- Winning Back Lost Territory: The Writing of Lilian Faschinger ed. by Vincent Kling, Laura McLary
Vincent Kling and Laura McLary’s study of Lilian Faschinger’s work takes its title from an interview between McLary and this Austrian author. Its writeup comprises the final chapter of the monograph. Comparing herself to Scheherazade from One Thousand and One Arabian Nights, Faschinger tells McLary that she has long written fiction in order to survive. Writing has allowed her to assert her voice and identity as an Austrian woman whose home country is tainted by misogyny. The writing process has additionally formed the working out of Faschinger’s view of Austria, enabling her to ascertain that the place is one she both “loves and hates at the same time” (19). Thus, the lost territory that Faschinger regains through writing is both a voice that men would otherwise talk over and a clear view of the complex relationship she has with her home territory. It is surprising that Kling’s introduction discusses these points at length, yet fails to mention that the name Faschinger is indigenous, almost exclusive, to Austria.
The study underlines the problems that Faschinger perceives in contemporary Austria: sexism, xenophobia, and what she calls Alltagsfaschismus. It shows that she showcases these issues through her characters. Faschinger’s technique of personifying Austria’s shortcomings is most notably seen in [End Page 141] Stadt der Verlierer and in Paarweise: Acht Pariser Episoden. The latter is set in the year 2000 in Paris since Faschinger cannot write about a place if she is based there, preferring to imagine her chosen setting from afar.
The Kling-McLary volume shortly preceded Lynne Hallam’s work Rewriting the Female in Popular Culture, which examines Faschinger’s tendency to draw on preceding texts, as well as on popular and contemporary culture. By contrast, this slightly earlier study turns the focus inwards and shows the overlaps that Faschinger’s novels have with one another. An image that is repeatedly referenced throughout the study is the spiderweb that figures in Paarweise. The (perhaps octagonal) web symbolizes the eight intertwined pairings explored throughout the text. Its cornerstone-like nodes represent the work’s foundation upon the couplings. The Kling-McLary study highlights that many of Faschinger’s characters in this novel are connected by, so to speak, a common thread within the web of connections that extends to the characters in her other novels.
A number of characters in Paarweise are connected by Faschinger’s observation that empowerment and social progress lead back to the very control and oppression that they attempt to overcome. The novel’s multicultural, even “postnational” (227) setting of twenty-first-century Paris does not deter the prescription of social roles based on a person’s country of origin. Faschinger shows that a relationship between race and class supersedes nationality and a system of privilege emerges. Immigrants, subjected to casual racism daily, cannot progress beyond low-paid menial jobs, while their white counterparts host television programs and choose which gallery to hang their work in next. In Faschinger’s Paris, women’s reproductive autonomy is also removed by the very means that exists to ensure it: Jan forces Marie to abort the child she longs for each time he impregnates her.
The concept of control and oppression forming from the social progress that attempts to destroy them extends to Magdalena Sünderin and Stadt der Verlierer. Magdalena Leitner’s liberation from patriarchal values, which she extends to the priest by kidnapping him, results in her own arrest. When postwar Austria, the “Stadt der Verlierer,” is remodeled from the fragments of its wartime destruction, former supporters of the regime are not forced to own up to their past mistakes. They instead slip through the net, allowing fascist attitudes to permeate through to the new age.
The study highlights Faschinger’s treatment of relationships, including the one between reader and narrator, which emerges as a key feature of her [End Page 142] work. Kling points out that the narrator is detached from the action...