Literature and books

Mela Hartwig: Am I a Redundant Human Being?

Mela Hartwig: Am I a Redundant Human Being?

Thursday 7 October 2010, 7.00pm | Austrian Cultural Forum London

Book Launch with Dr Gerhard Dienes, Universalmuseum Joanneum Graz and Dr Alexandra Harris, University of Liverpool.

For the first time in English, a contemporary and friend of Virginia Woolf and Stefan Zweig gives us the definitive portrait of a woman lost on the margins of modern life. In this remarkable book, published by Dalkey Archive Press, Mela Hartwig presents Aloisia Schmidt - an ordinary secretary with a burning question: am I a re­dundant human being? She’s neither pretty nor ugly (though she wishes she were hideous: at least that would be something), has no imagination, and is forced to live vicariously through “borrowed” fantasy - from books, plays, even other people’s lives. She loves to hate herself, and loves for other people to hate her too. In one final, guilt-ridden, mastur­batory, self-obsessed confession, Aloisia indulges her masochistic tenden­cies to the fullest, putting her entire life on trial, and trying, through telling her story (a story, she assures us, that’s “so laughably mundane” it’s really no story at all), to transform an ordinary life into something extraordinary.

Mela Hartwig was born in 1893 in Vienna, where she went on to have a successful career as an actress. After marrying, Hartwig left the stage and turned her hand to writing, where she developed a name for herself as a modernist and feminist. In 1938, Hartwig and her husband immigrated to London, where she befriended Virginia Woolf. She died in London in 1967.