Mela Hartwig

“My whole life I’d lived off the one wretched ambition that still possessed me: to be more than I was; to reject and despise everything that was in my reach and to set goals I was incapable of reaching; to chase after emotions I was incapable of feeling; to seek out adventures I couldn’t live up to; to have a friendship that was no friendship, a love that was no love; ambitions yoked to a weak will, a will stuck in the mire of unfulfilled desire.”

― Quote from Mela Hartwig’s Am I a Redundant Human Being? (Link to Source) 

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Mela Hartwig (First Draft)


Austrian writer, actress & painter

Born  Oct 10, 1893 in Vienna, Austria

Maiden Name: Melanie Hess 

Died April 24, 1967 in London, Great Britain

Biographical Detail: 

1893 Born as illegitimate daughter of Katharina Hess and Austrian sociologist 

and philosopher Theodor Hartwig

1917-1921 After having studied pedagogy in Vienna, changed to the Vienna Konservatorium and completed the training in drama and singing 

Worked as an actress in Austria as well as being part of the Ensemble at the Schiller Theatre in Berlin 

1921 Married Jewish Lawyer Robert Spira and moved to Graz, where Mela Hartwig started writing 

1930 Starting in 1930, struggled finding a publisher due to her Jewish decent and started painting 

1938 The couple emigrated to England

1948 The couple returned to Graz to claim their “confiscated” possessions, but continued to live in London;

Mela Hartwig paints under the name of Mela Spira  and made a name for herself as a painter

1967 April 24, Mela Hartwig dies in London

Selection of Works: 

Ekstasen (1928) (collection of short stories)

Das Weib ist ein Nichts (Novel, 1929) 

Das Wunder von Ulm (Short story, 1936)

Published after her death:


Bin ich ein überflüssiger Mensch? (Novel, 2001)

Das Verbrechen (collection of short stories, 2004)

Sources:, Mela Hartwig (Link to Website), “Der Tempel brennt. Mega Hartwig (1893 – 1967)” (Link to Website), Mela Hartwig (Link to Website)

Artist’s Estate:

Library at the town hall Vienna/ Wienbibliothek im Rathaus, Wien (Link to Website) 

Story map of the artist’s life: