The Death of Virgil

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The Death of Virgil
First edition
Author Hermann Broch
Original title Der Tod des Virgil
Country Austria
Language German
Genre Historical novel
Publisher Pantheon Books
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 494 pp (first edition hardcover)
ISBN 1-117-57202-1 (first edition hardcover)

The Death of Virgil (German: Der Tod des Vergil) is a 1945 novel by the Austrian author Hermann Broch. The narrative reenacts the last hours of life of the Roman poet Virgil, in the port of Brundisium (Brindisi), whence he had accompanied the emperor Augustus, his decision – frustrated by the emperor – to burn his Aeneid, and his final reconciliation with his destiny. Virgil's heightened perceptions as he dies recall his life and the age in which he lives. The poet is in the interval between life and death, just as his culture hangs between the pagan and Christian eras. As he reflects, Virgil recognises that history is at a cusp and that he may have falsified reality in his attempt to create beauty.

Writing process[edit]

Broch started to write the novel in 1936, worked on a second version in 1938 – to some extent while imprisoned in Bad Aussee for three weeks – and finished it in the United States (1940-1945). The stream of consciousness and complex literary allusions in the novel were influenced by the modernist style of James Joyce. The first edition was an English translation by Jean Starr Untermeyer, who is said to have collaborated so closely with Broch as to be almost a co-author.


Pantheon Books of New York City published the book in an English translation by Jean Starr Untermeyer in 1945. Pantheon also published an edition in the original German later that year. A German language edition was also published in Zürich by Rhein Verlag in 1947 but the first German publication was not until 1958 when editions were published in Frankfurt and Munich; the latter with colour illustrations by Celestino Piatti. As of 2005 the most recent English language edition of the novel (Penguin, 2000) is out of print, although Vintage Books appears still to offer it in a 1995 reprint,[1] and released it as an ebook on January 12, 2012.[2]


Harry Levin comments that "Broch's novel creates out of a dying poet a rich, profound vision both of civilization and of primal concerns of all mankind."[citation needed]


Some scholars have interpreted the book as an anti-Nazi novel. Virgil's fear that his writing will only serve to encourage autocratic repression is seen as a direct result of the Nazi Party's interest in and inspiration from classical sources.[3]


  • Broch, Hermann. Untermeyer, Jean Starr (tr.) The Death of Virgil (New York: Pantheon, 1945)
  • Broch, Hermann. Der Tod des Vergil (New York: Pantheon, 1945)
  • Broch, Hermann. Untermeyer, Jean Starr (tr.) The Death of Virgil (London: Routledge, 1946)
  • Broch, Hermann. Der Tod des Vergil (Zürich: Rhein, 1947)
  • Broch, Hermann. Der Tod des Vergil (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1958)
  • Broch, Hermann. Piatti, Celestino. Der Tod des Vergil (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch, 1958)
  • Broch, Hermann. Untermeyer, Jean Starr (tr.) The Death of Virgil (London/New York: Penguin, 2000)
  • Broch, Herman.der Tod des Vergil "the life and times of Vergil


  1. ^ "Death of Virgil by Hermann Broch (catalog entry)". Random House, Inc. Retrieved 2012-05-28. 
  2. ^ "eBook: Death of Virgil written by Hermann Broch". Random House, Inc. Retrieved 2012-05-28. 
  3. ^ Beard, Mary; Henderson, John (1995). Classics: A Very Short Introduction. Great Britain: Oxford University Press. pp. 108–109. ISBN 9780192853851.