Understanding Franz Werfel describes the life and work of the Austrian poet and novelist who heralded the German Expressionist movement in 1911, wrote some of Europe's most widely read novels in the 1930s, and enjoyed popular success in the 1940s with the film adaptations of his best-selling novels. Hans Wagener recounts Werfel's childhood in Prague, his service as a World War I soldier, his work as a writer in Vienna where he met and married Alma Mahler, his exile in France, and his final years in the United States.
Best known in the United States for film versions of The Song of Bernadette and Me and the Colonel, Werfel left a legacy that extends beyond the cinema. Wagener analyzes Werfel's innovative poetry and its impact on Expressionism, his Expressionistic and Neorealistic dramas, his essays, and his popular novellas and novels including Verdi: A Novel of the Opera, The Forty Days of Musa Dagh, Embezzled Heaven, and Star of the Unborn. In exploring Werfel's thematic concerns, Wagener presents Werfel's work as an integrated whole, drawing attention to the writer's unwavering plea that humanity not succumb to the secularism and brutality of the modern age.
Hans Wagener is professor of German and chair of the Department of Germanic Languages at the University of California, Los Angeles. Author of eleven books, Wagener's most recent include Carl Zuckmayer, Sarah Kirsch, and Understanding Erich Maria Remarque.