Heimat und Exil: Ihre Dynamik im Werk von Hilde Spiel (German text)
Howells, Christa Victoria
Doctor of Philosophy
Hilde Spiel (1911-1990) had gained a respectable literary reputation when she emigrated to England in 1936. At that time she was working on her fourth novel. It reflected her own experiences, as did most of her prose. She later turned to journalism to earn a living. Following the war she frequently returned to Austria. But even after her "final return" in 1963, she maintained strong personal and professional ties to Britain. She could never resolve the resulting dilemma of divided loyalties which she expressed in her autobiography by asking, "Which World is my World?" In exile Spiel decided to switch languages, usually producing both a German and an English version of her works. Detailed comparisons show the difficulty of making the transition to a foreign tongue and the considerable obstacles involved in eventually reversing the process. These changes also entailed significant textual revisions. In her own distinctive way Spiel confronted many of the problems germane to a woman of her generation. Her life and work were shaped by conflicting influences--literature and journalism, family and profession, her husbands Peter de Mendelssohn and Hans Flesch-Brunningen, past and present, her attachment to England and her passionate devotion to Vienna. Ultimately, she could not reconcile her image of the city's "Golden Autumn" that had produced such a wealth of cultural achievement with her impressions of present day Austria where she found provincialism and malice prevailing. Spiel's critical intelligence and sense of ambiguity define her style as a writer whose elegant and expressive language is evident even in her smallest pieces. The quality of her novels, to be sure, is not always consistent and her opinions are often controversial, even contestable, but Hilde Spiel's voice continues to deserve our attention.
Germanic literature; European history; English literature