All Night Long

A little bit of nostalgia can’t do any harm, especially in these difficult times. The latest book by Beppo Beyerl and Thomas Hofmann is a magnificent journey back in time.

Richly illustrated and based on numerous newspaper articles, official documents, postcards and ads, “Wiener Vergnügungen. Die Stadt von gestern” portrays entertainment and events in Vienna before and after World War One.

The authors describe how measures to regulate the Danube in 1870 offered new free-time opportunities. “Wiener Vergnügungen. Die Stadt von gestern” also underlines the city’s passion for music – from concerts commemorating the 100th anniversary of Franz Schubert’s death to a festival in 1928 called Sängerbundfest attended by 40,000. Especially the chapter on the spectacular success of waltz geniuses Johann Strauss and Joseph Lanner captures the festive atmosphere back in the days.

Anecdotes about activities like ice-skating, cycling and swimming add to the special appeal of “Wiener Vergnügungen. Die Stadt von gestern”.

Wiener Vergnügungen. Die Stadt von gestern
By Thomas Hofmann & Beppo Beyerl
Published by Styria (www.styriabooks.at)

Ballpoint Wizards

“I’ve always been interested in the relationship between people who are in charge and those in the background,” Manfred Matzka explains regarding the intention of his latest book. “Hofräte, Einflüsterer, Spin-Doktoren” is a multi-faceted view on the political engine room.

On 250 pages, Matzka – who had positions in federal ministries and the chancellery for 35 years – portraits the most influential advisors. “Today ministry secretaries are all of almost the same age. They use similar phrases. They focus on no one else but their boss,” the author of “Die Staatskanzler. 300 Jahre Macht und Intrige am Ballhausplatz” told the Tiroler Tageszeitung.

The 15 chapters of “Hofräte, Einflüsterer, Spin-Doktoren” underline Matzka’s unmatched knowledge of procedures in Austria’s decision-making conferences throughout the centuries. From Johann Christoph von Bartenstein, the advisor to Maria Theresa and her son Joseph II., to today’s suave strategists – this book will help you understanding top-tier politics in Austria in the past 300 years.

Hofräte, Einflüsterer, Spin-Doktoren. 300 Jahre graue Eminenzen am Ballhausplatz
By Manfred Matzka
Published by Christian Brandstätter Verlag (www.brandstaetterverlag.com)

Desert Island Risks

Kemal had it all – a beautiful girlfriend, a fast car and a lucrative contract at a top-flight Turkish football club. Influenced by the glamorous lifestyle of his teammates, Kemal finds it increasingly difficult to think straight. He breaks up with his girlfriend and suffers a serious injury wrecking his car in an illegal race.

Having seen the error of his ways, Kemal returns to Hawaii, an infamous area in the German city of Heidelberg where tensions between migrant kids and members of a fascist organisation are intensifying. Obviously there is a fine irony to the title of Cihan Acar’s compelling debut novel. “Hawaii” is the story of a young bloke trying to sort out his personal problems while there’s a riot in the streets.

Hawaii
By Cihan Acar
Published by Hanser Berlin (www.hanser-literaturverlage.de)

Evil Evolution

Adolf Hitler had shown every effort to manipulate his own biography. Historians have underlined the many false claims in his grotesque manifesto “Mein Kampf”. “Hitler. Prägende Jahre” is as precisely as possible when it comes to portraying the dictator’s upbringing.

Hitler’s childhood was dominated by numerous relocations, financial strain and domestic violence. Hannes Leidinger and Christian Rapp analyse the influence certain teachers might have had on the Third Reich Reichskanzler. Many theories suggested by other authors still require citable evidence, but Leidinger and Rapp never abstain from making aware of that.

Determined to carry out megalomaniac architectural concepts for regional capital Linz, the dictator later used to label himself as a misunderstood genius. Leidinger and Rapp point out that Hitler in fact struggled to make ends meet painting postcard-sized portraits of different Viennese buildings.

The chapter about the constantly changing political constellation in Upper Austria might appear excessively detailed to many readers while the recollections of August Kubizek, Hitler’s only true friend, turn the one about his Vienna years into the most fascinating one of the whole book.

Hitler. Prägende Jahre
By Hannes Leidinger & Christian Rapp
Published by Residenz Verlag (www.residenzverlag.at)

Out of the Dark

The decades between 1918 and 1938 were a period of transition in Austria. Having barely realised the demise of the Habsburg Empire, the country drifted straight into an autocratic regime and further on to fascism and another global war.

“Menschheitsdämmerung” (Twilight of Humanity) is the title of a Leopold Museum’s exhibition presenting the oeuvre of Gerhart Frankl, Josef Dobrowsky and nine other artists. Featuring the sinister portrait of countryside poverty by Albin Egger-Lienz but also Herbert Boeckl’s timeless colourfulness, this selection is much more than just an addition the Viennese gallery’s outstanding permanent exhibit.

For information on upcoming exhibitions, guided tours, ticket prices and Covid-19 restrictions, go to http://www.leopoldmuseum.org

Back in the U.S.S.R.

The difficult relationship between Russia and Europe is the subject of Hugo Portisch’s most recent book. Considering Portisch’s achievements, “Russland und wir” is a massive disappointment.

Relying on decades of experience, the award-winning author and journalist takes a look at past occurrences – from first settlement movements to the collapse of communism – to determine a solution for the near future.

Unfortunately, Portisch struggles creating a direct correlation between conflicts like the 19th century Crimean War and today’s challenges. His portrayal of a visit to Siberia back when the Soviet Union still existed take up a disproportionally large part of this 140-page publication which costs a hefty 20 Euros.

Portisch dedicates just a few pages to the communication between Vladimir Putin, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel. Reading “Russland und wir” feels like looking at a picture hanging askew. This book is a missed opportunity.

Russland und wir. Eine Beziehung mit Geschichte und Zukunft
By Hugo Portisch
Published by Ecowin (www.ecowin.at)

Wishing On A Star

Complex issues of astronomy, religion and philosophy are debated, but a highly unusual friendship is at the heart of Christine Wunnicke’s latest novel.

“Die Dame mit der bemalten Hand” portrays the encounter of a Persian manufacturer of astronomic instruments with a German explorer tormented by malaria on a mystic island east of Bombay. Musa al-Lahuri saves the life of the young lad from Göttingen who never really wanted to go to Asia to document nature and custom.

There have been many favourable reviews of Wunnicke’s books in recent years. This historical novel, which takes her audience back into the 18th century, is certain to spark a few more.

Die Dame mit der bemalten Hand
By Christine Wunnicke
Published by Berenberg (www.berenberg-verlag.de)

Friends Will Be Friends

With its penchant for nostalgia and persistent championing of supporters’ interests, 11Freunde is still somewhat of a dark horse in mainstream publishing. Now a book documents how it all started.

Chief editor Philipp Köster reflects on teaming up with a mate in April 2000 to establish a monthly magazine. “Das große 11 Freunde Buch” features brilliant photographs, memorable articles such as the one on the 1999 Champions League final and insightful interviews with Pele and Lothar Matthäus.

Drastic attendance reductions are a reasonable measure in the current pandemic. But other recent developments in sports demonstrate that raking in cash is still considered their primary responsibility by top-flight clubs.

Some of Köster’s controversial editorials depict moneyed businessmen and their doings as the embodiment of evil. However, this magazine has made many valuable contributions ever since its launch. Let’s hope that 11Freunde stays alive during the crisis of the publishing industry that struck much sooner than Covid-19.

Das große 11 Freunde Buch
By Philipp Köster & Tim Jürgens
Published by Heyne (www.heyne.de)

Speed Kills

In the 1990s, Andreas Buck was one of the best Bundesliga wingers. A series of injuries and national team decision-makers’ stubbornness kept the pacy ex-VfB Stuttgart and Kaiserslautern star from being capped. He looks back with regret on that fact in “Turbo. Mein Wettlauf mit dem Fußballgeschäft”, the book on the soccer business he penned with sports journalist Johannes Ehrmann. But Buck is also straightforward about the hair-raising financial adventure that pushed him on the brink of bankruptcy.

Buck, a two-time Bundesliga champion, has seen it all. Controversial managers like Christoph Daum and Otto Rehhagel, a disproportional increase of wages and broadcasting fees, players taking over the dressing room. “Turbo. Mein Wettlauf mit dem Fußballgeschäft” is a no-holds-barred account on the constant pressure he felt as a player in the hostile atmosphere of top-flight football.

Turbo. Mein Wettlauf mit dem Fußballgeschäft
By Andreas Buck & Johannes Ehrmann
Published by Tropen (www.tropen.de)

Come and Sea

Gerhard Richter is nothing less than one of the most important contemporary German painters. Now a Viennese museum provides fascinating insights into his oeuvre.

The Bank Austria (BA) Kunstforum’s “Landschaft” (Landscape) underlines the strong influence of avant-garde photography and the large canvases of Emil Jakob Schindler, Caspar David Friedrich and Gerhard Brandl on the 88-year-old artist from Dresden.

Covid-19 restrictions will keep modern art enthusiasts from visiting this astonishing exhibition after Christmas. Curated by Lisa Ortner-Kreil and Hubertus Butin, “Landschaft” is a true gem with its variety of lesser-known paintings from private collections. But Richter’s almost sinister clouds and sea horizon canvases turn this exhibition into an invaluable experience.

For information on post-lockdown opening hours, guided tours and events, please visit http://www.bankaustria-kunstforum.at