No. 4




George Trakl

George Trakl was born in Salzburg, Austria on February 3d, 1887. He was the fourth of six children, his father was a successful ironmonger and enabled Trakl a childhood free of material cares. Trakl's short life is marked by personal tragedies. He failed to achieve the "Abitur", thus being unable to study at the university level. From adolescence onward, he consumed large quantities of alcohol and narcotics, particularly cocaine, his addictions growing worse during his training as a pharmacist. The only woman he seems to have loved was his younger sister Margarete, a talented pianist who married and moved to Berlin. By 1914, Trakl had failed in most of his practical plans, found himself destitute, severely depressed and in utter despair over his inability to earn a living. His connection to der Brenner, a literary magazine which printed much of his work, was his only source of stability. At the outbreak of World War One, he was forced to join up with the Medical Corps and was posted to the Eastern Front in Galicia, where he was solely responsible for ninety wounded soldiers after the battle of Grodek. His already unstable mind was unable to deal with this horrifying experience. He attempted to shoot himself, but was saved by comrades. Confined in a psychiatric clinic and afraid of being court martialled, he took an overdose of cocaine and died in custody. Trakl's poetry developed astonishingly quickly, from fairly conventional ballads to the poems which established him as one of the great figures of German poetry in the 20th century. Although he published only two books in his short life, his influence was tremendous.


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