Wildgans, Anton

Wildgans, Anton
   A versatile intellectual, Wildgans was both a poet and dramatist. He was also trained as a jurist and from 1909–1911 served in the Austrian judiciary as an investigating magistrate. Two of his plays, Armut (Poverty, 1914) and Dies irae (1918), sharply criticized the social and economic conditions of his time. From 1921 to 1922 and again in 1930–1931, Wildgans was the director of the Vienna Burgtheater. A prize for Austrian literature is given today in his name.
   Wildgans was a convinced partisan of an independent Austria after World War I; it is for these views that he is most often remembered. In the fall of 1929, he wrote a paper, “Der österreichische Mensch” (“The Austrian”), which he was supposed to deliver before the king of Sweden and other local notables in Stockholm. Becoming ill en route to the north, Wildgans turned back.
   He read his text instead as a radio address in Vienna on New Year’s Day in 1930. His countrymen, he said, were defined by several qualities— their ability to understand others, to empathize with them, and to reconcile differences; by their dedication to international political pluralism; and by their patience with deprivation (clearly a reference to the Austrian experience immediately after World War I). In addition to these qualities, said Wildgans, they were more inclined to improvise than to follow mechanical formulas and basically skeptical of all radical change.
   The address deeply impressed a broad spectrum of his intellectual contemporaries. Following World War II, many public readings of the speech took place in Austria under the Allied occupation.
   See also Theater.

Historical dictionary of Austria. . 2014.

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