The estate of the forgotten author Maria Lazar

It is the literary sensation of recent years. The work of the Viennese author Maria Lazar was considered lost for more than 70 years. She was deliberately ignored in the biographies of prominent contemporaries such as Elias Canetti, Egon Friedell or Oskar Kokoschka, who had portrayed her several times. Lazar’s name is missing in literary histories and specialist encyclopedias, although the author was already considered one of Vienna’s most productive voices in the early 1930s.

With her debut novel, “The Poisoning”, she disturbed her own family, which was more or less portrayed in it. Thomas Mann criticized the work’s “penetrative woman’s odor”; Robert Musil, on the other hand, praised the “rich(n) ideas” and the “nimble power in the figural”. Maria Lazar was considered rebellious, clever and always kept her finger fearlessly in the wounds of her time writing. Because, as she once described it herself: “Being young means seeing life as it is, present, naked, cruel.” At the same time, she reflected: “It is extremely embarrassing to constantly run around as explosives, sometimes even ridiculous.” And Incidentally, she said: “Some give in, others splinter in bad poems and others play football. This is a pity.”

The baseness in the whispering of fellow human beings

It’s this mixture of female intelligence, wicked wit and implacability in the description that makes her stand out. She recorded the baseness in the whisperings of her fellow human beings as well as the moral depravity behind Vienna’s bourgeois facade and located in the Catholic belief in miracles of idyllic mountain villages a cause for the decay of the young democracy in Austria. Of course, that didn’t make her any friends; accordingly, as a Jewess and a woman, she was no longer published.

As early as 1927, Maria Lazar fled to her friend Helene Weigel in Berlin and later went into exile with the Brechts in Denmark and Sweden. Their literary rediscovery is mainly due to Professor Johann Sonnleitner from the University of Vienna and his student Albert C. Eibl, who decided to set up a publishing house specifically for Lazar’s work: The forgotten book.

A work believed lost

A look at the estate, which until recently was still in boxes and boxes under the granddaughter’s bed in a district of Nottingham, finally brought the incomprehensible to light. Alongside unpublished novels, brilliant short stories and plays, there were also poems. Neatly, typed on thin paper with a typewriter, sorted into folders by the author and preserved for posterity. They give an insight into the work of those who remained in exile alone with their children. On March 30, 1948 Maria Lazar committed suicide in Sweden.

Ö1 has accompanied the search for the lost work and is also making Lazar’s poetry heard for the first time. So there is a little happy ending after all. On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of her death, Maria Lazar’s estate will now be handed over to the Austrian exile library in the Literaturhaus Wien in an official ceremony. The newly discovered and previously unpublished novel “Four times I” will also be presented there. The Vienna Burgtheater commemorates them in April with a special program.

Design: Kerstin Schütze