Hermann Broch Analysis

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Although his fame and reputation as a writer rest on his two major novels, The Sleepwalkers and The Death of Virgil, Hermann Broch (brawk) was in fact a multifaceted author of truly eclectic interests—interests ranging from literature per se in almost every genre to literary criticism, from philosophical and sociopolitical essays to incisive psychological studies of mass hysteria. Broch’s earliest publications were poems and essayistic studies submitted to some of the local journals in Vienna. A sonnet, “Mathematisches Mysterium” (mathematical mysterium), and two essays—one a review of Thomas Mann’s novella Der Tod in Venedig (1912; Death in Venice, 1925)—appeared as early as 1913 in the liberal journal Der Brenner, which was noted for publishing such influential writers of the period as Karl Kraus, Mann, Georg Trakl, Franz Werfel, and Stefan Zweig.

In fact, it was the essay, as a vehicle for the expression of both literary and philosophical thought, that would become Broch’s preferred medium over the years, although one that was long overshadowed in the minds of the reading public by his two major novels. At the end of World War I, in 1919, Broch published the essay “Konstitutionelle Diktatur als demokratisches Rätesystem” (constitutional dictatorship as a democratic soviet-system), which outlines his belief that a sort of Nietzschean will to power was required if constitutional governments were to bring about a true democracy based on humanist, egalitarian ideals. Other important essays of the early 1930’s by Broch include his “Logik einer zerfallenen Welt” (logic of a fallen world) and “Das Böse im Wertsystem der Kunst” (evil in the value system of art); both...

(The entire section is 717 words.)

Hermann Broch Achievements

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Hermann Broch must surely be counted among such other major German novelists of the twentieth century as Franz Kafka, Mann, Robert Musil, Heinrich Böll, and Günter Grass, alongside such other creative artists as Wassily Kandinsky, Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka, Gustav Mahler, Egon Schiele, and Arnold Schönberg—in terms of both the committed humanist stance he assumes in his writing and the purely technical mastery of his craft.

In this latter regard, Broch has been compared justifiably to James Joyce and William Faulkner in his use of interior monologue and stream of consciousness to capture the reality of life—and death—that he perceived all around him. For Broch, such techniques reflect the age in which he matured. William James’s Principles of Psychology, which includes a chapter titled “The Stream of Thought,” had been published in 1890. It was James who had advanced the concept of stream of consciousness, as later adapted for fiction. Sigmund Freud’s Die Traumdeutung (Interpretation of Dreams), which called attention to the irrational inner life of humans, appeared in 1900, and his Zur Psychopathologie des Alltagslebens (Psychopathology of Everyday Life) was published in 1904. Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, which called into question the very certainty with which humans could know the “real” world, was published in 1905. All these works fostered, indeed necessitated, a...

(The entire section is 577 words.)

Hermann Broch Bibliography

(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Bartram, Graham, and Philip Payne. “Apocalypse and Utopia in the Austrian Novel of the 1930’s: Hermann Broch and Robert Musil.” In The Cambridge Companion to the Modern German Novel, edited by Graham Bartram. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004. The Sleepwalkers and The Death of Virgil are analyzed and placed within the wider context of 1930’s Austrian literature in this essay about novelists Broch and Robert Musil.

Broch de Rothermann, H. F. Dear Mrs. Strigl: A Memoir of Hermann Broch. Translated by John Hargraves. New Haven, Conn.: Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University, 2001. Broch’s son recalls his father’s personal life. Describes Broch’s relationship with his father, his exile in the United States, and other aspects of Broch’s often difficult life. In both English and German.

Cohn, Dorrit. “The Sleepwalkers”: Elucidations of Hermann Broch’s Trilogy. The Hague, the Netherlands: Mouton, 1966. A critical analysis of this important trilogy. Includes a bibliography.

Dowden, Stephen D., ed. Hermann Broch: Literature, Philosophy, Politics. Columbia, S.C.: Camden House, 1988. Proceedings of a conference sponsored by the Department of Germanic Languages at Yale University in November, 1986. Includes bibliographical references and an...

(The entire section is 596 words.)