I first came to hear of Ödön von Horváth in Javier Marias’s Dark Back of Time, where Marias remarks on the nature of his death. Most remarkable is that Ödön von Horváth’s girfriend should suffer such a freak tragedy twice:
“(his) girfriend, who saw the same impossible accidental death happen to her father and her lover in the course of a single lifetime, her life, both struck by lightning and the younger man on New Years Day...”
Such a mention deserved further research, and I soon learned that the unfortunate Austrian was indeed killed, not on New Years Day, but during a storm on the first of June in 1938, when lightning struck a tree on the Champs-Élysées, breaking off a branch, which came crashing down on poor young Ödön von Horváth. He had fled the Nazis and finally felt safe in paris, telling a friend a few days before his death, “I am not so afraid of the Nazis … There are worse things one can be afraid of, namely things one is afraid of without knowing why. For instance, I am afraid of streets. Roads can be hostile to one, can destroy one. Streets scare me.” In a poem written in 1932, he states: “Yes, thunder, that it can do. And bolt and storm. Terror and destruction.” Indeed
Melville House, as a part of their Neversink Library, is now rolling out the works of Ödön von Horváth. Check them out here and here.