The Death of Ingeborg Hoffmann

In professional terms Michael Ende had never been more successful, but fate was about to deal him a devastating blow. On 27th March 1985 Ingeborg Hoffmann suddenly passed away. Her death from a pulmonary embolism took everyone by surprise. Only a few days earlier she had accompanied two friends to the cinema in Genzano to watch The Neverending Story, a film she had fought tooth and nail to prevent being made. On returning to the villa, she went to bed and never got up. Genzano had become her true homeland. She loved the Italian way of life and had given up acting to live in the Alban Hills. ‘I’ll only leave this house if they carry me out feet-first,’ she used to say. Ingeborg Hoffman was laid to rest in the Catholic cemetery in Rome near the pyramid where Hans Christian Andersen and Goethe’s son were buried.

Michael Ende was devastated by the death of his wife. Ingeborg Hoffmann had been his literary and artistic mentor, as well as his closest companion. Her struggle for truth and authenticity had been utterly selfless. Michael Ende selected the following lines by Uriel Birnbaum for her obituary:

For this is true greatness in a soul:
A light that glows unthanked
A light that cannot see itself and does not profit from its shine
A light that glows truly, showing right from wrong.

Luise Rinser, a close friend of Ingeborg Hoffmann’s wrote: ‘If I hadn’t been so choked at the funeral, I would have said this: She was the noblest person I ever met.’ (Luise Rinser, Im Dunkeln singen (‘Singing in the Dark’))

After the death of his wife, Michael Ende had no desire to remain at Casa Liocorno. He decided to make a break with the past, and fourteen years after moving to Genzano, he sold the house and returned to Munich, where Helmut Ende had arranged for him to move into an apartment in Arabella Park.
Before Michael Ende left Italy, Jörg Krichbaum conducted a series of interviews with him in Genzano. Krichbaum was researching material for a major retrospective of Edgar Ende’s art, and the interviews focused on the relationship between Michael and Edgar Ende and on Edgar Ende’s paintings. The exchange proved so illuminating that Ende’s publishers decided to document the conversations in a book, Archäologie der Dunkelheit (‘Archaeology of Darkness’).