Ilse Aichinger is a Jewish Austrian writer, lyricist and author of radio plays.
One of twin daughters born to a Jewish physician and a teacher, Aichinger spent her childhood in Linz and after the early divorce of her parents moved to Vienna. There she and her maternal relatives were confronted with the persecution of the Nazi regime. In her first publication, Aufruf zum Mißtrauen (1946), she cautioned against what she perceived to be a new and dangerous self-confidence in Austria after the collapse of Nazi rule. At an early age, she had expressed an interest in studying medicine, but she was unable to do so because of the Nuremberg Laws. At the end of World War II, she was able to pursue her interest in medicine, but dropped out of university in 1948 to complete her first novel, Die groessere Hoffnung (1948). The novel explores the angst and suffering of both the Jews and their pursuers during the Third Reich. The text reflects Aichinger's commitment to the weak and skepticism about the German language.
After 1950, she was employed as a reader at the S. Fischer publishing house. In 1953 she married Guenter Eich, whom she had met at a conference of the "Gruppe 47," where she received an award for her Spiegelgeschichte. This is a piece of literary prose that narrates a reversed life with the attempt to unlearn everything including language and thus postulating silence. Aichinger's collection of narratives Rede unter dem Galgen was also published in 1953. In these narratives she examines a range of human emotions, including angst, alienation, paradox, and ambivalence. Aichingers lyric and narrative texts increasingly show the reduction of linguistic means focusing on subjectivity, thereby blending reality and dream, inner and outer world. Examples of these themes can be found in Eliza Eliza (1965), Schlechte Woerter (1976), Verschenkter Rat (1978) or Kleist, Moos, Fasane (1984). Aichinger also published a number of radio plays, including Knoepfe (1953), Besuch im Pfarrhaus (1962), Auckland (1970), and the radio dialog Belvedere (1995). These radio plays illustrate existential borderline experiences between assimilation and resistance. A later publication is Film und Verhaengnis: Blitzlichter auf ein Leben (2001), notes on films and photography which turn a spotlight on the cultural life of Vienna between 1921 and 1945.
Aichinger's awards over the years include the Nelly Sachs-Preis, the Georg Trakl-Preis, the Franz Kafka-Preis, and the Joseph-Breitbach-Preis. She was a member of the Deutsche Akademie fuerr Sprache und Dichtung, the Akademie der Kuenste Berlin, and the Bayerische Akademie der Schoenen Künste.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica
B. Thums, "Den Ankuenften nicht glauben wahr sind die Abschiede": Mythos, Gedaechtnis und Mystik in der Prosa Ilse Aichingers (2000); K. Bartsch, Ilse Aichinger (1993); S. Moser, Ilse Aichinger. Leben und Werk (1990); G. Lindemann, Ilse Aichinger (1988); D. Lorenz, Ilse Aichinger (1981).