From Austrian writer Adalbert Stifter to Rawlplugs, from Sebastian Brant’s “Ship of Fools” to the alarm system that his wife would like for Christmas, from holy relics to unholy bigots: Alois Brandstetter addresses the minutiae of everyday existence and the big questions of life with equal measures of inquisitiveness, insight and irony. Encounters with curious contemporaries and contemporary concepts give rise to reflections that are full of knowledge and worldly wisdom. The “certification of existence” which Brandstetter has to provide to the German Pension Department every year inspires him to deliver one of the most assertive and meaningful “signs of life” in this wonderfully enjoyable book.
For Albert Einstein she was “our Madame Curie”, for the Nazis an unwanted Jew and for the tabloid press “the mother of the atom bomb”. Only the second woman to receive a doctorate in physics, Lise Meitner graduated from the University of Vienna in 1906 and established herself in the male dominated science community. In 1938 she fled from the National Socialists and settled in Sweden, where she achieved her big breakthrough together with Otto Frisch: the discovery of the principle of nuclear fission. But the Nobel Prize she deserved eluded her. She spent the final years of her life in Cambridge. The authors paint a portrait of Meitner’s life against the backdrop of the rapid progress of nuclear physics and the great catastrophes of the 20th century, and provide new insights in the world of this unique scientist.
Never in human history has life changed so dramatically in such a short time for so many people as it has in China over the past 30 years. Under the command of state president and party leader Xi Jinping, China is storming its way into the top tier of global powers. Raimund Löw and Kerstin Witt-Löw have first-hand experience of the material rise of the Chinese middle classes and the country’s strict boundaries specified through censorship and political patronization. Raimund Löw has also reported from Peking and Hong Kong for the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation ORF. What remains of Mao? How does Peking intend to deal with the smog and the poisoning of the environment? How does China view its role in the world? These are some of the issues discussed in this analytical reportage on the 21st century’s greatest emerging superpower.
Nikolaus Harnoncourt’s childhood and youth was shaped by hardship and the after-effects of World War II, the parenting codex of the aristocracy to which his family belonged and the love for music. The world was in upheaval, it was a time of great political and societal change. To give his children and grandchildren a greater understanding of this era Harnoncourt wrote down his memories and reflections in a “family book”. How did his family deal with the economic and political shifts? What was life like when everything was no longer what it had been? And what traditions shaped the Harnoncourt family? Nikolaus Harnoncourt’s personal account is a fascinating record of the past.
In the first of his autobiographical books, Thomas Bernhard carries out a root cause analysis that spares nothing and no one. The boarding school was a prison and the town of Salzburg a terminal disease, where destruction was omni-present. The only guiding light was his grandfather, who spoke to him about Mozart, Rembrandt and Beethoven. These “root causes”, which are more than just hinted at by Bernhard, leave indelible traces across all his work. With precise, sparing strokes and a poignant use of repetition and variation, Lukas Kummer has succeeded in creating a visual take on Thomas Bernhard’s recollections of the horrors of boarding school, war and National Socialism. This is a sympathetic graphic novel that approaches the great author with respect and originality.
A childhood spent in a state of exception – a touching story, unsparingly told. Anna is the daughter of an actress and a business-minded, power-hungry genius designer. Her parents are prominent figures in the public eye. The family suffers from the father’s excessive lifestyle, while the mother’s acting profession places increasing demands on her. Anna spends a lot of time in the care of frequently changing nannies, happy family occasions are rare. A joint holiday on Mykonos turns out to be a life-changing event for the young family, but puts even greater pressure on Anna’s childhood world. In an open and unsparing, yet sensitive manner, Erika Pluhar describes a childhood spent in a state of exception.
It’s hard to imagine a more dramatic and controversial documentary novel. In 1938 the Sandgrube vineyard – one of the most famous vineyard estates in the Wachau valley – is owned by the Jewish businessman Paul Robitschek. His partner is August Rieger. Robitschek and the supposed baron are business partners, as well as glamorous lovers. Denunciations clear the path for the Aryanisation of an estate that would eventually become the basis of the famous Krems vintners’ cooperative – a name that is synonymous with wine and culture far beyond the national borders. This Aryanisation has to date never been the subject of investigation. The authors were able to recover a hoard of documents, enabling them to tell a staggering story of betrayal and loyalty, love and business, destruction and repression.
Does E. love the theatre? Does one ask a fish whether it loves the water? Emmy Werner created her first theatre under her parents’ dining table, a favourite refuge of wartime children. After her early years as an actress she was soon drawn backstage. Only here was she able to develop her full potential – eventually taking on the role of theatre director. But what was life like for a woman who wasn’t prepared to remain invisible in her husband’s shadow? What prejudices did she face? Emmy Werner has written a book that shows courage and gives courages. It is a humorous account that ponders the path of a headstrong woman.
Arno Köster became acquainted with the land and people of Kenya over the course of numerous visits. He has initiated and coordinated sustainable projects for the Udo Lindenberg Foundation since 2011, focusing on education and water supply. “Hope for Kenya” tells of the successes, problems and outcomes of the aid. Stakeholders, aid workers, project leaders, as well as local partners and friends of the Udo Lindenberg Foundation have their say. Köster describes a country that is undergoing great changes. He draws a picture that reveals the numerous facets of Kenya between modernity and tradition, corruption and tribal politics, autocracy and democracy. Above it all rests the hope for a better future.
Barbara Frischmuth's stirring début: the narrow world of a Catholic boarding school, the pupils and their aspirations, the teachers and their rules – the expression of a strict upbringing designed to restrict freedom of feeling, thought and action.