Gertrud von Le Fort

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Gertrud von Le Fort
Gertrud v Le Fort c1935.jpg
Born 11 October 1876 Edit this on Wikidata
Minden Edit this on Wikidata
Died 1 November 1971 Edit this on Wikidata (aged 95)
Oberstdorf Edit this on Wikidata
Website Edit this on Wikidata

The Baroness Gertrud von Le Fort (full name Gertrud Auguste Lina Elsbeth Mathilde Petrea Freiin von Le Fort; 11 October 1876 – 1 November 1971) was a German writer of novels, poems and essays.


Le Fort was born in the city of Minden, in the former Province of Westphalia, then the Kingdom of Prussia within the German Empire. She was the daughter of a colonel in the Prussian Army, who was of Swiss Huguenot descent. She was educated as a young girl in Hildesheim, and went on to study at universities at Heidelberg, Marburg and Berlin. She made her home in Bavaria in 1918, living in Baierbrunn until 1939.[1]

Despite publishing some minor works previously, Le Fort's writing career really began with the publication in 1925 of the posthumous work Glaubenslehre by her mentor, Ernst Troeltsch, a major scholar in the field of the philosophy of religion, which she had edited. She converted to Roman Catholicism the following year. Most of her writings came after this conversion, and they were marked by the issue of the struggle between faith and conscience.[2]

In 1931, Le Fort published the novella, Die Letzte am Schafott (The Last at the Scaffold), based on the 1794 execution of the Carmelite Martyrs of Compiègne. An English translation, titled The Song at the Scaffold, appeared in 1933.[3] In 1947, Georges Bernanos wrote film dialogue to a proposed cinema scenario by Philippe Agostini based on Le Fort's novella, but the screenplay was not filmed at the time. Following Bernanos' death, after discussion witn Bernanos' literary executor, Albert Béguin, Le Fort granted permission for publication of Bernanos' work in January 1949, and gifted her portion of the royalties due to her, as creator of the original story, over to Bernanos' widow and children. Le Fort requested that Bernanos' work be titled differently from her own novella, and Beguin chose the new title Dialogues des Carmélites.[4] This formed the basic for the opera by Francis Poulenc from 1956.

Le Fort went on to publish over 20 books, comprising poems, novels and short stories. Her work gained her the accolade of being "the greatest contemporary transcendent poet". Her works are appreciated for their depth and beauty of their ideas, and for her sophisticated refinement of style. She was nominated by Hermann Hesse for the Nobel Prize in Literature, and was granted an honorary Doctorate of Theology for her contributions to the issue of faith in her works.[5]

In 1952, Le Fort won the Gottfried-Keller Prize, an esteemed Swiss literary award.

Among her many other works, Le Fort also published a book titled Die ewige Frau (The Eternal Woman) in 1934, which appeared in paperback in English in 2010. In this work, she countered the modernist analysis on the feminine, not with polemical argument, but with a meditation on womanhood.[6]

In 1939 Le Fort had made her home in the town of Oberstdorf in the Bavarian Alps, and it was there that she died on 1 November 1971, aged 95.[7]


  • Denn die Welt kann zwar durch die Macht des Mannes bewegt werden, gesegnet aber im eigentlichen Sinne des Wortes wird sie immer nur im Zeichen der Frau.
  • Heute hat die Frauenbewegung ihre Ziele weithin erreicht - wir stehen nicht mehr ihrem Kampf, sondern dessen Resultaten gegenüber.[8]


  • Helena M. Tomko : Sacramental Realism: Gertrud von le Fort and German Catholic Literature in the Weimar Republic and Third Reich (1924-46)[9]


  1. ^ The Oxford Companion to German Literature "Gertrud von Le Fort", as found in
  2. ^ Oxford Companion
  3. ^ The original publisher in English was Sheed & Ward of London.
  4. ^ Gendre, Claude, 'The Literary Destiny of the Sixteen Carmelite Martyrs of Compiègne and the Role of Emmet Lavery'. Renascence, 48.1, pp 37-60 (Fall 1995).
  5. ^ German 115 Fall 2005 USDA Graduate School "Gertrud von Le Fort"
  6. ^ Le Fort, Gertrud (2010). Alice von Hildebrand (translator), ed. The Eternal Woman:The Timeless Meaning of the Feminine. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. ISBN 978-1-58617-298-5. Retrieved 2012-08-06. 
  7. ^ Oxford Companion
  8. ^ Die ewige Frau: die Frau in der Zeit; die zeitlose Frau, Kösel Verlag 1960, S. 90
  9. ^ "Sacramental Realism: Gertrud Von Le Fort and German Catholic Literature in ... - Helena Mary Tomko - Google Boeken". Retrieved 2012-06-07. 

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