Georg Trakl

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Georg Trakl (3 February 1887, Salzburg – 3 November 1914, Kraków) was an Austrian poet. He is considered one of the most important Austrian Expressionists.[1]


Life and work

Trakl was born and lived the first 18 years of his life in Salzburg, Austria. His father, Tobias Trakl (11 June 1837, Ödenburg/Sopron - 1910)[2], was a dealer in hardware from Hungary, while his mother, Maria Catharina Halik (17 May 1852, Wiener Neustadt - 1925), was a housewife of Czech descent with strong interests in art and music.

Trakl attended a Catholic elementary school, although his parents were Protestants. He matriculated in 1897 at the Salzburg Staatsgymnasium, where he studied Latin, Greek, and mathematics. At age 13, Trakl began to write poetry. In high school, he began visiting brothels, where he enjoyed giving rambling monologues to the aging prostitutes. At 15, he began drinking, and using opium, chloroform, and other drugs. By the time he was forced to drop out of school in 1905, he was a full-blown drug addict. Many critics think that Trakl suffered from undiagnosed schizophrenia.

After dropping out of high school, Trakl worked for a pharmacist for three years and decided to pursue pharmacy as a career. It was at this time that he experimented with playwriting, but his two short plays, All Souls' Day and Fata Morgana, failed onstage.

In 1908, Trakl moved to Vienna to study pharmacy, and fell in with a group of local artists and bohemians who helped him publish some of his poems. Trakl's father died in 1910, shortly before Trakl received his pharmacy certificate; thereafter, Trakl enlisted in the army for a year-long stint. His return to civilian life in Salzburg was a disaster and he re-enlisted, serving as a pharmacist at a hospital in Innsbruck. There he also met the local artistic community, which recognized his budding talent. Ludwig von Ficker, the editor of the journal Der Brenner, became his patron: he regularly printed Trakl's work and endeavored to find him a publisher to produce a collection of poems. The result of these efforts was Gedichte (Poems), published by Kurt Wolff in Leipzig in the summer of 1913. Ficker also brought Trakl to the attention of Ludwig Wittgenstein, who anonymously provided him with a sizable stipend so that he could concentrate on his writing.

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