As a multilingual country, Luxembourg has access to books in so many different languages that we sometimes forget our own authors, but Luxembourg has its own vibrant literary scene!
When thinking about Luxembourgish literature, the first names that usually come to mind are Michel Rodange, the author of the Rénert, Michel Lentz, who wrote our national anthem, or perhaps Edmond de la Fontaine, a playwright.
To mix things up, this Knowledge Bite will introduce you to three of Luxembourg's best-known female authors of the 20th Century.
Aline Mayrisch – de Saint Hubert
Aline Mayrisch was born on 22 August 1874 in Luxembourg. At age twenty, Mayrisch married Emile Mayrisch, who would become president of the steel producer ARBED in 1911.
In her 20s, Mayrisch began getting involved in intellectual and artistic circles and publishing literary criticism and articles on art and artists.
She considered herself a mediator between French and German culture; for instance, in an influential article, she introduced the German Poet Rainer Maria Rilke to a French reading public. In between the two world wars, she hosted German and French intellectuals in her home, facilitating cultural relationships between the two countries.
An unfinished novel, Andrée Reimenkapmpf, is unfortunately no longer extant. Apart from writing her own texts, Mayrisch also translated several medieval works.
Apart from her literary endeavours, Aline Mayrisch also helped advance a number of social causes, notably concerning women's rights. She helped establish the 'Asssociation pour les Intérêts de la Femme' (Association for Women's Interests) in 1906, which would go on to found the School for Young Girls in Luxembourg.
In addition, Mayrisch was president of the Red Cross, and after her death in 1947, she bequeathed Colpach Castle, where she had been living since 1920, to the association. A school in Luxembourg City (Lycée Aline Mayrisch) and several roads across the country are named in honour of this great Luxembourgish thinker.
A new biography (in German) of Mayrisch has recently been published.
Anise Koltz was born on 12 June 1928 in Eich and is now considered to be one of Luxembourg's most esteemed contemporary poets. Koltz dropped out of secondary school to marry a doctor, René Koltz and was focussing on her family before embarking on her literary career.
In the 1950s, Koltz began writing children's tales in Luxembourgish before moving on to short stories in German. Finally, she started composing poetry in German and French.
After the premature death of her husband, who died of late complications of the torture he endured during WWII, Koltz began composing exclusively in French.
A collection of her selected poems, Somnambule du Jour (Sleepwalker of the Day) (2016), have been published by the prestigious French publisher Gallimard. Her works have also been translated into numerous languages, including Spanish and Swedish.
In 1963, Koltz co-founded the Journées Littéraires de Mondorf (Mondorf Literary Days), an international literary festival she directed until 1974. As a great-niece of Emile Mayrisch, Koltz seeks to continue the tradition of forging international literary connections and driving collaborations.
She is a co-founder of The European Academy of Poetry and regularly takes part in international poetry festivals, such as the 'Printemps des Poètes' (Spring of the Poets). Through her involvement in literary circles, Koltz maintained correspondence with eminent authors, such as Herman Hesse or Alain Bosquet.
She has won many literary prizes, including national awards like the Prix Servais and international prizes, such as the Prix Apollinaire. Like Mayrisch, Koltz also works as a translator and is involved with charitable organisations.
You can watch Koltz read one of her poems (in French) here.
Rosemarie Kieffer was born on 30 December 1932 in Luxembourg City. She studied French, Luxembourgish, and Philosophy in Luxembourg and at the Sorbonne in Paris and also learned Russian. A
fter her further studies, Kieffer taught French, Latin, and Philosophy in girls' secondary schools. She advocated for women’s rights and was an active member of numerous organisations, such as the 'Conseil National des Femmes Luxembourgeoises' (National Council for Luxembourgish Women).
Kieffer was also the director of the Victor Hugo House in Vianden, a position she maintained until her death in 1996.
Kieffer primarily wrote in French and is known for her short stories, novellas, and travelogues inspired by her frequent travels. In addition to original works, Kiefer also contributed articles to magazines and newspapers and published scholarly essays, notably on the works of Aline Mayrisch and Anise Koltz.
You can read one of her English articles on the state of Luxembourgish literature here (requires library access).
At the University of Luxembourg, work is underway studying Luxemburgish women authors writing in French between 1900 and 2020. 'FEATHER – La plume et l’oeuvre littéraire' (The quill and the literary work) is a project that seeks to better understand Luxembourg’s literary identity with a particular focus on how women writers influence and participate in the latter.
You can find more information about Luxembourgish authors from 1815 to the present day in the Dictionary of Luxembourgish Authors (only available in German and French). If you’re interested in reading more books by Luxembourgish authors, you can find those here or in the (Luxembourgish) bookshop of your choice.