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Walking Through History

Topography and Identity in the Works of Ingeborg Bachmann and Thomas Bernhard

Katya Krylova

This book was the winner of the 2011 Peter Lang Young Scholars Competition in German Studies.
The post-war landscape of Europe is unthinkable without the voices of the Austrian writers Ingeborg Bachmann (1926–1973) and Thomas Bernhard (1931–1989). Their work, coming after the devastation wrought by the Second World War and the Holocaust, is rooted in a specifically Austrian context of repression of this traumatic historical legacy. In post-war Austria, discourse on the recent past may have been dominated by silence, but the legacy of this past was all too apparent in the country’s ruined and speedily reconstructed cityscapes.
This book investigates Bachmann’s and Bernhard’s treatment of two fundamental aspects of the Austrian historical legacy: the trauma of the war and the desire to return to an ideal homeland, known as ‘Haus Österreich’. Following a methodology based on Freud and Benjamin, this comparative study demonstrates that the confrontation with Austria’s troubled history occurs through the protagonists’ ambivalent encounter with the landscape or cityscape that they inhabit, travel or return to. The book demonstrates the centrality of topography on both thematic and structural levels in the authors’ prose works, as a mode of confronting the past and making sense of the present.


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List of figures ix List of abbreviations xi Acknowledgements xiii Introduction: Trauma and topography 1 Chapter 1 Topography and the search for origin in Bachmann’s ‘Drei Wege zum See’ 37 Chapter 2 Ruined landscape and familial decline in Bernhard’s Ungenach 61 Chapter 3 Grounding and ruination: Bachmann’s Das Buch Franza 83 Chapter 4 Topographical subjection: Bernhard’s Frost 111 Chapter 5 Where one must suf fer the past: Bachmann’s Malina 137 Chapter 6 Eradication of place: Bernhard’s Auslöschung 185 viii Conclusion: Habsburg nostalgia after Waldheim 249 Bibliography 259 Index 269

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