Franz Werfel (VEHR-fuhl) was born into a Jewish family of Prague on September 10, 1890. His father, the owner of a glove factory, was intensely interested in art and music, but he saw in his son only a future partner and an heir to the business; consequently, he opposed the boy’s early inclinations toward literature. Young Werfel was educated at the local Gymnasium and spent two years, 1909 to 1910, at the University of Prague. Having had the pleasure of seeing some of his work in print, Werfel had little interest in an academic career, preferring to spend his time writing and discussing literature with friends, who included such recognized writers as Gustav Meyrink, Max Brod, and Otokar Bezina.
After leaving the university in 1910, Werfel went to Hamburg, Germany. There he took a job in a business firm but continued to write. Following a year of compulsory military service, from 1911 to 1912, he settled for a time in Leipzig, where he became a publisher’s reader. With the beginning of World War I, he took a pacifist stand, publishing pacifist poems such as “Der Krieg,” “Wortmacher des Krieges,” and “Der Ulan,” all of which appeared in Einander. Despite his attitude toward the war, Werfel was called into the service as an officer in an artillery regiment and served during 1916 to 1917. In 1916 his adaptation of Euripides’ The Trojan Women had a successful season on the Berlin stage and in other cities. By the time he was thirty, Werfel had made for himself a reputation in...
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