Ricarda Huch (1864-1947), German novelist, poet, and cultural historian, won renown as a talented writer in several genres.
Ricarda Huch was born in Brunswick (Braunschweig) on Aug. 18, 1864, the daughter of a merchant. She became the first female student admitted to the University of Zurich at a time when women could not study at any German university; she obtained her doctorate in history in 1892. The next years she spent working first as a librarian in Zurich and later as a schoolteacher in Bremen. Her Swiss experiences she later described in a charming book of memoirs, Frühling in der Schweiz (1938).
Huch's first creative phase (1890-1900) is marked by several volumes of lyrical poetry written in neoromantic style: Gedichte (1891) and Neue Gedichte (1907), both later issued under the title Liebeslyrik (1913). Their central theme is that of her love for her cousin Richard Huch, whom she married in 1907 after divorcing her first husband, an Italian dentist, Ermanno Ceconi. Her second marriage lasted only 3 years.
Huch's first novel was a highly romantic book on which her early fame rested: Erinnerrungen von Ludolf Ursleu dem Jüngeren (1892). Aus der Triumphgasse (1902) mixes realistic and romantic elements in describing the slum districts of Trieste. But her basic theme, the will to live, finds expression here and in her next novel, Vita somnium breve (1903).
Huch won prominence during the years 1902 to 1910 as a master of the historical novel. Best known are two brilliant works dealing with the romantic period in German history: Blütezeit der Romantik (1899) and Ausbreitung und Verfall der Romantik (1902). Several of her books from this period center on the theme of the unification of Italy in the 19th century: Die Geschichten von Garibaldi (1906-1907), Die Verteidigung Roms (1906), and Der Kampf um Rom (1907). Later she turned to the historical works that assure her a lasting place in the history of German letters: Her trilogy, Deutsche Geschichte (1912-1949), deals respectively with Germany during the Thirty Years War, the Reformation, and the collapse of the Holy Roman Empire. Lighter works include a successful series of novellen (short tales) and a psychological detective novel, Der Fall Daruga (1917).
At the time of Hitler's rise to power in Germany the writer was one of her country's most respected members of the Preussische Dichterakademie (Academy of Prussian Writers). However, in protest to Hitler's dictatorship, she refused to join the newly founded Nazi Academy of Writers.
The numerous honors awarded to Huch included appointment as honorary senator of the University of Munich (1924), the Goethe Prize of Frankfurt (1931), and an honorary doctorate at the University of Jena (1946). She died while visiting in Frankfurt am Main on Nov. 17, 1947.
Further Reading on Ricarda Huch
Material on Ricarda Huch in English is scarce. For her place in German Literature see J. G. Robertson, A History of German Literature (rev. ed. 1947); H. Boeschenstein, The German Novel, 1934-44 (1949); and Ronald Gray, The German Tradition in Literature, 1871-1945 (1965).