Carl Spitteler in the SLA

Carl Spitteler
Portrait of Carl Spitteler

Carl Spitteler was born in Liestal in 1845 and soon exhibited a flair for the arts. After studying theology in Basel, Zurich and Heidelberg he spent the years 1871–1877 working as a tutor in St. Petersburg. While there he also composed his first literary work, “Prometheus and Epimetheus”, which was published by Sauerländer in 1881 following his return to Switzerland. It failed to attract the attention he had hoped for, so Spitteler put his literary ambitions on hold and eked out a living as a teacher and journalist for various newspapers including the NZZ, until an inheritance from his father-in-law gave him financial independence. In 1883 he married his former pupil Marie Op den Hooff, with whom he had two daughters.

His 1906 novella “Imago” was a major influence on psychoanalysis at the time. In 1914 he gave his controversial “Unser Schweizer Standpunkt” (“Our Swiss standpoint”) speech on the country’s situation in the First World War. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1919 and a year later received the Schiller Prize for his monumental verse epic “Olympian Spring”. Carl Spitteler died in 1924 in Lucerne, where he had lived with his family since 1893.

Last modification 16.10.2023

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