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New Perspectives on Contemporary Austrian Literature and Culture

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Edited By Katya Krylova

This volume brings together contributions arising from papers originally presented at the Contemporary Austrian Literature, Film and Culture International Conference held at the University of Nottingham in April 2015. It examines trends in contemporary Austrian literature, film and culture, predominantly over the past thirty years. This period has been one of great transformation in Austrian society, with the Waldheim affair of 1986–1988 marking the beginning of a belated process of confronting the country’s National Socialist past. The sixteen chapters of the volume analyse literary texts, films, memorial projects and Austria’s musical heritage, considering works by cultural practitioners operating both within and outside of Austria. The collection offers a multi-perspectival view on how contemporary Austria sees itself and how it is, in turn, seen by others from various vantage points.

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3 Austria’s Ambiguous Smile: Transnational Perspectives on Austrian Belatedness in the Fiction of John Irving (Benedict Schofield)

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BENEDICT SCHOFIELD

3 Austria’s Ambiguous Smile: Transnational Perspectives on Austrian Belatedness in the Fiction of John Irving

ABSTRACT

This chapter transnationalizes Austrian discourses of post-war belatedness and Vergangenheitsbewältigung [coming to terms with the past] through an analysis of the representation of Austria in the novels of the American author John Irving. It explores how Irving’s works from the late 1960s to the late 1980s present post-war Austria as a site of both fascination and contempt in the international imagination, and argues that Irving’s transnational perspective forms a consistent, highly interventionist critique of Austria’s memory politics, especially in the years leading up to the 1986 Waldheim Affair. It focuses on Irving’s literary representation of Austria and especially of Vienna: first as a post-war tourist idyll; then as a site of hidden, but not repressed, anti-Semitism; and finally as a relic of the Habsburg Empire. Ultimately, it argues that Irving’s transnational perspective on Austria’s past is critically distinct to that within Austria, marked by his ferocity, his focus on the capital, and his earliness.

On Sunday, 10 May 2015, a eulogy was given at Günter Grass’s memorial service in Lübeck, Germany. Unexpectedly, it was neither a figure from the German literary establishment, nor the German government, that led the commemorations for an author frequently regarded as the personification of Germany’s post-war ‘moral conscience’.1 Indeed, the eulogist wasn’t even a German: it fell to the American novelist John Irving...

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