(1890-1945) Austrian poet, playwright and novelist, a member of the loose Prague Circle of writers, achieving early fame as an Expressionist poet and dramatist; he is now mostly remembered, however, for his later sentimental novels. After escaping the Nazis via Spain as World War Two loomed, he went to California, where he wrote Stern der Ungeborenen: Ein Reiseroman (1946 Sweden; trans Gustave Otto Arlt as Star of the Unborn 1946) before dying in US exile. This long, contemplative Utopia depicts a philosophically complex Far-Future Earth through the eyes of a narrator (named Franz Werfel) who is guided through the three parts of the novel by a mentor explicitly associated with Dante Alighieri's Vergil. This narrator's response to the depopulated, deeply alienating, surreal world about him seems cunningly to mirror the exiled author's real-world experiences of California. The melancholy underlying the story, and its long effortless perspectives of time and thought, give the book a clarity and reserve reminiscent of the Scientific Romances of Olaf Stapledon, though its ultimate nostalgic recourse to some future form of Catholicism marks it off. [JC]
see also: Arts; Austria; Germany; Religion.
Franz Viktor Werfel
born Prague, Austro-Hungary [now Czech Republic]: 10 September 1890
died Beverly Hills, California: 26 August 1945
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