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New Perspectives on Contemporary Austrian Literature and Culture


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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13 The Grandmother in Recent Austrian Literature: Peter Henisch, Eine sehr kleine Frau (2007) and Melitta Breznik, Das Umstellformat (2002) (Petra M. Bagley)


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13 The Grandmother in Recent Austrian Literature: Peter Henisch, Eine sehr kleine Frau (2007) and Melitta Breznik, Das Umstellformat (2002)


In this chapter I explore two examples of ‘Grossmütterliteratur’: Peter Henisch’s novel Eine sehr kleine Frau (2007) and Melitta Breznik’s Das Umstellformat (2002). Both authors have also written earlier novels, Henisch’s Die kleine Figur meines Vaters (1975) and Breznik’s debut novel Nachtdienst (1995), which provide a starting point for comparison of third-generation family novels centred on the narrator’s grandmother with the earlier genre of Väterliteratur. Henisch’s Eine sehr kleine Frau tells of the secrecy surrounding the grandmother’s Jewish descent, maintained also long after the end of the war; Breznik centres on the fate of the narrator’s grandmother who was murdered in the Nazi euthanasia programme. These texts exemplify an emergent trend which takes into account the ever-growing distance from the Nazi period and both present the grandmothers not as victims, but as powerful figures whom the narrators bring back into memory by uncovering family secrets and revealing truth.

Meine Großmutter hat mich gewarnt: “Tote soll man ruhen lassen”. […] Ich weiß jetzt, wie gefährlich es sein kann, die Vergangenheit aufzuwühlen. Es ist ein Irrtum, dass Tote tot sind.

[My grandmother did warn me: ‘The dead should be left in peace’. […] I know now how dangerous it is to stir up the past. It is a mistake that the dead...

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