The Revised List of Austro-Hungarian Fiction

A couple weeks back I noted that a a great city (Vienna) surrounded by a great empire (Austria-Hungary) deserved great literature. I started making a list of this literature, and readers had no trouble filling in the blanks for me.

So now I present the revised list of great literature of the Austro-Hungarian empire.

First off, I should mention a nonfiction book. It is a guide to fin de siecle Vienna’s politics and culture that I’ve found indispensable, the aptly titled Fin-De-Siecle Vienna: Politics and Culture by Carl E. Schorske.

Now on to the literature.

Here are my original picks:

And here are the reader recs:

There were also mentions of Thomas Bernhard and Peter Nadas, which I didn’t include in the above list because I wanted to restrict it to writers who worked during the days of the actual empire and the fin de siecle era. But, their mention does point to a rich vein of literature that was produced after World War II and continues up to today with authors like Bernhard, Nadas (whose Book of Memories is absolutely incredible), and, more recently, Attila Bartis and Imre Kertez. For more on contemporary Hungarian lit, have a look at the indispensible Hungarian Literature Online.

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I wonder why I thought Wedekind was Austrian. Some confusion with Schnitzler? Anyway, withdrawn!
Thanks for this work – very useful. One would think this sort of thing would be easier to find already. At Wuthering Expectations, I’ve put together Senegalese and 19th century Yiddish reading lists. The available lists were to sparse, too academic, too plain – never quite what I wanted.

If your going to mention Bernhard and Nadas (great writers) yes, but how about PETER HANDKE. He has challenged post world war 2 Austrian literature to experiment and try new literary forms. His work can be difficult but always thought provoking. He has had a large influence on German literature since the late 60’s.

Musil’s “Man without Qualities” is enormous, to put it mildly (well over 2000 pages in a proper scholarly edition). As an alternative I would like to propose his “Confusions of Young Torless”.
Miroslav Krleza is a very good choice, although personally I would start with his “The Return of Philip Latinowicz”.
Peter Esterhazy, by the way, is still alive – he was born in 1950, so he most certainly did not write his books during the days of the empire.

There’s a nice collection of Austrian short fiction edited & translated by M. Mitchell called The Dedalus Book of Austrian Fantasy, 1890-2000. It has works by 43 authors from Schnitzler to Gunther Kaip, inc. pieces by Kafka, Blei, Werfel, Hofmannsthal, Rilke, Leppin, Perutz, Brod, Csokor, H. Ungar, Ebner, Aichinger, Frischmuth & Neuwirth. Also, there’s a good 2003 study by David Luft called Eros and Inwardness in Vienna: Weininger, Musil, Doderer. A classic overview of early-20th-Century Vienna is Wittgenstein’s Vienna (by Janik & Toulmin).

If you want to exclude post WWII literature you should consequentially also exclude Esterhazy.

The Latin American Mixtape

5 essays. 2 interviews.

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3 never-before-published essays, including “The Digression”—a 4,000-word piece on the most important digression in César Aira’s career.

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