Heimito von Doderer was born on September 5, 1896, in the small town of Weidlingau, near the city of Vienna, Austria. He was the youngest of six children of Wilhelm Ritter von Doderer and Luise Wilhelmine von Doderer. He grew up and went to school in Vienna. In the fall of 1914, he matriculated as a law student at the University of Vienna.
In 1915, Doderer entered the military service and advanced to the rank of lieutenant. The following summer he was taken prisoner of war in Russia, where he was interned in various camps in Siberia and East Asia. In 1920, he fled from a camp and walked from the Kirghiz Steppe back to Vienna. He resumed his studies at the university, now in history and psychology. He earned a doctorate in medieval history in 1925.
Doderer started to write in 1916 and continued while a prisoner of war. In the 1920’s he managed to publish some of his poetry and short stories, but he failed to gain widespread recognition. In the late 1920’s he supported himself primarily by writing historical feuilletons for various Vienna newspapers. In 1929, Doderer encountered the work of the writer and painter Albert Paris Gütersloh, a profound experience that was to guide him as a writer and thinker for the remainder of his life. He articulated the influence that this artist had on him in the monograph Der Fall Gütersloh (1930; the Gütersloh case).
The 1930’s were important but turbulent years. In 1930, Doderer...
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