IlseAbout Ilse Aichinger

by Jessica Amanda Salmonson


As an addendum to rbadac's essay on Ilse Aichinger's The Bound Man, I wanted to mention how Ilse Aichinger is vastly well known to German readers but, alas, translations of her works are few with small print runs. Her first book, a tragic work of fantasy, Die grossere Hoffnung (1949, translated as Herod's Children), won the Austrian State Prize for Literature. It was one of the first novels of the Holocaust. It's told from the point of view of a girl of Vienna -- where Ilse was born & educated. During the war she was herself a forced laborer under constant threat for being part Jewish. She lost all trace of her mother as her relatives were being deported to Poland. The severe angst & melancholy of her poetic weird tales is certainly comprehensible.

Some of The Bound Man supernatural stories are badly translated by J. C. Alldridge to go with the LitCrit book Ilse Aichinger (London: Oswald Wolff, 1969). Vastly to be preferred is The Bound Man & Other Stories (London: Secker & Warburg, 1955) elegantly translated by Eric Mosbacher.

"Spiegelgeschichte" (in The Bound Man as "Story in a Mirror") won a major literary prize in 1952 given by West Germany's leading authors' society Gruppe 47. She is also a recipient of the George Trakl Prize (1979) named for a brilliant symbolist prose-poet too little known to English readers, the Franz Kafka Prize in 1983, & others.

Her husband is the German poet Gunter Eich. Her son, writer-actor Clemens Eich, died in 1998. Her twin sister, artist Helga Michie, lives in London.


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