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Georg Trakl (Austria)

In July 1914, just before the outbreak of war, Ludwig Wittgenstein asked the editor of leading Austrian literary journal 'Der Brenner' for the names of two deserving poets on whom he could bestow a generous financial donation from his inheritance. On the advice of Von Ficker, the money was awarded to the Austrian Georg Trakl, whose highly expressive visionary poetry had already deeply impressed the other recipient of that award, Rainer Maria Rilke. From a precarious existence and in the space of a few years, Trakl, a veritable 'po├Ęte maudit', poured forth an extraordinary and unclassifiable volume of poems replete with mesmerising imagery and haunting visions. Highly sensitive and morbidly introspective, the young poet from Salzburg took his cue from Nietzsche, Rimbaud and Dostoyevsky.

Trakl's preoccupation is the fall of mankind, a yearning for transcendence through religious purity and love in the face of overwhelming morbid despair. Incoherent symbolic images cascade in a delirious fashion to form dream-like worlds, both nightmarish and eerily beautiful. Despite numerous attempts to explain Trakl's vision, his poetry has steadfastly defied any coherent critical analysis. Though Trakl's vision is bleak, there is great tenderness and a sense of hope against all the odds secreted in his poetry, factors which are often overlooked in the light of his brief and irrevocably doomed existence. In November 1914, Trakl, who had enthusiastically enlisted in the Austrian army as a medical orderly, died from an overdose of cocaine whilst being held for psychiatric observation in a military hospital in Krakow, Poland. He was twenty-seven.