en4/4/3 Research Strands / First Phase Research Strands / Hugo von Hofmannsthal
Biography of Hugo von Hofmannsthal
‘I have been approached by several people with regard to the writing of my biography. A very curious request. The anecdotes - the haunts - the encounters - the influences. An inability to grasp the purely spiritual adventure’, notes Hugo von Hofmannsthal in November 1926, giving rise to the thought: ‘Whoever writes a biography makes himself equal to the subject’. The numerous personal testimonies of the poet, for which the title ‘Ad me ipsum’ ('To myself') is thoroughly characteristic, are marked by varying impulses, ranging from discretion through to fear of self-exposure. Even friends and contemporaries struggled with the poet’s complex personality in their testimonials and praise.
Similar to the novel, traditional biographies construct chronotopes (Mikhail Bakhtin) in which action takes place. The more epic the narration, the greater the extent to which the temporal dimension determines the structure of the material, both with regard to the textual reconstruction of events, as well as in the eye of the reader.
The Hofmannsthal biography follows a different path. It orientates itself topographically, thereby accentuating the spatial dimension. The focus is on twenty spaces and places that fundamentally determined the life and works of the writer: the family home in the Salesianergasse, the Akademisches Gymnasium, the Wertheimstein villa, the salon at the Palais Todesco, the barracks in Gödling, his mansion in Rodaun, the Burgtheater, Venice, Dresden, Salzburg – places that at the same time form epistemic spaces, lieux de mémoire of biographical knowledge.
Contact: Wilhelm Hemecker