Gustav Meyrink

Biografie şi Bibliografie

Gustav Meyrink (January 19, 1868 – December 4, 1932) was the pseudonym of Gustav Meyer, an Austrian author, storyteller, dramatist, translator, and banker, most famous for his novel The Golem.


Gustav Meyrink was born with the name Gustav Meyer in Vienna, Austria-Hungary (now Austria) on January 19th, 1868. He was the illegitimate son of Baron Karl von Varnbüler von und zu Hemmingen and actress Maria Wilhelmina Adelheyd Meier.

Until thirteen years of age Meyrink lived mainly in Munich, where he completed elementary school. He then stayed in Hamburg for a brief time. Then his mother relocated to Prague during 1883.


Meyrink lived in Prague for twenty years and has depicted it many times in his works.

In Prague an event occurred which played a providential role in Meyrink's life. Meyrink described it in the autobiographical short story "The Pilot". That day, August 14, 1892, on Assumption Eve, Meyrink, 24 years old, was allegedly standing at his table with a gun at his head, determined to shoot himself. At that moment he heard a strange scratching sound and someone's hand put a tiny booklet under his door. The booklet was called Afterlife. Meyrink was surprised by this dramatic coincidence and started to study the literature of the occult. He studied theosophy, Kabbala, Christian Sophiology and Eastern mysticism. Until his death Meyrink practiced yoga and other occult exercises. Results of these studies and practices are clearly seen in Meyrink's works, which almost always deal with various occult traditions. Gershom Sholem, an expert in Jewish mysticism, has stated that Meyrink's works are based on superficial sources and do not have any strong association with any authentic tradition.

During 1889, together with the nephew of poet Christian Morgenstern, Meyrink established his own banking company, called "Meier & Morgenstern".

At that time Meyrink also was a member of the famous Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in London. This is proved by the letter from William Wynn Westcott (1893), which has remained in Meyrink's private archives. He was also member of the Theosophical Society, but only temporarily.

During 1902 Meyrink was charged with fraud. He was charged with using spiritualism in order to benefit from banking operations. Though in two months he was released from jail, his banking career was over. His jailhouse experiences are depicted in his most famous novel, The Golem.

Early works

During the 1900s Meyrink started publishing satiric short stories in the Simplicissimus magazine, signing it with his mother's surname. During spring 1903 Meyrink's first book, The Hot Soldier and Other Stories was released. Approximately at the same time he relocated to Vienna. Almost immediately after his arrival another compilation of his short stories, The Orchid. Strange stories, was released. On May 8, 1905 Meyrink married Philomene Bernt, whom he had known since 1896. On July 16, 1906 his daughter Sybil Felizata was born.

During 1908 the third compilation of short stories, Waxworks, was published.

On January 17, 1908, just the day before Meyrink's fortieth birthday, the second son, Harro Fortunat, was born. Subsequently the main character of the second Meyrink's novel The Green Face was given the same name.

Being in need of money, Meyrink started working as a translator and he became a prolific one; during five years he managed to translate into German fifteen volumes of Charles Dickens. He continued translating until his death, including various occult works and even Book of the Dead.

During 1911 Meyrink with his family moved to the little Bavarian town Starnberg, and during 1913 in Munich the book called The German Philistine's Horn was released. It was a compilation of short stories from the previous three books and several new ones.


During 1915 the first and most famous of Meyrink's novels, The Golem, was published, though its drafts may be traced back to 1908. The novel is rooted in Jewish legend about a rabbi who made a living being called golem (גולם) out of clay and animated it with a Kabbalistic spell, although these legends have little to do with the plotline for the most part. The main character is Athanasius Pernath, a contemporary lapidary from Prague. It is left to the reader to decide whether Pernath is simply writing down his hallucinations or gradually turning into a real golem. The novel was a great success and many copies were published. During 1916 one more compilation of short stories, Bats, and soon a second novel, The Green Face, was published. The next year his third novel, Walpurgis Night, was written.

By 1920 Meyrink's financial affairs improved so that he bought a villa in Starnberg. The villa became known as "The House at the Last Lantern" after the name of the house from The Golem. There he and his family lived for the next eight years and two more works — The White Dominican and Meyrink's longest novel The Angel of the West Window — were written.


The name "Fortunat" did not bring much luck to Meyrink's son: during the winter of 1932, while skiing, he injured his backbone terribly. That meant that for the rest of his life he would be confined to his armchair. On July 12, at the age of 24 he committed suicide — at the same age as his father was going to do it. Meyrink survived his son by half a year. He died on December 4, 1932 in Starnberg, Bavaria, Germany. He is buried in Starnberg Cemetery.


Books by Meyrink:

    * The Ardent Soldier (Der heiße Soldat) 1903,
    * The Waxworks 1907,
    * The German Philistine's Horn 1909,
    * The Golem (Der Golem) 1914,
    * The Green Face (Das grüne Gesicht) 1916,
    * Walpurgis Night (Walpurgisnacht) 1917,
    * The Land of the Time-Leeches 1920,
    * The White Dominican (Der weiße Dominikaner) 1921
    * At the Threshold of the Beyond 1923,
    * Goldmachergeschichten August Scherl Verlag Berlin 1925
    * The Angel of the West Window (Der Engel vom westlichen Fenster) 1927,

Books about Meyrink:

    * Binder, Hartmut: "Gustav Meyrink - Ein Leben im Bann der Magie" ["Gustav Meyrink - Life under the Spell of Magic"], Vitalis, 2009, ISBN 9783899190786
    * Mitchell, Mike: "Vivo: The Life of Gustav Meyrink", Dedalus Ltd, 2008, ISBN 1903517699

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