- Poetik des Hasses in der österreichischen Literatur: Studien zu ausgewählten Texten by Marta Wimmer
Introductory sections of Marta Wimmer’s book on “Poetik des Hasses” discuss hate (Hass) and related concepts such as anger, rage, self-hatred, and love/hate complexes as well as stereotypes and prejudices. Wimmer points out that hate has diverse gradations, forms, methods, and goals. Subchapters discuss psychoanalytic explanations and the rhetoric of hate, respectively. This discussion leads to the book’s main subject, the literary representation of hate in the Austrian context. Chapters are devoted to “Österreichhass, Sprachhass, Fremdenhass und Geschlechterhass” (10).
Historical background in “Österreichhass” traces traumatic events of the twentieth century, namely the two world wars, the end of the Habsburg Empire, the Shoah, and Nazi rule. Discussion follows of issues involving Austrian identity, Austrian literature, and anti-Austrian impulses. Three important Austrian novels are chosen that express hostility toward Austria. [End Page 150] Hans Lebert’s Die Wolfhaut appropriates the Heimat format to reveal enduring post-1945 violent and fascist threats, and the masked collective guilt in a village whose occupants had killed many slave laborers. Likewise, Thomas Bernhard reveals continued anti-Semitism and other injustices and flaws of postwar Austrian society, church, and politics in Heldenplatz. Finally, Elfriede Jelinek’s novel Die Kinder der Toten focuses on such ills in Austrian society as narrow provinciality, connections between Nazism and Catholicism, disturbed male-female relations, consumerism, and environmental destruction. Wimmer concludes, however, that the novels selected contain not hate but love/hate, which has a positive component.
The chapter on “Sprachhass” offers a lengthy section on German and Austrian theoretical texts on language and its flaws and limitations. Major Austrian philosophers known for critiques of language include Fritz Mauthner and Ludwig Wittgenstein. The Austrian journalist and satirist Karl Kraus wrote extensively on language corruption, condemning many usages as pseudo-scientific, biased, empty, imprecise, manipulative, and even immoral. Turning to literature (the “Poetik” of the book’s title), Wimmer notes that Peter Handke’s first novel, Die Hornissen, is related to several of his plays labeled “Sprechstücke” that experimented with new linguistic forms and structures as tools for social critiques. In Die Hornissen, traditional plot and narration are replaced by such techniques as stream of consciousness, marginalia, language games and schemata, and linguistic patterns and formulae that deform reality. More language experiments are found in Elfriede Jelinek’s play Wolken. Heim, including montages of quotations from German philosophers, writers, and public figures, which challenges readers to evaluate their ideological content. Revealed are hidden power relations and fascist views behind clichés and commonplaces.
The “Fremdenhass” chapter begins with a section titled “Das Eigene und das Fremde. Selbst-, Fremd-und Feindbilder.” As before, a foundation is laid of general statements and definitions of terms, although readers of this book no doubt know all too well what racism and hostility toward “the other” are, as well as the catastrophic warfare and genocide they have caused. Literary works analyzed here include Ilse Aichinger’s novel Die größere Hoffnung, one of the first postwar novels to confront the Nazi era. The novel focuses on the riddles and dangers encountered by Jewish children living under Nazi rule. The second novel analyzed is Barbara Frischmuth’s Die Schrift des Freundes. Wimmer writes, “Kritik des Ethnozentrismus, okzidental-rationalen Denkens, [End Page 151] patriarchaler Herrschaft sstrukturen und Ausgrenzung alles Fremden und Andersartigen charakterisieren das Gesamtwerk dieser österreichischen Autorin” (175). The personal and professional experiences of Frischmuth’s protagonist raise complex multicultural issues, including entrenched anti-Muslim prejudices in Austria and contemporary fears of terrorism. Finally, Peter Henisch’s novel Schwarzer Peter features a Viennese man of mixed race who becomes a jazz musician in New Orleans. On the margins of society in both environments, his experiences and struggle for identity expose racism and stereotyping. Wimmer concludes that these three novels reveal and protest the individual and collective thought structures of “Fremdenhass.”
The “Geschlechterhass” chapter analyzes the cultural roots of misogyny, including original sin, the Greek Pandora myth, and ideas of various...