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Hugo von Hofmannsthal

Hugo von Hofmannsthal

*  1874 Wien
† 1929 Rodaun

Hugo von Hofmannsthal was born February 1, 1874, in Vienna. As a 16 year old Gymnasium student, Hofmannsthal began publishing poetry under the pseudonym "Loris." These first poems as well as his first novel, "Gestern" ("Yesterday"), published also under a pseudonym, "Theophil Morren," Hofmannsthal established his literary fame quite early. He was soon part of the literary youth of Vienna, the group of literati to which Arthur Schnitzler and Gerhard Hauptmann belonged. Here in 1891, he met Stefan George, who significantly influenced his literary works in years following. His poetry and lyrical dramas are pervaded by a strong metaphoric of death and bring aesthetics to the last moment of human life, revealing Hofmannsthal as an important representative of Aestheticism. In 1892, he began studying law at the university in Vienna, though after his first round of exams and a voluntary, one year term of military service, he switched to the study of Romantic literature. After receiving his doctorate in 1898, he wrote his post-doctoral work and turned it in to the university in Vienna in 1901. He then decided against academe for the life of a professional writer. Living in the nearby village of Rodaun as of 1901, Hofmannsthal increasingly dispaired of the sufficiency of language as an adequate means of communication. He therefore tried to overcome his lyricism in the following years. Inspired by the works of Friedrich Nietzsche and Sigmund Freud, his subsequent works were influenced by the traditions of Greek Antiquity and Western Christianity, including the drama "Elektra" (1903), based on the drama of the same name written by Sophocles. Richard Strauss set his drama to music in 1909 and used Hofmannsthal's "Rosenkavallier" (1911) for the libretti of five more operas, including "Ariadne auf Naxos" (1912) and "Josephslegende" (1914). Hofmannsthal and Strauss, together with theater director Max Reinhardt, founded the Salzburger Festspiele in 1920. Hofmannsthal was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature three times, though he never won the prize. Hofmannsthal died on July 15, 1929, in Rodaun, Austria.