The Angel of the West Window, стр. 1


For many years an academic with a special interest in Austrian literature and culture, Mike Mitchell has been a freelance literary translator since 1995.

He is one of Dedalus’s editorial directors and is responsible for the Dedalus translation programme.

He has published over fifty translations from German and French, including Gustav Meyrink’s five novels and The Dedalus Book of Austrian Fantasy.

His translation of Rosendorfer’s Letters Back to Ancient China won the 1998 Schlegel-Tieck Translation Prize after he had been shortlisted in previous years for his translations of Stephanie by Herbert Rosendorfer and The Golem by Gustav Meyrink.

His translations have been shortlisted three times for The Oxford Weidenfeld Translation Prize: Simplicissimus by Johann Grimmelshausen in 1999, The Other Side by Alfred Kubin in 2000 and The Bells of Bruges by Georges Rodenbach in 2008.

His biography of Gustav Meyrink: Vivo: The Life of Gustav Meyrink was published by Dedalus in November 2008.

His website can be visited at



The Translator


My New Novel

The Angel of the West Window

Assja Shotokalungin

Private Diary

The First Vision

The Second Vision

By the Same Author



Gustav Meyrink (1868-1932) came relatively late to literature. He began his first story in a sanatorium, where he was convalescing from tuberculosis, in 1901. It was published that year in the famous satirical magazine, Simplicissimus, and was the first of many short stories in which he combined fantasy and humour with biting satire of the complacency of the pre-war bourgeoisie. His first – and best-known – novel, Der Golem, appeared in a magazine in 1913; in its book form published in 1915 it was an immediate success. Three more novels followed in the next few years: Das grüne Gesicht (The Green Face) 1916, Walpurgisnacht 1917 and Der Weiße Dominikaner (The White Dominican) 1921. In the 1920s he largely abandoned his own creative work to edit mystical and occult writings, an activity which was the product of his profound personal interest in the occult. Like his hero, John Dee, Meyrink in his own life experienced the suspicions and rumours which preoccupation with the occult engenders; indeed, he may well have encouraged them in his early years. During the war he was attacked both by the pen and by stones thrown at his house, though these attacks were probably directed more at his satire than at his occult tendencies. Der Engel vom westlichen Fenster was his last novel and appeared in 1927 when he was already beginning to be plagued by both health and financial problems. It, too, derives from his studies of the occult and is his longest and most complex work.

It is said that Meyrink’s first story was thrown into the waste paper basket at the Simplicissimus offices, whence it was retrieved by the editor, Ludwig Thoma. This is probably a legend, but so many of the real facts of Meyrink’s own life were fantastic that he is the type of person around whom legends gather. He was born in Vienna, the illegitimate son of an actress, Maria Meyer, and an aristocrat in the service of the King of Württemberg, Karl Freiherr von Varnbüler. Later rumours that he had royal blood in his veins were not discouraged by Meyrink. (Meyrink was originally a pseudonym; in 1917 he adopted it as his real name.)

Although the difference in status made a marriage out of the question, his father paid for his education. Most of his schooling took place in Munich but was completed in Prague, where his mother had moved in 1883. In the twenty-three years he lived there, until he moved to Bavaria in 1906, he became a well-known figure, above all as a dandy and man-about-town capable of outrageous behaviour. He followed the principle of épater le bourgeois in practice long before it became the dominant tone of his writing. Although he only settled in Prague as an adult, the city and, above all, the atmosphere of mystery about its old streets was a determining factor behind his writing, even after he had moved away. Meyrink was probably the author who more than any other created the romantic image of Prague which played an important role in the German literature and cinema of the first decades of this century. (Others were the young Rilke and Kafka, with whom this image of Prague is now mostly associated.)

In 1889 he founded a bank (was it mere chance that his partner was the nephew of the German poet, Christian Morgenstern, who mingled nonsense humour with mysticism?). He married in 1892 but later had an affair with Philomena Bernt, whom he eventually married (in Dover, a kind of continental Gretna) after he had finally managed to get a divorce in 1905. This affair caused one of the many scandals he was involved in. Meyrink challenged two officers to a duel but they, afraid of his reputation as an outstanding swordsman, refused on the grounds that he was illegitimate and therefore not satisfaktionsfähig, whereupon Meyrink challenged the whole officers’ corps. In the same year, 1902, came the events that led to the ruin of his business. Meyrink was accused, by an official he had attacked in the press, of using spiritualism to influence his clients, especially female ones. He spent almost three months in goal before his name was cleared, by which time the bank had collapsed. His blossoming career as a writer was an important source of income, though he did find other work at times, most congenially, perhaps, as a representative for a champagne producer.

Meyrink’s interest in the occult was aroused by another of those incidents which are almost too good to be true and in which his life was so rich. In 1891 he suffered a nervous breakdown; his decision to commit suicide was overturned by an occultist leaflet which was pushed under his door. Whether this is fact or part of the self-created legend, what is certainly true is that from that time onward he showed an active interest in all aspects of the occult. Some of that interest was