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The author of the book: Erich Hackl
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Reader ratings: 7.8
Edition: Froom Intl Pub
Date of issue: May 1st 1992
ISBN: 0880641355
ISBN 13: 9780880641357
Language: English
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 987 KB

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Austria, 1938

Ein liebenswerter Untermensch, das fehlte noch.(*)

When I think of contemporary Austrian literature very, very different authors - Peter Handke, Thomas Bernhard, Josef Winkler, Elfriede Jelinek - come to mind, each an extremist in his or her own way, and each apparently despising their home country. If one is to believe them, Austria is a land of deeply conservative, small minded Catholic bigots led by an elite with completely hollow pretensions to intellectual spirit.

On the evidence of the novella Abschied von Sidonie (1989, available in English under the title Farewell Sidonia), Erich Hackl (b. 1954), an Austrian writer previously unknown to me, seems to share the views of his very eminent colleagues about little old Österreich. But, at least in this small text, he doesn't engage any of their literary extremes. Perhaps this is because his topic is already so extreme - Austria from 1933 through 1945 - that literary flourishes would pale to insignificance. Indeed, in Abschied von Sidonie Hackl has opted for a carefully matter-of-fact, objective prose to re-create working class Austria during the era of National Socialism. One's skin crawls as the story of Hans, Josefa and their three children scrolls past, and one just knows that this story will not end well, particularly since Hans does a bit of organizing for the democratic socialist party and one of their children is a dark-skinned foundling apparently abandoned by passing Gypsies. Not well at all.

Abschied von Sidonie is a sober, grassroots view of Nazi Austria, and here one sees just how quotidian, how bureaucratic, how banal evil can be.

(*) A lovable subhuman, that's all we needed.

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