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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


1 Albrecht Dürer, Melencolia I, 1514. Copperplate engraving. Albertina, Vienna Inv. DG1930/1525 © Albertina, Vienna. Reproduced with permission. 2 Pieter Brueghel the Elder, Jagers in de Sneeuw (The Hunters in the Snow), 1565. Oil on wood panel. Image courtesy of Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. 3 The Ungargasse in Vienna’s third district. House number six in the Ungargasse (the Ich and Malina’s home). Photographs by the author. 4 Heeresgeschichtliches Museum (Museum of Military History), Vienna. Photograph by the author. 5 Wiener Riesenrad (Giant Ferris Wheel), Vienna. Photograph by the author. 6 Steine der Erinnerung (Stones of Remembrance) on the Mariahilfer Strasse, Vienna. Photograph by the author. 7 Schlüssel gegen das Vergessen (Keys Against Forgetting) memorial, Julia Schulz (2008), Servitengasse, Vienna. Photograph by the author.

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