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Articles tagged "Austrian Literature"

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is there a zone of darkness between all languages, a black river, that swallows words and stories and transforms them? here sentences must disrobe, begin to roam, learn to swim, not lose the memory that nests in their bodies, a secret nucleus. will the columbine’s blue be a shade of violet when it reaches the other side, and the red bee balm become a pear, cinnamon- sweet? will my tench be missing a fin in the light of the new language? will it have to learn to crawl or to walk...

Heldenplatz

(Common room in a senior citizen home. Two elderly men in wheelchairs. The first is watching the one o’clock news, the second is devouring an apple pastry.) FIRST MAN: The nerve. Everyone cheers for him on the Heldenplatz and then he goes and cuts deals with the Russians. SECOND MAN: Yes, that was a mistake. But, come now, it was so long ago, at some point there’s got to be an end— FIRST MAN: That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about...

The First Thing I Saw

The first thing I saw when jolted from sleep was my father throwing books out of the window. He was dressed in the clothes he always wore at home, a sleeveless white undershirt and meticulously pressed dark blue trousers that matched the suit jacket he carelessly draped on a hook in the wardrobe as soon as the front door shut behind him. I’d woken with a start, it was night. In the harsh light, Father was standing at the window. He took one book after another from a pile and checked...

Getting Undressed, Yes, Getting Dressed, Too

Is it me? Am I next? No, you’re not next, no. No? I’m not? No, you’re not. No matter how many times you ask. You? And you? What about me? If you’re next? No? I’m not and you’re not. Neither of us is next. Whether you like it or not. Good. I thought so. No? What was it you thought, take your time, tell me what it was you thought, we’ve surely got long enough for that. That I was next, I thought. Or you. One of us. Me first and then you. I...

when speech left me

perhaps i was just drinking coffee or opening the newspaper. perhaps i was drawing the curtains or looking out onto the street when speech left me. still, i thought, what a rattling from deep in the wall, what a clattering in this room. no windowpanes shattered, no chairs toppled in the kitchen. the names on street signs vanished leaving only the ashes of letters. a tanker filled with words retreated above the houses, massive, silent, my swollen tongue twitched in my dry mouth. i escaped...

The Reverberations of History: Contemporary Austrian Literature

The variety and exuberance of contemporary Austrian writing is little known among English readers. Often lumped into the unwieldy category of German-language literature or overshadowed by Austria’s literary giants, many of its most interesting writers have yet to be translated into English. A country of eight million people, Austria has six official languages. A century ago, under the Hapsburg Empire, more than twice that many ethnic and linguistic groups were bound in a fruitful if...

Englishing Vladimir Vertlib

Vladimir Vertlib (b. 1966 in Leningrad) is a contemporary Austrian writer. Reviewers in the German press have had trouble putting a label on him, referring to him alternately as a “Russian writer,” an “Austrian Russian,” a “Russian living in Austria,” a “Jewish-German writer of Russian origin,” a “German Jew,” an “Israeli living in Germany,” and even, dismayingly, as a “Hebrew author.” He himself makes no...

from “The Graveyard of Bitter Oranges”

In front of a tropical fruit stand in the Piazza dei Cinquecento, lit up by low-hanging bare bulbs, I stood and observed the red flesh pierced by black seeds of the melons, the yellow pineapples split in two, the ovular, yellow-green bunches of grapes, and the segmented coconut flesh laid out in large basins. I heard Arabian music, camels knelt down before a Corpus Christi altar covered over with flowers, blessed mendicants meandered through the streets among the dead cobras, playing...

Festival Neue Literatur This Week in New York

The Festival Neue Literatur has been around since 2010.  This festival of new writing from the German-speaking countries (Austria, Germany, and Switzerland) is put on in New York every year, in February, by a consortium of cultural institutes.  It takes place over a long weekend and consists of a series of linked readings and conversations that involve U.S. writers as well.  I’m serving as its curator this year. The idea behind the festival is that there is such a...

Eternal Youth

My father was horrified when I told him that I was getting married and that the date and place were already set. He shook his head with his typical facial expression, a mixture of repugnance, incomprehension and resignation. As long as he made this face at me all the time, I knew that he still couldn't see me as an adult. It wasn't the fact that I was getting married that so upset him. Nor did he have anything against the woman I wanted to marry. What bothered him was the...

When Chaos Came to Salzburg

Pentecost, the peaceful holiday, had come, and Salzburg was something akin to a city under a state of emergency. By Friday, even schoolgirls from good homes did not make it all the way to school, if they were found to be out and about in the wrong kind of clothes; and heedless apprentices, their hairdos looking like something from a "wanted" poster, were collared in the street and shipped straight off home. Whoever was suspected of being under thirty years of age had little chance of...

The End of Amsterdam’s Hunger Winter

"The ape brought us the food," Father said and added, after a pause, "and a book." This was followed, as always, by another pause, a longer one to let the opening sink in. "This is the first memory I am conscious of." It happens to be my first memory as well, for my memories do not extend beyond those of my father and my grandparents. After their experiences and their accounts of them none of my own experiences can claim any kind of validity. Moreover, I was constantly reminded to be...

Viktoria Was Home All Alone

Everybody was gone, and Viktoria was home all alone. "When everybody's gone, my house is a magic place." She went to her parents' bedroom and pulled back the bedspread. A big bear lay in the middle of the bed. He looked right at her. "Aha!" Viktoria said. "Give me something," she said. The bear walked out of the room and brought her dad's hat to her. Viktoria put it on. Then she covered up the bear again. She opened her mom's nightstand. And there sat a big...
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