Many artists and scholars consider Hermann Broch (browk) to be among such great twentieth century writers as James Joyce, André Gide, Franz Kafka, and Thomas Mann. Broch was born to Joseph Broch, a wealthy textile merchant and owner of a spinning mill, and Johanna (Schnabel) Broch, who was from one of Vienna’s distinguished and wealthy families. As was customary at the time, Broch, as the oldest son, was destined to take over the family textile company. Consequently, he attended a modern secondary school, where he studied the natural sciences and French before advancing to the Vienna Institute for Weaving Technology. His period of apprenticeship was served in textile mills in Germany, England, and Bohemia, as well as the United States, in Atlanta, Memphis, and New Orleans. He entered the family business in 1908.
In 1909, he became a reserve officer in the Austrian army and attained the rank of lieutenant. At this time, he converted from the Jewish faith to Catholicism out of social considerations. That same year, he married Franziska (“Fanny”) von Rothermann; they were divorced in 1922. His only child, Hermann Friedrich Broch de Rothermann, was born in 1910.
Working as an unpaid director of the family spinning mill in Teesdorf, a tiny village in Lower Austria, was most disagreeable to Broch. In his nightly solitary hours, Broch began to study philosophy and mathematics, which eventually led him to enroll at the University of Vienna. Once in the capital again, he frequented the Viennese literary and artistic cafés, where he met writers such as Karl Kraus, Robert Musil, and Franz Werfel and painters Albert Paris Gütersloh and Georg Krista. He read the works of the psychologist Otto Weininger and began a systematic study of the philosophers Arthur Schopenhauer and Immanuel Kant.
To his interest in philosophy and literature Broch added a third lifelong concern, politics. For the rest of his life, he devoted considerable energy to promoting welfare programs and...
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