- Neue Stimmen aus Österreich: 11 Einblicke in die Literatur der Jahrtausendwende ed. by Johanna Drynda and Marta Wimmer
The high quality of this volume will not surprise experienced readers of the work of Polish Germanists, who have long been recognized for their carefully nurtured tradition of scholarship and criticism. They join Austrian colleagues here to present informed and carefully argued essays offering astute insights into not only well established authors—Elfriede Jelinek, Kathryn Röggla, Julya Rabinowich, Vladimir Vertlieb, for example, and Clemens J. Setz, who has emerged more recently—but also into the work of writers who have been supported by subsidies and prizes but who are not yet widely known—Milena Michiko Flašar, Olga Flor, Reinhard Kaiser-Mühlecker, as well as a group of “Junge österreichischer AutorInnen auf dem polnischen Buchmarkt,” citing the title of an essay by Markus Eberharter (131–44). From that essay it emerges that while the “usual suspects” are more than prominently represented in Polish—Thomas Glavinic, Daniel Kehlmann, Arno Geiger—it is instructive to learn that such eminences as Michael Köhlmeier, Raoul Schrott, and Setz have yet to appear in translation, even though some publishers have taken the laudable step of promoting less-known authors whose names do not automatically guarantee sales. Eberharter’s section on “Publikationen in Anthologien und Zeitschriften” (137–41) sketches with special clarity the contours of contemporary Austrian literature in Polish.
The editors of the present volume also deserve special commendation for transcending ideology, not to say picayune squabbling, by inviting contributions on a wide range of fictional methods. They have made room for [End Page 150] discussions of highly experimental and avant-garde work, such as Lisa Spalt’s Blüten: Ein Gebrauchsgegenstand or Michaela Falkner’s A Fucking Masterpiece to more traditionally constructed novels about family and other relationships, like the work of Reinhard Kaiser-Mühlecker—gentle, slow, and reticent enough to merot comparison to Stifter—or that of Doron Rabinovici, Vertlib, Setz, or Anna Mitgutsch. In the opening essay, “Krisenstoff oder Was erzählt die österreichische Literatur über unsere Befindlichkeit im neuen Jahrtausend?” (11–24), Evelyn Polt-Heinzl articulates a critical principle that cannot be emphasized often enough but that is quickly forgotten in the culture wars between the “ancients” and the “moderns.” As she points out, fiction cannot by its nature not tell a story, so the battles between exponents of experimentalism and those of tradition perpetuate a false antithesis onto which exaggerated political attitudes have been projected. “Literatur—auch in experimentellen oder sperrigen Formen—erzählt immer Geschichten über den Zustand der Welt. Und vor allem: Literatur, die sich als künstlerische Weltaneignung versteht, muss die Grenzen unserer Sprach- und damit Denk-Strukturen immer neu verrechnen und austesten” (14).
In her essay, the first in the volume, Polt-Heinzl surveys a whole spectrum of contemporary authors and so provides a solid basis for discussing fiction of every kind and stripe, accommodating in advance through its receptive generosity essays like Alexandra Millner’s “Politische Psychologie künstlerisch angewandt—Zum Werk von Michaela Falkner” (36–50), with its emphasis on the drastically nonlinear and apparently discursive polemics that mark the author’s work; or Kalina Kupczyńska’s incisive analysis (51–67) of Olga Flor’s novel Kollateralschaden, which she sees as filmic in technique, specifically registering the events in a supermarket through the jump cuts of the surveillance camera—a novel “wo ein genuin filmisches Verfahren genuin literarische Phänomene veranschaulicht, durchaus reflektierte Intermedialität praktiziert wird” (65). At the other end of experimental spectrum come essays by Anna Rutka on Vertlib’s Der subversive Mut zur Naivität (92–101), which uses a phrase by the author, taken from his Chamisso lectures on literature, to express his conviction that “Normalität des Erzählens,” “Fabulierfreude,” and “Unterhaltungswert” are entirely compatible with attempts to record via family histories larger issues emergent in the twenty-first century...