Georg Trakl

Georg Trakl
Born (1887-02-03)3 February 1887
Salzburg, Duchy of Salzburg
Died 3 November 1914(1914-11-03) (aged 27)
Kraków, Austria-Hungary (now Poland)
Occupation Poet, pharmacist, writer
Citizenship Austro-Hungarian
Alma mater University of Vienna (pharmacy)
Literary movement Expressionism
A poem by Trakl inscribed on a plaque in Mirabell Garden, Salzburg.

Georg Trakl (3 February 1887 – 3 November 1914) was an Austrian poet and brother of the pianist Grete Trakl. He is considered one of the most important Austrian Expressionists.[1] He is perhaps best known for his poem "Grodek", which he wrote shortly before he died of a cocaine overdose.

Life and work

Trakl was born and lived the first 21 years of his life in Salzburg, Cisleithania. His father, Tobias Trakl (11 June 1837, Ödenburg/Sopron – 1910),[2] was a dealer of hardware from Hungary, while his mother, Maria Catharina Halik (17 May 1852, Wiener Neustadt – 1925), was a housewife of Czech descent, she was a drug-addict and left the education to a French "gouvernante", who brought Trakl into contact with French language and literature at an early age. His sister Grete Trakl was a musical prodigy; with her he shared artistic endeavors. Poems allude to an incestuous relationship between the two.[3]

Trakl attended a Catholic elementary school, although his parents were Protestants. He matriculated in 1897 at the Salzburg Staatsgymnasium, where he had problems in Latin, Greek, and mathematics, for which he had to repeat one year and then leave without Matura. At age 13, Trakl began to write poetry.

After quitting high school, Trakl worked for a pharmacist for three years and decided to adopt pharmacy as a career, partly this facilitated access to drugs such as morphium and cocaine. It was during this time that he experimented with playwriting, but his two short plays, All Souls' Day and Fata Morgana, were not successful. However, from May to December 1906, Trakl published four prose pieces in the feuilleton section of two Salzburg newspapers. All cover themes and settings found in his mature work. This is especially true of “Traumland” (Dreamland), in which a young man falls in love with a dying girl who is his cousin.[4]

In 1908, Trakl moved to Vienna to study pharmacy, and became acquainted with some local artists who helped him publish some of his poems. Trakl's father died in 1910, soon before Trakl received his pharmacy certificate; thereafter, Trakl enlisted in the army for a year-long stint. His return to civilian life in Salzburg was unsuccessful and he re-enlisted, serving as a pharmacist at a hospital in Innsbruck. There he became acquainted with a group of avant-garde artists involved with the well-regarded literary journal Der Brenner, a journal that began the Kierkegaard revival in the German-speaking countries. Ludwig von Ficker, the editor of the journal Der Brenner (and son of the historian Julius von Ficker), became his patron: he regularly printed Trakl's work and endeavored to find him a publisher to produce a collection of poems. The result of these efforts was Gedichte (Poems), published by Kurt Wolff in Leipzig during the summer of 1913. Ficker also brought Trakl to the attention of Ludwig Wittgenstein, who anonymously provided him with a sizable stipend so that he could concentrate on his writing.

At the beginning of World War I, Trakl was sent as a medical official to attend soldiers in Galicia (comprising portions of modern-day Ukraine and Poland). Trakl suffered frequent bouts of depression.[5] During one such incident in Gródek (ukrain. Horodok) near Lwiw in present Ukraine, Trakl had to steward the recovery of some ninety soldiers wounded in the fierce campaign against the Russians. He tried to shoot himself from the strain, but his comrades prevented him. Hospitalized at a military hospital in Kraków and observed closely, Trakl lapsed into worse depression and wrote to Ficker for advice. Ficker convinced him to communicate with Wittgenstein. Upon receiving Trakl's note, Wittgenstein went to the hospital, but found that Trakl had died of a cocaine overdose.[6] Trakl was buried at Kraków's Rakowicki Cemetery on 6 November 1914, but on 7 October 1925, as a result of the efforts by Ficker, his remains were transferred to Mühlau near Innsbruck (where they now repose next to Ficker's).

Themes and motifs

While Trakl's very earliest poems are more philosophical and do not deal as much with the real world, most of his poems are either set in the evening or have evening as a motif.[7] Silence is also a frequent motif in Trakl's poetry, and his later poems often feature the silent dead, who are unable to express themselves.[8]


Selected titles
Literary works in English
Critical studies

Poetry of Trakl in music

Movies Regarding Georg Trakl

See also


  1. "Georg Trakl". Project Gutenberg (in German). Spiegel Online.
  2. Hardware dealer Tobias Trakl from West Hungary relocated to Wiener Neustadt for professional reasons. , , ,
  3. Marty Bax: Immer zu wenig Liebe. Grete Trakl. Ihr feinster Kuppler. Ihre Familie. Amsterdam 2014, E-Book .
  4. Sieglinde Klettenhammer, Georg Trakl in Zeitungen und Zeitschriften seiner Zeit: Kontext und Rezeption (Vienna: Inst. für Germanistik, 1990).
  5. "Georg Trakl – Life and work, Critical appraisal, Online texts, Bibliography". Retrieved 9 December 2009.
  6. James Wright and Robert Bly (22 August 2008). "Georg Trakl: Twenty Poems". Scribd. Retrieved 22 April 2009.
  7. Brown, Russell E. (January 1969). "Time of Day in Early Expressionist Poetry". PMLA. Modern Language Association. 84 (1): 20–28.
  8. Lyon, James K.. (Winter 1970). "Georg Trakl's Poetry of Silence". Monatshefte. University of Wisconsin Press. 62 (4): 340–356.
  9. Library of Congress catalogue listing, retrieved 2011-06-25.
  10. (Russian) Official site of David Fyodorovich Tukhmanov
  11. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 19 April 2014. Retrieved 5 April 2014.

Further reading

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Online texts

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