blackmail and bribery. The trilogy ends with the triumph of Huguenau, a totally amoral and unscrupulous army deserter who does away with Pasenow and Esch, thus illustrating the total disintegration of any system of social and moral values. In the epilogue, however, Broch develops a counterpart to this total decay with a vision of a new homogeneous and coherent world.
Broch’s most important literary work is considered to be The Death of Virgil. He started writing this novel in Austria in 1937, continued it while a political prisoner in a German concentration camp in 1938, and completed it, only after many other activities had interrupted the work, in the United States in 1945. The greatness of Broch’s novel is in part attributed to the mode in which it is written, for it is actually a single, extended inner monologue in which Virgil’s thoughts and visions are systematically elevated from the depth of presentiment to a consciously articulated word. The Death of Virgil has often been compared with James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922).
During the last decade of his life, Broch devoted considerable time and energy to the study of mass psychology and mass psychological occurrences. He had already begun this philosophical investigation in his fictional writings, as 1935 and 1936 manuscripts of his “mountain novel” can attest. One year before his death, Broch resumed work on this novel, a fictionalized investigation of the problem of a “mass response to Hitler, of everyday hysteria, and mass-consumption barbarism.” When he died on May 30, 1951, in New Haven, Connecticut, Broch had completed no more than half of the third version of the manuscript. The novel Der Versucher (the tempter), an adaptation of different chapters of the three versions of the manuscript, is considered the third great novel in Broch’s oeuvre. (The English translation, The Spell, is based on the first version of the manuscript.)
Although The Sleepwalkers and The Spell may be more accessible to the reader than The Death of Virgil, all Broch’s works–fictional and philosophical–are highly intricate examinations of the “universal totality of the human condition.”