Claudio Magris

Portrait Claudio Magris
© Ali Ghandtschi

was born in Trieste, Italy, in 1939. He studied literature and philosophy in Turin. His dissertation »Il mito asburgico nella letteratura austriaca moderna« (1963; tr: The Habsburg Myth in Modern Austrian Literature), was published when he was 24 years old and laid the ground for the themes and theoretical sources of his later publications. After studying for a time in Freiburg, he taught at the University of Turin before becoming a professor of modern German literature at the University of Trieste in 1978.  As a specialist in Central European literature, he has published numerous essays and critical studies on writers such as Wilhelm Heinse, E.T.A. Hoffmann, and Joseph Roth. Since the late 1970s he has written a regular column for the newspaper »Corriere della Sera«.

In 1982 a collaboration with the historian Angelo Ara was published under the title »Trieste. Un’identità di frontiera« (tr: Trieste: A Border Identity). On this cultural and literary foray through the city, once the residence of James Joyce, Italo Svevo and other writers, the authors ask questions about Trieste’s identity with regard to the heterogenous influences of the empire and of Italian, Slovenian, German, Greek, and Jewish culture.  In »Danubio« (1986), Claudio Magris set out to find traces of the diverse Habsburg empire. Following the course of the Danube, he offers an essayistic-biographical travelogue consisting of myths, anecdotes, stories about people, cities, and landscapes, as well as philosophical and literary meditations that forms a detailed panorama of the cultural and literary region surrounding this »only true European river«. Apart from his essays, Magris has written the novella »Illazioni su una sciabola« (1984; Eng. »Inferences from a Sabre«, 1991), the play »Stadelmann« (1988), and a long list of novels. »Non luogo a procedere« (2015; Eng. »Blameless«, 2017), a novel that can be read as a »parable of violence and at the same time be understood as a convincing model for its reversal« (»FAZ«), describes the cruelties of war and the danger of forgetting. In homage to his 80th birthday, the »Snapshots« collection with snapshots of the absurdity and poetry of everyday life from over two decades appeared in 2019.

Among the most important literary awards Magris has received are the Premio Strega for »Microcosms« (1999), the Leipzig Book Prize for European Understanding in 2001, the Prince of Asturias Prize in 2006, and the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade in 2009. In 2012 he was awarded the Grand Cross of Merit of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. Claudio Magris lives in Trieste.