Franz Theodor Csokor was born on September 6, 1885, into an affluent middle-class family. His family tree includes members of almost all ethnic and national groups in the Austro-Hungarian Empire—he called himself a “true Austrian blend”—and therefore he is a true representative of that multinational social order that appeared at the height of its glory but was already doomed at the time of his birth.
After his high school graduation, Csokor studied art history at the University of Vienna but soon abandoned his studies to pursue his true vocation: literature, particularly drama. In 1912 his first play, Eine Partie Schach (a game of chess), later published as Thermidor, was performed in Budapest in Hungarian. Csokor, who attended the premiere, did not understand a single word of his own play. The success of the play confirmed his determination to devote his life to the theater.
During World War I, Csokor was at first an infantry soldier but was later transferred to the imperial war archives, where Rainer Maria Rilke and Stefan Zweig were among his colleagues. His elder brother was killed in the war, an event that Csokor had difficulty coping with and that led him to ally himself closely with the pacifist expressionist writers of the postwar period. The plays Der Baum der Erkenntnis (the tree of insight) and Die rote Strasse (the red road) as well as some volumes of expressionist poetry stem from this time.
In the years after the war, Csokor worked as dramaturge and director at several Viennese theaters and studied subjects related to classical antiquity and Christianity. He became fascinated with the...
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