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
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.
Leben ohne Geheimnis [translated as Falling Star, literally: Life Without Secrets] is a novel by Vicki Baum.
Finished on 16.11.2016
Oliver Dent is a Hollywood star who has just reached the height of his career, mostly because he’s just that good-looking. He meets Donka Morescu, an actress who used to be one of the greats in the silent film era, but was dropped with the rise of sound film because her accent is simply too strong. Oliver and Donka fall very much in love, while Oliver’s friend Aldens, a German, starts dating Francis who dreams of fame and Oliver. But in a world where every action is up for scrutiny by the press and every emotion is tainted by movies, living love can be very difficult indeed.
Leben ohne Geheimnis isn’t a completely bad book, but I liked the idea of this story and the characters in it more than I liked the actual story and characters.
Die Sonne war ein grünes Ei. Von der Erschaffung der Welt und ihren Dingen is a collection of fairy tales/myths by H.C. Artmann. The title literally means: The sun was a green egg. Of the creation of the world and its things.
Finished on 5.9.2016
The creation of the world as you’ve never seen it before: Maybe the sun really is an egg. Maybe Coffee Mill and Paper Kite are responsible for the creation of living things. Or maybe it was a magician and false prophet. Or…
Artmann created some very fantastic (in the literal sense) and weird stories, but in some ways they are more of the same old, same old – especially with regards to sexism. Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading the collection for the most part.
Aurora’s Anlaß is the first novel by Erich Hackl. It was translated as Aurora’s Motive and is based on the actual lives of Aurora Rodríguez and her daughter Hildegart Rodríguez.
Finished on: 28.8.2016.
One day, Aurora Rodríguez gets up in the morning, takes a gun and shoots her teenaged daughter Hildegart with whom she has always been close. Then she goes to the police to confess. Aurora brought up Hildegart on her own, and she worked extremely hard to groom her into a feminist, critical thinker and political leader – and Hildegart was a highly gifted girl who showed every promise to fufill her mother’s dream. So what could have possibly led her to do what she did?
With Auroras Anlaß, Hackl combines historical research with literary writing and a dash of journalism, telling a fascinating (true) story in an extremely intriguing way.
Mittelstadtrauschen is the first novel by Margarita Kinstner. The title translates approximately to “Medium City Static.”
Finished on: 3.8.2016
Marie meets Jakob by chance and the two of them hit it off, despite the fact that Jakob actually has a girlfriend, Sonja and Marie is still very much hung up on her ex, Joe who recently killed himself with a jump into the Danube. Also struggling with Joe’s suicide is his best friend Gery who happens to meet Sonja after Jakob left her. Gery delivers Meals on Wheels and meets Hedi through his job, Jakob’s grandmother and finds an emotional connection with her that he can’t seem to find anywhere else. And everything seems to come back to Joe who has planned something big before his death, something that will impact the lives of those left behind.
Mittelstadtrauschen starts off promising enough, but then doesn’t really keep those promises. I found myself increasingly disbelieving of the story and the characters, and I started hurrying through it just so that I’d have it finished.
Sommer wie Winter is a novel by Judith W. Taschler [German].
Finished on: 6.6.2016
Something has happened to the Winter family. An accident, yes. But also something so awful, that they’re now all in psychological treatment, more or less voluntarily, with the main focus on Alexander Sommer, the family’s foster son. When the Winters took him in as a little child after his mother’s death, it soon became obvious that mother Monika was less than taken with the boy and that tension has remained even until now that Alexander is a young man. But what really lies behind the tension?
Sommer wie Winter is a quick, gripping read, but I do have my squabbles with the format Taschler chose for her story – transcripts of the therapy sessions with the various family members. Nevertheless it’s smart and enjoyable.
Der aufblasbare Kaiser is the first novel by Michael Ziegelwagner. (It hasn’t been translated afaik, but the title literally means The Inflatable Emperor.)
Finished on: 22.5.2016
Vera’s life isn’t quite as she wants it to be. After a slip and fall in the bathtub that leads almost disappointingly to just a hurt foot, she finds a small sign advertising the meetings of the Legitimistic Club and almost without meaning to, she goes there. The Legitimistic Club is made up of a handful of men, most older, who are in favor of reinstating the monarchy in Austria with the ageing Otto Habsburg as the Emperor. Vera, who doesn’t think of herself as conservative, has never even thought about the possibility, but finds herself drawn to the club and its slightly dusty ways.
Der aufblasbare Kaiser is one of the most relaxed books I ever read, making it the perfect book to lean back with after a busy day. In enjoyed it a lot, but every once in a while a little more tension wouldn’t have hurt.
Zwei Wochen im Mai is the second autobiographical novel by Christine Nöstlinger. [Here’s my review of the first one, Maikäfer flieg.] The title literally means Two Weeks in May, but to my knowledge the book wasn’t translated.
Finished on: 6.3.2016
World War II has just ended and Christl and her family are slowly trying to get back to normal. That means, among other things, that Christl can go back to school and that she can take piano lessons now – even if she hates them. For Christl, though, what is more important than any of that is the plan she hatches with her best friend (even though he sometimes has that look and then you need to avoid him) Rudi to come into a little bit of money, and of course the dreamy Hansi.
I remembered Zwei Wochen im Mai much more strongly than I remembered Maikäfer flieg. It just made more of an impression. And also on re-reading as an adult, I would say that it is the stronger book of the two (although Maikäfer flieg was by no means weak). In any case I enjoyed it greatly.
Maikäfer flieg is an autobiographical novel by Christine Nöstlinger. It was translated as Fly Away Home; literally it means “Melolontha, fly”, which is the first line of a children’s rhyme.
Finished on 3.3.2016
World War II. 8-year-old Christl spends a lot of time with her grandparents as her mother is hunting for food and necessities in Vienna. Her father is fighting. Or rather, he is in the hospital with a shot up leg. As the bombings in the city get worse and the grandparents’ apartment is damaged, Christl’s mother hatches a plan to head to a house at the city’s edge where she used to clean. The owner of said house has fled and needs somebody to take care of it anyway. So, Christl, her sister and her mother make their way there, leaving behind her grandparents who are unwilling to move.
I read Maikäfer flief (and its sequel Zwei Wochen im Mai – Two Weeks in May) when I was a child, probably around the age Christl was in the book and then again a bit later. But since then I haven’t re-read. Now with a movie adaptation coming out, I thought I’d read it again. Of course, my perspective has changed quite a bit, but I found the book engaging both when I was a child (although I liked the sequel better) and now.
Die größere Hoffnung [literally: The Greater Hope] is Ilse Aichinger‘s first novel. It was translated as Herod’s Children.
Finished on: 10.2.2016
Ellen is a teenager in Vienna in the 40s. Her mother is Jewish and has fled the country, her father is Arian and doesn’t want to know Ellen anymore. So she lives with her maternal grandmother and dreams of finding a way to join her mother. But her days are mostly spent in isolation with a group of other children who are all Jewish and outcast.
Aichinger poured her own experiences of “having the wrong grandparents” into Die größere Hoffnung, an impressionistic, surreal novel in evocative, though not always literal and clear images. It’s one of the most harrowing novels about World War 2 I ever read, and one of the most beautifully written.