Meyrink, Gustav

Tagged: Author

Initially the pseudonym of Austrian author Gustav Meyer (1868-1932), resident in Prague from early adulthood until his move to Bavaria in 1906; he took the name legally in 1917. His later portrayals of Prague – clearly influenced by his translation of the works of Charles Dickens (1909-1914 16vols) – transform the City into a hauntingly garish Urban Fantasy [for discussion of this term, as used in the 1990s to designate a central urban mode of the fantastic, see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below], a vision analogous to, though clearly distinct from, the Prague created by Franz Kafka (for a period from 1913 the two authors were both published by Kurt Wolff Verlag). Meyrink began publishing short stories in Prague from 1901, often in the Satirical journal Simplicissimus. They were assembled in various collections, including Der heiße Soldat und andere Geschichten ["The Hot Soldier and Other Stories"] (coll 1903), Orchideen: Sonderbare Geschichten ["Orchids: Strange Stories"] (coll 1904) and Das Wachsfigurenkabinett: Sonderbare Geschichten ["The Wax Museum: Strange Stories"] (coll 1907); these collections were assembled, with additions, as Des Deutschen Spießers Wunderhorn ["The German Philistines' Enchanted Horn"] (omni 1913 3vols; cut trans Maurice Raraty as The Opal (and Other Stories) 1994 UK). Two further collections, Fledermäuse: Sieben Geschichten ["Bats"] (coll 1916) and Goldmachergeshichten ["Tales of the Alchemists"] (coll 1925), have not been translated.

His novels, some of which deal in heated, expressionist terms with the mechanics of occultism, are variously of genre interest. In Der Golem (December 1913-August 1914 Die Weissen Blätter; 1915; cut trans Madge Pemberton as The Golem 1928; full version of Pemberton trans in The Golem/The Man Who Was Born Again, anth 1976, ed E F Bleiler; new trans Mike Mitchell 1995), a nineteenth-century protagonist experiences the original myth of the Golem of Prague, a Doppelganger figure who in Meyrink's rendering conveys some of the ambivalent transgressiveness of the Frankenstein Monster. Das grüne Gesicht (1916; trans Mike Mitchell as The Green Face 1992), is a Near Future tale of apocalyptic aftermath haunted by the Wandering Jew and culminating in the destruction of Amsterdam; this novel, and its successor, Walpurgisnacht: Phantastischer Roman (1917; trans Mike Mitchell as Walpurgisnacht 1993), which is set in a Prague riddled with portents, portray World War One as an event so dreadful that only imagery born in Fantastika can begin to apprehend it. Der weiße Dominikaner (1921; trans Mike Mitchell as The White Dominican 1994) is a tale of occult transcendence; in Der Engel vom westlichen Fenster (1927; trans Mike Mitchell as The Angel of the West Window 1991), a twentieth-century figure engages with John Dee, whose Neoplatonic speculations and adventurous life have inspired writers like John Crowley. [JC]

see also: Austria.

Gustav Meyrink

born Vienna, Austria: 19 January 1868

died Lake Starnburg, Bavaria, Germany: 4 December 1932

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