Jakob Wassermann (1873 – 1934) was a German writer and novelist of Jewish descent.
Born in Fürth, he was the son of a shopkeeper and lost his mother at an early age. He showed literary interest early and published various pieces in small newspapers. Because his father was reluctant to support his literary ambitions, he began a short-lived apprenticeship with a businessman in Vienna after graduation.
He completed his military service in Nuremberg. Afterward, he stayed in southern Germany and in Switzerland. In 1894 he moved to Munich. Here he worked as a secretary and later as a copy editor at the paper Simplicissimus. Around this time he also became acquainted with other writers Rainer Maria Rilke, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, and Thomas Mann.
In 1896 he released his first novel, Melusine. Interestingly, his last name (Wassermann) means "water-man" in German; a "Melusine" (or "Melusina") is a figure of European legends and folklore, a feminine spirit of fresh waters in sacred springs and rivers.
From 1898 he was a theater critic in Vienna. In 1901 he married Julie Speyer, whom he divorced in 1915. Three years later he was married again to Marta Karlweis.
After 1906, he lived alternatively in Vienna or at Altaussee in der Steiermark where he died in 1934 after a severe illness.
In 1926, he was elected to the Prussian Academy of Art. He resigned in 1933, narrowly avoiding an expulsion by the Nazis. In the same year, his books were banned in Germany owing to his Jewish ancestry.
Wassermann's work includes poetry, essays, novels, and short stories. His most important works are considered the novel Der Fall Maurizius (1928) and the autobiography, My Life as German and Jew (Mein Weg als Deutscher und Jude) (1921), in which he discussed the tense relationship between his German and Jewish identities.
Jakob Wassermann is the author of books: Das Gold von Caxamalca, Caspar Hauser, My Marriage, The Maurizius Case, Golowin, La Coscienza di Zeno, Etzel Andergast, Mein Weg als Deutscher und Jude, Columbus: Don Quixote of the Seas, Donna Giovanna di Castiglia