Friederike Mayröcker, Grande Dame in German Literature, Dies at 96

Her first book of prose miniatures, “Larifari: A Confused Book,” appeared in 1956 as part of a series of works by young Austrian writers. But she did not publish her first volume of poetry, “Death by Muses,” until a decade later, when she was 42. It established her as a leading lyrical voice of her generation.

Shortly thereafter, in 1969, she took early retirement after 24 years of teaching English and devoted the rest of her long life to writing.

That writing was prodigious. A 2003 edition of her collected poems, published by Suhrkamp, holds more than 1,000 pieces. Her prose works run to more than 20 volumes, including a series of memoirs about her and Mr. Jandl. The most comprehensive sampling of her poetry to appear in English is “Raving Language: Selected Poems 1946-2005.”

Ms. Mayröcker once drew a distinction between verse and prose this way: “Writing poetry is like painting in watercolors. Writing prose is a hard art, like making a sculpture.”

Earlier this year, a selection of her autobiographical works appeared in English with the title “The Communicating Vessels,” from Public Space Books. Ms. Mayröcker said her books, which appeared mostly in editions of only several thousand copies, had not made her wealthy. “I live off the prize money,” she said in the Kurier interview.

She left no immediate survivors.

Ms. Mayröcker’s most recent book, “as mornings and mossgreen I. Step to the window,” published last July, was shortlisted for the 2021 Leipzig Book Fair Prize. The jury that nominated her called attention to the way she “fuses poetry and prose into ‘proems’ full of infatuations, futilities, fantasies, daydreams.”

Summing up her life in “my heart my room my name,” a 1988 story written without punctuation, she chose to put things simply: “I live I write.”

She elaborated in the 2013 Welt interview. “Death is really a tyrant,” she said. “Because you don’t want to leave, but you have to, because he wants you to. You haven’t done everything you want to yet. And I still want so much. I can’t imagine saying at some point before I die: Now enough with the writing.”

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