Authors: Vicki Baum

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Austrian-born American novelist

Author Works

Long Fiction:

Menschen im Hotel, 1929 (Grand Hotel, 1930)

Zwischenfall in Lohwinckel, 1930 (And Life Goes On, 1931)

Liebe und Tod auf Bali, 1937 (A Tale of Bali, 1937; also known as A Tale from Bali)

The Ship and the Shore, 1941

Hotel Berlin ’43, 1944

Danger from Deer, 1951

Nonfiction:

I Know What I’m Worth, 1964 (memoirs; pb. in U.S. as It Was All Quite Different)

Biography

The career of Vicki Baum (bowm) as a novelist, playwright, and scenarist shows a craftsmanship and constancy deserving of much more critical attention than she has been given. Born Hedwig Baum in Vienna in 1888, she wrote in German until 1937, a year before she became an American citizen.{$I[AN]9810000271}{$I[A]Baum, Vicki}{$I[geo]WOMEN;Baum, Vicki}{$I[geo]AUSTRIA;Baum, Vicki}{$I[geo]UNITED STATES;Baum, Vicki}{$I[tim]1888;Baum, Vicki}

Baum came to the United States in 1931 to oversee the dramatization of Grand Hotel, her most successful work, and stayed. She found employment in Hollywood as a scenarist and was quite successful at promoting the book and the film. She enjoyed meeting the public and was both flattered and surprised at the reception she received from the American public. Her account of meeting a fan at a book signing who informed her that her son was also a writer is delightfully typical of Baum’s awareness of life’s complexity (the fan’s son proved to be Ernest Hemingway).

Grand Hotel, her best-known work, is one of the earliest modern adaptations of the framing technique used by Geoffrey Chaucer in his Canterbury Tales. A variation on her device (placing a group of diverse individuals in a post-World War I German hotel) has since been used quite successfully in many other novels, and the framing tale became a feature in numerous Hollywood “disaster” films. Any sentimentality in her novel is overshadowed by Baum’s ability to involve a number of interesting characters from a variety of social and economic backgrounds in a fast-moving plot, and the author and her work merit additional critical study.

BibliographyKing, Lynda J. Best-Sellers by Design: Vicki Baum and the House of Ullstein. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1988. King explains why Baum was such an exceptional literary phenomenon in the Berlin of the 1920’s and 1930’s. Includes rare black-and-white photographs of Baum.Kunitz, Stanley J., and Howard Haycraft, eds. Twentieth Century Authors: A Biographical Dictionary of Modern Literature. New York: H. W. Wilson, 1942. Includes references to Baum’s novels.The New York Times, August 30, 1960. This obituary offers some evaluation of Baum’s work.Warfel, Harry R. American Novelists of Today. New York: American Book Company, 1951. Includes a good brief sketch of Baum.
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