Friederike Mayröcker

Friederike Mayröcker was born in Vienna in 1924.  After being drafted as an air force aide during World War II, she took »external A-levels« in 1950, having already worked as an English teacher at Viennese high schools since 1946.  Her first poems appeared in Vienna’s avant-garde journal »Plan«. In 1956 her debut, »Larifari. Ein konfuses Buch« (Engl: Airy-fairy. A confused book), was published.

Mayröcker was loosely associated with the »Vienna Group«, but from the beginning broke away from their »concrete poetry«. Instead of exhibiting the material dimension of language, she worked above all with its imaginative aspect.  Her first volume of poetry, »metaphorisch« (1965; Engl: Metaphorical), consisted of eight long poems.  One year later »Tod durch Musen« (1965; Engl: Death through Muses), came out, a collection of poems with extremely varied models of construction. Mayröcker’s multi-layered constructions of texts are in keeping with the tradition of Surrealism and Dadaism and display manifold influences, among them the works of Beckett, Hölderlin, Freud and Barthes. Quotations and montage are two of the main compositional techniques employed by the poet, who features and reflects them especially in her prose work.  The state of unrelenting observation and the gathering of verbal material – not only from literature, but also from everyday life, for example from private correspondence or newspaper articles – adheres to a process of synthetising revision which produces novel and also dense text formations, often described as »magical«.

Once Mayröcker was released from her teaching activities in 1969, the main body of her work began to appear, which is made up of over eighty titles to date: alongside volumes of poetry, there are short stories, children’s books, theatre and radio plays.  Together with Ernst Jandl, her lifelong companion, she wrote »Fünf Mann Menschen« (1969; Engl: Five Man Humanity, 1984), for which they both won the Radio Play Prize of the War Blind.  Mayröcker has been awarded many further prizes, among them the Great Austrian State Prize, the Friedrich Hölderlin Prize, the Georg Büchner Prize and the Premio Internazionale.  As hinted at in some of her own titles for radio plays – »Die Umarmung nach Picasso« (1986; Engl: The Embrace, According to Picasso), »Repetitionen, nach Max Ernst« (1989; Engl: Repetitions, According to Max Ernst), and »Schubertnotizen oder Das unbestechliche Muster der Ekstase« (1987; Engl: Schubert Notes or The Incorruptible Pattern of Ecstasy) – her work is nurtured too by a dialogue with music and the visual arts.  Mayröcker sometimes integrates her own drawings into her texts and has also held her own exhibitions.

The distinctively experimental mode of Mayröcker’s early writing increasingly gave way to a formally seamless, slurred narrative stream in her later work.  Her novel »brütt oder Die seufzenden Gärten« (1998; Engl: brütt or The Sighing Gardens) astonished with its epic form.  Since the death of Ernst Jandl in 2000 Mayröcker has written several prose pieces about him and their life together, among them »Requiem für Ernst Jandl« (2001) and more recently »Und ich schüttelte einen Liebling« (2005; Engl: And I shook a Darling).  Jandl is also featured in many of her new poems as both a point of reference as well as a constant partner in dialogue.  Her recent poetry, among others, is recorded in »Gesammelte Gedichte.  1939-2003« (2003; Engl: Collected Poems.  1939-2003).  Mayröcker is considered one of the most important voices of contemporary German-language poetry.  She lives in Vienna.

© international literature festival berlin