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Reviewed by:
  • Nicole McInteer
Andrew Barker, Fictions from an Orphan State: Literary Reflections of Austria between Habsburg and Hitler. Rochester: Camden House, 2012. 205 pp.

As the title suggests, this monograph focuses on the literary texts produced by Austrian authors between the time of the Dual Monarchy and the Nazi annexation of Austria and places the texts in a greater cultural context that includes the contemporary issues of race, politics, and religion. In particular, Barker is interested in teasing out how a variety of texts and authors dealt with this time, one that straddled two very different time periods of Austrian history. In short, the author is primarily focused on shedding light on a neglected time period and place—most associate this time with Weimar Germany—as well as the authors from this period who have since been underappreciated in scholarship.

Much of Barker’s scholarly analysis is presented as a work of history, with the literary texts standing in as Barker’s artifacts. The author favors the general to the specific, as he juggles twelve different authors and their works between the years 1918 and 1938. Furthermore, the nature of Barker’s sources prohibits him from going into great detail, because many of the texts that he uses as evidence are not well known to scholars. As such, Barker spends considerable time summarizing these literary works in order both to present his argument and to familiarize the reader with these texts. All the chapters in this book are united by the fact that they present authors who offered a unique way of dealing with the past and the imminent future within the space of Austria, but each chapter groups together the authors in a way that would allow the chapters to stand on their own.

In the first chapter, Barker compares the military experiences and the fictional representations thereof from the authors Andreas Latzko and Ernst Weiss. Both authors, Barker argues, wrote against the Habsburg myth and [End Page 141] instead exposed how the army brought out the worst of the Habsburgs. In this vein, these authors are couched in Freud’s theories on violence and war. In the process, Barker is challenging deeply entrenched notions of Habsburg nostalgia.

The second chapter deals with the Habsburg legacy and how Arthur Schnitzler, Franz Werfel, and Joseph Roth engaged with it in their fiction. Barker’s most compelling analysis lies in his discussion of Fräulein Else by Schnitzler, in which he presents a reading of the novella that emphasizes the text’s Jewish milieu that harkens back to prewar depictions of Austrian society. Barker then examines Werfel’s Der Tod des Kleinbürgers as a work that engaged with Austria’s multiethnic past but also depicted the inherent fluidity the 1920s. The last text under examination in this chapter is Joseph Roth’s Zipper und sein Vater. In this novel, Barker reads not only Roth’s pull between Berlin and Vienna but also Roth’s oft-discussed nostalgia for the Empire, which began to take root with this novel.

Moving chronologically, the monograph then turns to the authors Bruno Brehm and Soma Morgenstern in the third chapter. Barker interprets Brehm’s novel Das war das Ende as an early example of literature that was amenable to the National Socialist platform. Barker then compares Brehm’s novel to Soma Morgenstern’s Der Sohn des verlorenen Sohnes, placing it not only in its political context, coinciding with the rallies in support of the National Socialists, which were gaining ground at the time, but also as a discussion of the figure of the Ostjude.

The fourth chapter deals with the month of February 1934 and literary representations of the Austrian Civil War. Barker’s discussion of Karl Kraus revolves around why Kraus would have chosen to stay silent about the events in his publication Die Fackel as well as his ambivalence toward aligning with any major political force. Barker mentions that there is little response from Austrian writers about February 1934. However, he notes two German communists—Anna Seghers and Friedrich Wolf—who wrote Der Weg durch den Februar and Floridsdorf, respectively, from Moscow. Both of these texts demonstrate the tension that the...


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pp. 141-143
Launched on MUSE
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