Engel des Vergessens [Angel of Oblivion] (Maja Haderlap)

Engel des Vergessens is a (autobiographical) novel by Maja Haderlap.
Finished on: 21.2.2020

Plot:
A Slovenian farming family in Carinthia, Austria who pick up the pieces after World War II. The grandfather was a partisan fighter, the grandmother was interned in a concentration camp where many of their neighbors, friends and also family died. The father was himself a child at the time, but that didn’t save him from being drawn into the fighting. His daughter, still a child, is now trying to piece together her own family’s history, to understand what happened while the Nazis were in power – and also afterwards, tracing the many scars left from their regime.

Engel des Vergessens sheds light on a little discussed chapter of World War II in a highly personal way. Haderlap has a beautiful way with language and conjures an extremley vivid image of what it must have been like to grow up at the time and in that area of Austria.

The book cover showing the ladder from a chicken coop crossing in front of a barred window.
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Leutnant Gustl (Arthur Schnitzler)

Leutnant Gustl is a novella by Arthur Schnitzler.
Finished on: 4.12.2018

Plot:
Leutnant Gustl goes to a concert. At the coat check he meets an acquaintance, the baker Habetswallner. They get into a fight and Gustl is ready to draw his sword, but Habetswallner keeps him from doing it, telling him basically he is an immature little boy and walks away. Gustl can’t take this insult and the military honor codex demands that someone who has been insulted in such a way, has to commit suicide. Gustl decides to do so in the morning, passing through the night in thought.

Leutnant Gustl is the first German-language story written entirely as a stream-of-consciousness inner monologue. This can get a little exhausting, especially since Gustl is an ass (fortunately it’s only a novella), but it’s definitely worth sticking with it.

The book cover showing a pencil drawing of soldier, half lying in a chair.

[SPOILERS]

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Elektra (Hugo von Hofmannsthal)

Elektra is a drama (later turned opera libretto) written by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. It’s based on Sophocles‘ play.
Finished on: 21.11.2018

Plot:
After Agamemnon returned from the Trojan war, his wife Klytaemnestra and her lover Aegith killed him and took over power. Their children survived: Orest was hidden and raised to avenge his father’s death, Chrysothemis tried to keep her head down and just survive, and Elektra devoted her time to remembering her father and dreaming of revenge. But now it appears that Orest has died in his exile without being able to fulfill his duty and Elektra has to see what she can do about that.

Elektra is an interesting play, but one that isn’t easily read – I would like to see it performed to see if I would react differently to it. (I’m not sure if I would enjoy the opera version, though.)

The book cover showing an image of the author himself.
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Die Flut (Ulrike Schmitzer)

Die Flut is a novella by Ulrike Schmitzer. As far as I know, it hasn’t been translated, but the title means The Flood.
Finished on: 12.4.2018

Plot:
Red mud has flooded the land, covering pretty much everything. Any human who touches it, turns black, as if coated in paint. Fearing an epidemic, that the blackness might spread, not knowing whether it has an effect apart from the change in looks, hard measures are being taken to control and quarantine the affected. In this situation, a farmer is looking for his grandson. And he has to hurry – not just because the situation becomes increasingly dangerous for everybody, but also because his skin has started to change and if anybody realizes that, he’ll be in big trouble.

Die Flut is a slim volume and gives us a taste of a very unusual worldbuilding and a generally interesting writer. It’s the first thing I read by Schmitzer, but I’ll be sure to check out what else she’s done.

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Superheldinnen (Barbi Marković)

Superheldinnen [translates as Superheroines] is a novel by Barbi Marković:
Finished on: 20.3.2018
[Here’s my review of the stage adaptation.]

Plot:
Every Saturday, three women come together in a Viennese café to pool their powers and send good vibes to the people who deserve and need them. They have strict rules for that which means that they’re able to keep working together, even though they couldn’t be any more different. In fact, the only things they seem to have in common are that none of them were born in Austria, and that they all have powers. But on this particular Saturday, all three of them have some kind of deviation from their usual procedure in mind.

Superheldinnen is an ambitious novel that captured my attention. Albeit it not succesful in everything that it attempts, it is an enjoyable read that has interesting things to say.

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Krambambuli und andere Erzählungen [Krambambuli and Other Stories] (Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach)

Krambambuli und andere Erzählungen is a collection of short stories by Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach.
Finished on: 2.12.2017

There are three of Ebner-Eschenbach’s short stories in this collection, all revolving around dogs and/or loyalty, and all designed to extract the maximum amount of tears from me. The stories and her writing are really good, but you gotta be in the right mood to want to cry this much.

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Blasmusikpop oder Wie die Wissenschaft in die Berge kam (Vea Kaiser)

Blasmusikpop oder Wie die Wissenschaft in die Berge kam (literally: Brass Music Pop or How Science Came into the Mountains) is Vea Kaiser‘s first novel.
Finished on: 26.9.2017

Plot:
Johannes Gerlitzen was the first person to leave St. Peter am Anger, a small mountain village, and to return as an academic, a Doctor (even if he had to trick a little to get his qualifications). Now his grandson, also called Johannes, is groomed by him to also go into science. And little Johannes takes that very seriously, although natural sciences are less his cup of tea. The rest of the village doesn’t really understand the Johanneses, and little Johannes doesn’t understand them, either.

I’ve heard many good things about Blasmusikpop and how funny it is, but I struggled with it. It does get better towards the end, but it does take some time until it gets there.

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Tristan da Cunha (Raoul Schrott) – DNF

Tristan da Cunha oder Die Hälfte der Erde is a novel by Raoul Schrott.
Given up on: 23.4.2017

Plot:
Tristan da Cunha is a novel in layers, all of which are connected to the island Tristan da Cunha, the remotest place on earth that is still inhabited by people. The South African researcher Noomi is on her way there. She finds writings on Tristan, specifically of three different men who were also connected to the island: the letters of Edwin Heron Dodgson, a priest and Lewis Carroll’s brother; the diary of Christian Reval, a cartographer; and the research report of Mark Thompson, a philatelist.

There’s not much that I can say about Tristan da Cunha because I fought my way through the first 200 pages or so (of a 700 pages book) which took me almost a week – during my holidays where I actually have time to read. Ten I just gave up. While I thought that Tristan da Cunha is an incredibly interesting place, I just couldn’t stand the tone of the book, I didn’t relate to the characters and everything was so absolutely boring, that I decided I’d rather spend my precious reading time on something that actually works for me.

 

Magdalena Sünderin (Lilian Faschinger)

Magdalena Sünderin [literally: Magdalena Sinner] is a novel by Lilian Faschinger.
Finished on: 24.3.2017

Plot:
Magdalena has lived an eventful life and finds that it is time to confess. To make sure that she has the undivided attention, she decides the best way to do that is to simply abduct a priest. So she grabs priest Christian, brings him to a remote location, ties him to a tree and tells him about her life with seven different men and the ends they found – at her hand.

I liked a lot about Magdalena Sünderin, but the book never really won me over completely. I would have liked to like it more.

[Slight Spoilers]

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Winters Garten (Valerie Fritsch)

Winters Garten (translates literally to Winter’s Garden) is a novel by Valerie Fritsch. As far as I know, it has not been translated into English.
Finished on: 7.1.2017

Plot:
Anton Winter spent a lot of his childhood at his grandparents’ house and garden. Now he’s an ornithologist in his fourties and looks at the ruins of a city in a world devastated by war. He is a loner, but when he happens to meet Friederike, he falls in love. He starts working with her at a birthing clinic and they get closer. But with the end of the world fast approaching, they have very little future, only the hopes that fill their present.

Winters Garten is Literature-with-a-capital-L and while I loved to get a speculative fiction novel from Austria, I couldn’t really get into that literary style that – to me – felt like it was trying too hard.

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