Carl Spitteler Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Carl Friedrich Georg Spitteler (SHPIHT-uh-lur), Swiss novelist, epic poet, short-story writer, essayist, and Nobel Prize winner, was born in Liestal, near Basel. He moved with his family to Bern four years later, when his father was appointed treasurer of the Swiss Confederacy. Spitteler returned to Basel in 1856, living with his aunt and attending first the Gymnasium and later the Obergymnasium called Pädagogium. To please his father, he studied law at the University of Zürich in 1863 and branched into the study of theology. With theology his primary focus, by 1867 Spitteler was preparing himself for a future as a Protestant minister. A crisis of faith turned him from that direction, however, and by 1870 he no longer hoped for a religious career. Having no means of earning a living, he managed to secure an invitation from Russian General Standertskjöld to tutor his young children in St. Petersburg, Russia. Spitteler spent the years from 1871 to 1879 in Russia and Finland, during that time writing his first major literary work, the verse epic Prometheus and Epimetheus. Under the pseudonym Carl Felix Tandem, he self-published the piece, which he had conceived during his university years, but its lack of commercial success proved disheartening to Spitteler, who moved back to Switzerland and resigned himself to earning his living as a schoolteacher rather than as a poet.{$S[A]Tandem, Carl Felix;Spitteler, Carl}

In 1883, Spitteler married his former student Marie op der Hoff, and together they had two daughters. Supplementing his income with newspaper work, he wrote for Grenzpost in Basel...

(The entire section is 670 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Jantz, Harold S. “The Factor of Generation in German Literary History.” Modern Language Notes 52, no. 5 (May, 1937): 324-330. A “generational” approach to literature, examining how writers of an era assimilate contemporary culture. Spitteler is included in the “idealistic, anti-realistic” generation.

Muirhead, James F. Introduction to Selected Poems of Carl Spitteler. Translated by Ethel Colburn Mayne and James F. Muirhead. London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1928. Muirhead shows the poems to represent Spitteler’s deepest convictions. Biographical material also presented.

Robertson, John George. Essays and Addresses on Literature. 1935. Reprint. Freeport, N.Y.: Books for Libraries Press, 1968. Connections between classical and romantic in German literature. Spitteler and other writers are studied.