What have I learnt about Austria and its contemporary literature in the year since I’ve been working on The Austrian Riveter? For a start, history is at its heart, culture too; it’s multicultural (gentle reminder: it borders eight countries and once ruled Europe); its contemporary writing is positively defined by immigration and the fact that it is defiantly Not Germany, its largest neighbour; its authors are at best electrifying, experimental; and, we in the anglophone world know too little about it, because too little is translated or published outside Austria. That’s where I came in and here you have it: the first-ever magazine of contemporary Austrian prose and poetry in English. Of course, it reflects many of my personal interests (Empress Sisi! Freud! Zweig! Vienna! … although I resisted indulging in my passion for The Sound of Music!). But I didn’t create this magnificent volume alone: I consulted widely across Austria, the UK and the US, from the literary journalist Katja Gasser (my interview with Katja is our first item) to Jamie Bulloch, one of our great translators from German, who also studied Austrian history (read his fine essay), to Tess Lewis, our Empress of Austrian literary translation (and herself a wonderful essayist), to many others – the scores of writers, academics, journalists, translators and publishers who gave their time, ideas and extracts so generously, eager to put literary Austria on the map.
Alongside exclusive features on the three Nobel laureates of Austrian literature, Elias Canetti, Peter Handke and Elfriede Jelinek, we have interviews, reviews and extracts of writing by Robert Menasse, Doron Rabinovici and Raphaela Edelbauer – you name them, we have them. Thomas Bernhard in graphic novel form, anyone? You’ve come to the right place! And if you haven’t yet heard of Kaśka Bryla, Clemens J. Setz or Christine Lavant, you will after reading this. Book tips from Daniel Kehlmann? Read on! In his interview for this magazine, Daniel introduced me to Leo Perutz and Heimito von Doderer. Thus have many of the gaping holes in my knowledge of Austrian literature been filled. When I read German at university, I never realised that many of the classics I was reading were Austrian; now I do. Several Austrian classics are being reappraised today – and I’m delighted that this magazine is contributing to this revival, with fascinating items on Elias Canetti, Joseph Roth, Stefan Zweig, Ilse Aichinger, and more. Read original essays on wide-ranging topics from Jewish Austria to regional languages, writing by women, writing for children, crime writing and a history of Austrian publishing.
My ambition was to create not just an anthology of Austrian writing but of writing about Austria, to incorporate some of our finest writers in English linked to Austria, people I admire very much: Edmund de Waal, Hella Pick, SJ Fowler and some of my former BBC colleagues – Max Easterman, Misha Glenny, Kirsty Lang, Angus Robertson and Caroline Wyatt. Unlike previous Riveter magazines, this one has also entailed considerable reading in the original language because – as I discovered – shockingly few Austrian writers today are being translated. Therefore, to entice potential publishers, large sections of the magazine are devoted to extracts and recommendations for translation. (Get in touch if you’re interested!)
The Austrian Riveter is our weightiest since I first conceived the idea of a magazine dedicated to riveting European literature in translation in 2017, and for that I’d like to thank my fellow Germanists, especially Deputy Editor Sheridan Marshall, everyone at New Books in German and the Austrian Cultural Forum (ACF) in London, namely the inspirational director Waltraud Dennhardt-Herzog and ACF librarian Hannah Kaip. Also, huge thanks to Lara Bulloch, who has compiled a unique bibliography of ten years of Austrian publishing in English – an invaluable service to publishers, accessible for free online. In fact, this whole magazine is free and for that I wish to thank Regina Rusz at the Austrian Ministry for European and International Affairs, and Katja Gasser and her colleagues running the Austrian market focus at Leipzig Book Fair 2023. Finally, as ever, thank you to Anna Blasiak, Poetry Editor and Managing Editor of this and all our Riveters, and to the outstanding Lo Cole, artist and graphic designer, who has illustrated our cover and inside pages. It is thanks to him and all our contributors and supporters that The Austrian Riveter is as riveting and beautiful as I dreamed it might be.
Buy books from The Austrian Riveter through the European Literature Network’s The Austrian Riveter bookshop.org page.