Thursday, October 24, 2013

Franz Nabl (1883-1974)

Editor, Dramatist, Author
Born July 16, 1883, Lautschin, Austria-Hungary (now Loučeň, Czech Republic)
Died January 19, 1974, Graz, Austria

Until a few months ago, Franz Nabl presented a problem. If you look in Jaffery and Cook's Collector's Index to Weird Tales, you will find a German-sounding name, Franz Habl, as author of a story called "The Long Arm." I searched in several sources for a German, Austrian, or German-American named Franz Habl without result. Then, earlier this year, I heard from Lars Dangel, a German fan and collector of weird fiction. It was Mr. Dangel who solved the mystery of Franz Habl by describing a story called "Der griff aus dem dunkel" ("The Reaching Out of the Dark" or "The Grabbing Out of the Dark"), written by Franz Nabl and published in about 1935. I read "The Long Arm" on line, and it is more or less the story described by Mr. Dangel. I would like to acknowledge Lars Dangel's contribution and to say thanks to him for solving the mystery of Franz Nabl.

Translated by Roy Temple House, "The Long Arm" was published in the October 1937 issue of Weird Tales. I can propose several explanations as to how the misspelled name came about:
  1. Roy Temple House transcribed the name correctly from the original source, but it was misread by the editor, the proofreader, or the typesetter and misprinted in Weird Tales.
  2. House or someone at Weird Tales deliberately changed the name to Habl for some reason, perhaps to avoid issues with copyright.
  3. The story was printed in Weird Tales during the Nazi era. That fact could have had some bearing on the name change.
  4. Nabl asked that his name be changed for some reason.
  5. House freely adapted the story to such an extent that it was no longer solely Nabl's work. It's worth noting that Habl could be a contraction of House and Nabl.
Nabl still presents a bit of a problem in that most online resources on his life and work are in German. If you want to read about him, you will discover the limitations of Wikipedia and Google Translate. This is what I can gather:

Franz Nabl was born on July 16, 1883, in Lautschin, Austria-Hungary, to a high-ranking official or aristocrat. He lived in Vienna and Baden as a boy and attended high school in Baden and the Elisabeth-Gymnasium in Vienna. He received the equivalent of his bachelor's degree in 1902 and studied philosophy thereafter. He was married twice, first to Hermenegild Lampa in 1907, and after her death, to Ilse Meltzer in 1940. Evidently Nabl lived most of his life in Vienna, Baden, and Graz, working early on as an editor at Neuen Grazer Tageblatt, then as a novelist, a playwright, and an author of short stories. His first books in those forms were published between 1905 and 1911. Some of his works have been adapted to film.

It isn't clear to me by reading a translated German-language Wikipedia entry just what relationship Nabl had with the Nazis. If I interpret the entry correctly, then Nabl was a member of the Austrian PEN Club until 1933, when he and others made a conspicuous exit to join the Federation of German Writers in Austria. (It's worth noting that Felix Salten, author of Bambi, was president of the Austrian PEN Club until 1933.) That second organization seems to have been sympathetic to the Nazi movement. In March 1938, of course, Nazi Germany annexed Austria in the run-up to World War II.

If Nabl was tarred at all by a Nazi brush, he recovered his reputation after the war by winning several prizes: the 1952 Literature Prize of the City of Vienna, the 1955 Peter Rosegger Prize, the 1956 Grand Austrian State Prize for Literature, and the 1969 Austrian Decoration for Science and Art. Franz Nabl died on January 19, 1974, in Graz, Austria, at the age of ninety.

Franz Nabl's Story in Weird Tales
"The Long Arm" translated by Roy Temple House (Oct. 1937)

Further Reading
It would be worth a little research to find out more on Franz Nabl, especially if it were to uncover more weird fiction. In the meantime, you can read "The Long Arm" on line.

Ralph Snider's illustration for "The Long Arm" by Franz Nabl, misidentified as Franz Habl, Weird Tales, October 1937.

Thanks to Lars Dangel.
Text and captions copyright 2013, 2023 Terence E. Hanley


  1. The original title ran "Griff ins Dunkel" (Reaching out into the Dark).

    1. Hi, Anonymous,

      Thank you for the more euphonious translation.