Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Although Broch died in 1951, The Spell was not published until 1976. He had completed the original draft in 1934 but had not been pleased with the manuscript and, subsequently, revised it two more times, changing and adding material in order to make it more nearly conform to his vision. He was in the process of making a third extensive revision of the manuscript when he died with only about half of the work done. Thus, what exists today as the published work is actually a reconstructed draft of a novel-in-progress.

Broch has sometimes been referred to as the Austrian James Joyce, and The Spell is vaguely reminiscent of Thomas Mann’s Der Zauberberg (1924; The Magic Mountain, 1927). It was written after Broch’s best-known trilogy, Die Schlafwandler (1931-1932; The Sleepwalkers, 1932), and before Der Tod des Vergil (1945; The Death of Virgil, 1945). The Spell is particularly important to those wishing to understand the reaction to the rise of Nazism as well as those interested in the study of contemporary allegory and myth.