THANK YOU.

When I launched the Austrian Culture Channel back in 2012, I had no idea where it would take me.

Now, as I’ve published my 400th book review, I’d like to take the opportunity to say thanks – to all my readers and followers for your loyalty, support and invaluable feedback.

I would also like to thank everyone at publishers’ press departments and, of course, all the authors of novels and nonfiction for creating mesmerising worlds day by day.

Chitchat & champagne

Writing a book about lavish parties and extraordinary trips – such as a journey “on royal expenses” to the fortress of one of the richest individuals in the world – could be considered a contentious project in times of social welfare cutbacks and frozen unemployment insurance budgets. However, there is no smugness about Alexander von Schönburg’s tales. Born into a posh environment, the former Park Avenue editor in chief is still not used to encountering the world’s most celebrated showbiz icons.

“Tausendundeine Party. Die hohe Kunst des Feierns” describes bashes which are miles off the average reader’s work-pub-sleep routine. Von Schönburg – who once sat next to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II – bluntly lists the gravest mistakes when attending celeb get-togethers. He warns from talking about food at dinner in France and argues it feels worse to be overdressed than underdressed.

Von Schönburg underlines the importance of possessing distinguished conversational skills but also appeals on readers to relax and avoid being overcritical towards oneself, arguing that trying to betray others concerning your personality and character – at parties and in life in general – was leading nowhere. People will notice.

Early into the 80-page pocket-sized book – which, unfortunately, does not contain any new material but extended versions of previously published essays – the author writes about a meeting with “one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met”. He lauds her as a “great philosopher”. Her name is Paris Hilton.

Tausendundeine Party. Die hohe Kunst des Feierns
By Alexander von Schönburg
Published by rororo (www.rororo.de)

Awards & awareness

A young Austrian comedian is shifting into a higher gear following tough times on the road performing in front of small audiences throughout the country. Hosea Ratschiller has worked his socks off for years. However, it seems as if the witty entertainer has finally made it into the higher echelons of Austria’s Kabarett performers.

Ratschiller was not only named host of a new television show called “Pratersterne” which is meant to be a platform for up-and-coming comedians. With the Austrian Kabarett Prize in 2016 and the Salzburger Stier in the following year, he also bagged two of Central Europe’s most prestigious stage performance awards.

Now Holzbaum Verlag presents his new book “Der allerletzte Tag der Menschheit (Jetzt ist wirklich Schluss)”. The publication – which contains cartoons by hyped author Stefanie Sargnagel – is based on a play penned by Ratschiller which was met with unanimous acclaim by critics and crowds.

Here Ratschiller hits out at tabloid media for lacking a sense of proportion as they come up with ludicrous and headlines and exaggerated reports. At the same time, Ratschiller stresses our indifference towards seismic changes in the world.

Speaking about his concept recently, Ratschiller – who does not shy away from criticising distasteful occurrences in society and politics on Facebook – underlined that the light-hearted background of Kabarett entertainment would give him the opportunity to address worrying developments in gloves-off attitude – from red tops’ seduction of Pete the Plumber to elitist classes’ prejudices.

Der allerletzte Tag der Menschheit (Jetzt ist wirklich Schluss)
By Hosea Ratschiller & Stefanie Sargnagel
Published by Holzbaum (www.holzbaumverlag.at)

Fame & Forstner

Tex Rubinowitz has raised doubts over whether Austrians were actually as tolerant as everyone claimed after Conchita Wurst’s Eurovision triumph.

The singer – who failed breaking through as Tom Neuwirth before inventing his androgynous stage personality – sensationally won the competition four years ago. Now Rubinowitz claimed: “The atmosphere in Austria would have become even more homophobe and hostile had she returned without winning any points. And I’m dead certain Conchita would have been asked to appear in ‘I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!’”

Speaking to news magazine Profil, the German author who settled in Vienna in 1984, revealed his passion for the Eurovision Song Contest which is, according to Rubinowitz, not about music but a perfect reflection of sociological developments in society. He said: “Thomas Forstner, who flopped in 1991, had to face hatred and mockery. He was 21 years old back then and deeply traumatised.”

Asked whether writers were expected to deal with tough social circumstances before finally making their way to the top, the cartoonist and author of acclaimed books such as “Die Fliegen” and “Irma” said: “I still have to justify my success as I’m just some bloke drawing funny stuff. You got to be Kafka and suffer from tuberculosis. Puberty had to be hell. Then you don’t have to justify anything.”

He told newspaper Kurier: “I’m forced to justify what I have achieved all the time – towards colleagues who did not win the Bachmann Award.”

Rubinowitz was awarded the prestigious Ingeborg Bachmann Prize in 2014. He is known for speaking at readings off the cuff, preferring to speak about his latest release spontaneously instead of reading certain parts. “Most authors can’t read properly. They lean at their desks, reading their texts monotonously.”

As far as handling fame is concerned, the 56-year-old told Profil: “I moved out when I was 16, taking on different jobs. Not having to turn up for work at eight in the morning is priceless.”

Lass mich nicht allein mit ihr
By Tex Rubinowitz
Published by Rowohlt (www.rowohlt.de)

Mesut the Magician

Jose Mourinho’s eyes were blazing. “You scare away from challenges, you don’t tackle. Do you really think 50 per cent are enough?” The Real Madrid boss did not just hold a firebrand speech during half time despite being up 3-1, he also launched a ferocious attack on Mesut Özil. Mourinho mocked his player and accused him of lacking stamina and determination in front of his teammates.

Özil eventually went off in a huff, thinking his time’s at the Bernabeu was up. After consulting his best mate Sergio Ramos, the ingenious midfielder realised that The Special One – who contributed a short foreword to this book – only had one goal: getting the best performance as possible, anywhere and at anytime. Özil eventually apologised to the manager who just smirked, happy that his key squad member realised what it was all about.

Mourinho’s half-time rant was a pivotal moment for Özil, so he decided to kick off his autobiography by sharing this anecdote. The German national team ace’s career is phenomenal rags to riches stuff. In “Die Magie des Spiels. Und was du brauchst, um deine Träume zu verwirklichen”, Özil and co-author Kai Psotta do not just describe his glorious spell at Real and what it feels like to face probably the best Barcelona line-up of all time, featuring Xavi, Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta.

Özil also takes his readers back to his childhood in a shabby neighbourhood in Gelsenkirchen. He writes about being petrified thinking of going down the stairs to get his bicycle up from the rat-infested cellar. To Özil, family and football have always been the most important elements in life. His book features anecdotes about not feeling accepted at school and being forced to wear pink second-hand jumpers as his toiling parents just could not afford any decent clothes, let alone a more spacious apartment or extravagant holidays.

“Die Magie des Spiels” meticulously recounts Özil’s journey into Europe’s football elite. Praising his early mentor and friend Norbert Elgert for all his wit and invaluable tips, the 29-year-old does not shy away from openly criticising then-Schalke 04 executive Andreas Müller for letting him down and publicly branding him as greedy when the club and Özil negotiated a contract extension.

Özil, still a young chap back then, had horrifying bouts of self-doubt before getting back on track at Werder. In his book, the midfielder – who has, already as a kid, been lauded for his ability of taking on the ball in any position and any angle – shares his points of view on the delicate integration issue (“I think German but I feel Turkish”) but also discloses why it was him who called Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger and not the other way round shortly ahead of his deadline-beating 50-million-Euro move to the Emirates in 2013.

Overall, “Die Magie des Spiels” is a nice read comprising more or less meaningful sports business anecdotes but also some boring stretches, especially when the 2014 world champion feels the urge to offer advices to young players and fans as far as lifestyle, attitude and work ethics are concerned.

Die Magie des Spiels. Und was du brauchst, um deine Träume zu verwirklichen
By Mesut Özil & Kai Psotta
Published by Lübbe (www.luebbe.de)

Clash of the crisis clubs

It will be an encounter of two teams under enormous pressure when Rapid face Sturm Graz on Saturday.

The Green-Whites lost 1-2 to Admira last Sunday due to a last-minute own goal by Mario Pavelic but coach Goran Djuricin’s job is not on the line, according to club bosses. Being forced to perform without several injured players including skipper Stefan Schwab, Rapid’s defence appeared fragile while striker Joelinton missed a bunch of top chances.

Sturm started poorly into the decisive part of the season too. The tradition-rich Graz club lost both matches since the Bundesliga restarted after the winter break. Now Red Bull Salzburg are five points ahead of the 2011 league champs. Sturm must score on Saturday (Allianz Stadion Vienna, kickoff: 4pm) to quiet down critics who are already raising doubts concerning the competence of the team’s new manager. Heiko Vogel took over from Franco Foda a few weeks ago after the former Sturm midfielder was appointed new Austrian national team coach.

Rapid’s poor performances have only be a fringe concern recently despite the immense interest in the club as the team’s supporters once more set pulses racing. Rapid’s match against city rivals FK Austria was almost broken off after lighters, cups and other objects were thrown on players of the opposite team. The referee eventually decided to continue after an interruption of more than 10 minutes, but league officials slapped a 100,000 Euro fine on Rapid earlier this week. Furthermore, the club must not let supporters enter the west stand. Other parts of the stadium have to remain empty as well at one fixture in the near future which has not yet been determined.

The Bundesliga after 22 of 36 rounds:

Red Bull Salzburg, 49 points
Sturm Graz, 44
SK Rapid, 35
Admira, 34
LASK, 33
FK Austria, 27
Mattersburg, 27
Altach, 26
WAC, 20
St. Pölten, 7

>> http://www.skrapid.at

>> http://www.sksturm.at

Mixed Martial Author

One of Austria’s most celebrated and successful authors has taken a publishing house’s series of manuals to another level.

For years, Piper’s Gebrauchsanweisung releases are selling like hot cakes. But while most writers focus on their native countries or cities they are based in, Thomas Glavinic has been assigned to write about self-defence.

“Gebrauchsanweisung für Selbstverteidigung” deals with various martial arts techniques but also psychological aspects of conflicts. “I’ve been into the topic for some time. What really interests me is the aspect of avoiding violence and de-escalation,” Glavinic told the Kurier. “Writing a book about beating up others wouldn’t have been a desirable task. I wanted to write a book for everyone, for men and women, for people being bullied at the office,” he added.

Glavinic most recently topped sales charts with his 720-page tome “Der Jonas-Komplex” and “Das größere Wunder”, a complex but brilliant book which took the author eight years to finish. Early parts of the Graz-born writer’s oeuvre such as his 1998 debut “Carl Haffners Liebe zum Unentschieden” and the dystopian “Die Arbeit der Nacht” have been reappraised by critics over time.

“Gebrauchsanweisung für Selbstverteidigung” is not his first attempt to break the boundaries of expectations. In 2011, Glavinic presented “Unterwegs im Namen des Herren”, a dazzlingly entertain recount of his a coach trip to Bosnian pilgrimage site Medjugorje.

Gebrauchsanweisung für Selbstverteidigung
By Thomas Glavinic
Published by Piper (www.piper.de)

Ideology & infiltration

Hooligans have been an imminent threat to the polished picture of fair and spectacular football competitions for decades. Rooted in Britain, hooligan groups have managed to infiltrate supporter communities across Europe in recent years while slipping out of focus due to a lack of impact in the UK.

“Hooligans. Eine Welt zwischen Fußball, Gewalt und Politik” reviews these developments. Author Robert Claus analyses the rise of the movement and its structures. Why are so many young men fascinated by hooligans’ ideology which focuses not on football but sheer violence?

Claus describes connections between anti-Islamist organisation HoGeSa and soccer supporters but also portrays the booming mixed martial arts business – for good reasons. He interviews former hooligan organisation members to find out more about recruiting, group-internal hierarchies and the fight for the dominant role on the stands between hooligans and ultras.

Hooligans. Eine Welt zwischen Fußball, Gewalt und Politik
By Robert Claus
Published by Verlag Die Werkstatt (www.werkstatt-verlag.de)

Viennese vengeance

The league restarts with four fixtures tomorrow but the top clash is set for Sunday.

Rapid’s Allianz Stadion will be sold out when the capital’s archrivals meet for the 325th time at 4.30pm. The home side won the two most recent encounters but have so far not managed to beat FK Austria at their new stadium.

Both teams spent some days in the south recently to get in shape for the second part of the season. While FK Austria picked Cyprus, Rapid decided to prepare for upcoming challenges in Spain.

FK Austria – who extended the contract of executive manager Franz Wohlfahrt until 2021 earlier this week – are currently only in sixth place. Thorsten Fink’s team won just one of their six test matches in December and January. Rapid achieved only a 1-1 draw against Czech side 1. FC Slovacko last Sunday (pictured: Rapid’s Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo) but won nine of 20 Bundesliga matches so far this season.

Rapid kept their finances in check during the winter transfer window while FK Austria signed ex-Rapid star Stefan Stangl from champions Red Bull. The left-back failed to live up to the hype in Salzburg and is now trying to recapture confidence at his former team’s biggest rivals.

The Bundesliga after 20 of 36 rounds:

Sturm Graz, 44 points
Red Bull Salzburg, 43
SK Rapid, 34
LASK, 27
FK Austria, 26
Altach, 25
Mattersburg, 21
WAC, 16
St. Pölten, 7

>> http://www.skrapid.at

>> http://www.fk-austria.at

Pitch Perfect

Jürgen Rank is a massive football fan but his book is not about the game itself. “Der Grund ist Fußball” does not deal with what happens on the pitch during 90 minutes and these infamous moments of added time.

As its subheading suggests (“Fotografische Begegnungen in den Stadien der Welt”), Rank’s release is a celebration of architecture and fan culture. His photos depict supporters outside the pub and on the way to the stadium. The snapper portrays car parks and deserted rows of seats as well as derelict roads adjacent to more or less modern soccer arenas.

“Der Grund ist Fußball” successfully attempts to change the perspective. Rank proves being able to think outside the box by broadening the focus on so many occurrences happening before, during and after a match which may happen accidentally but which are often also part of supporters’ sacred rituals.

Rank – who attended university and Premiership matches in London before founding Germany’s first football museum managed by fans – managed to get Eintracht Frankfurt legend Jürgen Grabowski to provide a short foreword. Rank’s father had the skilful striker in mind as he picked a name for his newborn.

Der Grund ist Fußball. Fotografische Begegnungen in den Stadien der Welt
By Jürgen Rank
Published by Fischer (www.fischerverlage.de)