Austrian Literature

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beauregard61
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Austrian Literature

Post by beauregard61 » 29 Dec 2005 12:49

Hello,
I know it may be a bit hard for people not that fluent in german but reading novels and lyrics about and from a specific time is another, in my opinion valuable way, to learn something than reading history books and non-fictious sources.
The first time I got in touch with a novel about the monarchy was at the age of 15 when my history teacher told us that hungarian officers danced in joy after they heard of the assassination of the heir to the throne and screamed out "The pig is dead". It took me some years to realize that the story is from Joseph Roth's Radetzkymarsch and not from "reality".
I like Radetzkymarsch very much but as the book was written after the end of the great war (1932) I think that one ever has to keep in mind that Roth is thinking of the time befor the war with the war, its ending and the time after the war in mind. Is it a good study about the feeling of people belonging to a specific social group before the war or does it more reflect the authors melancholic thoughts about the apokalypse?
Another famous author I have partly read is Georg Trakl. His expressionistic poems are of course reflecting his personal thoughts and cannot be used to gain "general valid knowledge" about the time but are nevertheless of great importance, as Jüngers In Stahlgewittern can be used to explain a kind of general thought in the german generation of former soldiers in the 20s.
I still did not read anything from Robert Musil, who is said to have invented the famous word of "Kakanien", which refers to the monarchy in a unique way. Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften (1943) is perhaps the most interesting of his writings when one has the intention of reading something with references to the old empire.

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maxxx
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Post by maxxx » 13 Jan 2006 20:36

Joseph Roth is absolutely a good choice for the "feeling" of the K.k. period. But try Arthur Schnitzler, one of austrias greatest writers: He was an officer in the reserve when his "Leutnant Gustl" was published, a "inner monologue" about a young officer involved in a senseless duel. He was thrown out of the reserve for this book. Absolutely great. Also his "waste land", "professor bernardi" and may others are perfect portraits of the prewar society, the outdated code of honour and a vienna ready for Sigmund Freud ...

If you want to read (or see, if you can visit one of the few performances) imperial austria as bizarr (and hillarious ) as possible, watch out for the plays and novels by Fritz von Herzmanovsky-Orlando.

Hermann Bahr and Hugo von Hofmannsthal are a bit old fashioned, but still authentic; Roda-Rodas books are comic vignettes of the imperial army life, a sort of literary Schönpflug-cartoon.

Musils "Der mann ohne Eigenschaften" is great, but hard reading- if you managed to read the complete works of James Joyce, you are strong enough to give it a try!

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waldorf
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Post by waldorf » 26 Jan 2006 05:07

Maxxx,

What is your opinion of The Good Soldier Svejk by Jaroslav Hasek? I am debating about picking up this book at a local bookstore, but would like some other opinions before purchasing it.

Thanks,

Chris

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maxxx
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Post by maxxx » 18 Feb 2006 16:03

Sorry for repeating so late, I was busy and just missed this part of the forum

"Der brave Soldat Schwejik" in german is a masterpiece in itself because it was not translated in "proper"german but in a slang full of "kuchelböhmisch" (the sort of german people of czech origin spoke in austria and bohemia), typical use of "austrian" instead of "high-german" words and funny constructions using the dativius ethicus like in "so, sie ham uns also den Ferdinand erschlagen" which is unusal in "proper" german.

For the story- I just love it. It is a good satiric look on the habsburg military , the madness of war and militarism and shows a way of "nonviolent resistance" far from ghandi :P . Of course it is a look from a czech point of view, but most of the officers Schwejik makes fun of are czechs too, so it never becomes just a critic on the habsburg "prison of nations" , but on the austro-czech society and on war as such.

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waldorf
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Post by waldorf » 18 Feb 2006 20:45

Thanks for getting back to me Maxxx, I think I just might pick up the book.

Regards,

Chris

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