Nachruf auf Helen Fehervary (1942–2023)

In Memoriam Helen Fehervary

We honor the life of Professor Emerita Helen Fehervary, who died April 13th in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We remember her spirited generosity and her devotion to her daughter. We recall the way she was able to "weave in and out of authors, philosophers, and historians, connecting pieces of everything together as if it were one of the Seghers' stories she loved." We are grateful that she energetically shared her encyclopedic knowledge with us. "Her mind was a keen and beautiful tapestry and she was extraordinary," wrote a graduate student.

Helen was kind and caring, presenting us with delicious herbs from her garden that she dried and lovingly packed in jam jars at the end of the year. And her strength! A broken hip she suffered whilst in Florence, Italy several years ago didn’t stop her for long. No one in our Department had a greater passion for German literature, and no faculty member was more committed to teaching students about the German literary tradition. No one had more joie de vivre or a greater dedication to their profession.

Born in Hungary, young Helen came to the United States in 1949. Earning degrees from Smith College and Brown University, Helen wrote her doctoral dissertation, Hölderlin and the Left : the search for a dialectic of art and life, under the direction of Jost Hermand at the University of Wisconsin, graduating in 1975.

Professor Fehervary had a long and distinguished career at Ohio State that began with her appointment as an assistant professor in 1974. She was an established Seghers, Brecht, Müller, and Wolf scholar and her research and teaching specializations included twentieth-century German literature, intellectual history, culture; Weimar Republic, exile 1930s and 1940s, Germany East and West 1945-1990; Holocaust-related topics, Central European modernism; comparative literature, women's literature, German-Jewish literature; narrative prose; literature and art history. She wrote extensively about twentieth-century Jewish German and Central European intellectual history and critical theory, as well as Jewish contributions to Modern German drama, theatre and film.

In 1993, she received the Helen Hooven Santmyer Prize in Women's Studies for Salvador’s Children: A Song for Survival, written under the pen name of Lea Marenn. The prize, established by the Ohio State University Press, is awarded annually for the “best book-length manuscript on the contributions of women, their lives and experiences, and their role in society.” Other major awards were presented to her by the Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung, National Endowment for the Humanities, American Association of University Women, Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst, International Research and Exchanges Board, Ohio Humanities Council, and the Ohio Arts Council.

Professor Fehervary chaired over thirty MA and PhD Examinations and directed more than a dozen dissertations at Ohio State in a career spanning over four decades. In 2018, Kristy R. Boney and Jennifer Marston William co-edited a Festschrift entitled Dimensions of Storytelling in German Literature and Beyond: For Once, Telling It All from the Beginning, in tribute to Professor Fehervary. Nineteen contributors celebrated her work, particularly on the prose of Anna Seghers, which continues to inspire scholars who examine narration and storytelling.

Graduate students have expressed that Helen inspired them greatly, both in their professional and in their personal lives. They remember her long-lasting valuable mentorship, revolutionary spirit, and that her instincts were always right as they discussed history and dissertation drafts together.

Students will also miss Professor Fehervary’s involvement in bringing drama to the Department. For example, in spring 2010, she organized a GLL theater workshop for undergraduate and graduate students that culminated in a public performance on the 16th of May, directed by Alexander Stillmark of Berlin, of Heiner Müller’s Die Hamletmaschine.

After retiring in the spring of 2015, Helen continued as the General Editor of the Anna Seghers Werkausgabe, 25 volumes (Berlin: Aufbau Verlag, 2000). This past November, the 14th volume was published. Read more about the series at the Aufbau Verlag page:

She also took part in the 2020-21 Emeritus Academy Lecture Series, recording Peter Lorre and Bertolt Brecht: a working relationship and friendship beyond Hollywood.

The world is a poorer place without Helen’s feisty and courageous presence. She is already missed by many colleagues, students, and staff members.

We extend heartfelt condolences to Helen’s daughter María and to friends and relatives in Europe.

Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures - The Ohio State University

Nachruf auf Helen Fehervary

Die amerikanische Germanistin Prof. em. Helen Fehervary, langjähriges Mitglied der Anna-Seghers-Gesellschaft, ist am 13. April in Albuquerque, New Mexico, gestorben. Ihr unerwarteter und plötzlicher Tod hinterlässt eine kaum zu schließende Lücke. Unser Mitgefühl gilt vor allem ihrer Tochter Maria.

Helen Fehervary hat – nicht nur in den USA – viel für Anna Seghers und ihr Werk getan, man kann das kaum ermessen. Den Studierenden vieler Jahrgänge an der Ohio State University hat sie, die gebürtige Ungarin, mit großem Engagement einen grenzüberschreitenden und toleranten Zugang zu Autorinnen und Autoren des antifaschistischen Exils, wie Bertolt Brecht, Anna Seghers und Walter Benjamin, vermittelt.

Wir alle in der Gesellschaft sind ihr zu großem Dank verpflichtet. Wie oft hat sie Vorträge bei unseren Konferenzen gehalten und dabei immer neue und originelle Zugänge zum Werk von Anna Seghers gefunden. Neben der Studie »Anna Seghers: The Mythic Dimension« ist sicher die Herausgabe des Sammel-Bandes »Challenge of History« ihr Vermächtnis.

Verdient gemacht hat sie sich in besonderem Maße durch die Herausgabe einer neuen Werkausgabe von Anna Seghers, die im Aufbau Verlag verlegt wird. Von den geplanten 24 Bänden sind mittlerweile 14 Bände erschienen. Als Bandbearbeiterin hat sie 2002 »Aufstand der Fischer von St. Barbara« auf den Weg gebracht. Den jüngst erschienenen Band »Die Gefährten« hat sie ebenfalls selbst betreut und mit einem klugen und instruktiven Kommentar versehen.

Wir sind alle besonders traurig darüber, dass der Plan eines gemeinsamen Lebens, das sie nach ihrer Emeritierung mit ihrer Tochter Maria in ihrem neuen Haus in Albuquerque (New Mexico) führen wollte, so grausam zerstört wurde.

Wir werden Helen und ihre Freundlichkeit, Hilfsbereitschaft, Offenheit und Expertise in allen Fragen der Literatur (und besonders in Bezug auf Anna Seghers) sehr vermissen.

Der Vorstand der Anna-Seghers-Gesellschaft, Berlin und Mainz, 16. April 2023

In Memoriam

The American Germanist Prof. em. Helen Fehervary, longtime member of the Anna Seghers Society, died on April 13th in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Her unexpected and sudden death leaves a void that can hardly be filled. Our sympathy goes above all to her daughter Maria.

Helen Fehervary has done a lot for Anna Seghers and her work, not only in the USA. It is hard to measure her impact. Born in Hungary, for many years she mentored students at the Ohio State University, engaging them through her strong commitment to a cross-border and tolerant approach toward authors trapped in anti-fascist exile, such as Bertolt Brecht, Anna Seghers and Walter Benjamin.

All of us in the Society owe her a great debt of gratitude. How often did she give lectures at our conferences, always bringing new and original approaches to the work of Anna Seghers. In addition to her study Anna Seghers: The Mythic Dimension, her edited anthology Challenge of History certainly belongs to her lasting legacy.

Helen deserves special recognition for her efforts in publishing the new critical edition of Anna Seghers’s works, appearing in Aufbau Verlag. Of the planned 24 volumes, 14 have now been published. As one of the editors she initiated In 2002 the volume Aufstand der Fishermen from St. Barbara. The most recently published volume in the edition, Die Gefährten, also appeared under her purview and for which she provided a knowledgeable and instructive commentary.

We are all particularly sad that her plan after retiring for a life together with her daughter Maria in their new home in Albuquerque (New Mexico) was so cruelly upended.

We will very much miss Helen and her kindness, helpfulness, openness and expertise in all literary questions (and especially in relation to Anna Seghers).

The Board of Directors of the Anna Seghers Society, Berlin and Mainz, April 16, 2023

© Heidi Paris/Merve Verlag[1][3] Ute Schendel[2] Margit Broich[4]