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Entry updated 6 May 2024. Tagged: International.

Austrian literature must be considered a part of the larger German literature (see Germany), although with a distinct voice; Austrian writers have always been published more by German publishing houses than by Austrian ones.

At the turn of the century, Vienna was a veritable laboratory for many of the ideas of modern times, from psychoanalysis and logical positivism to music, the arts and literature: here were found Freud, Wittgenstein, Mahler, Schönberg, Klimt, Schiele, Schnitzler, Karl Kraus and so on. But, while the former Austro-Hungarian Empire produced many writers important in fantastic literature (notably Gustav Meyrink, Herzmanovsky-Orlando and Leo Perutz), its contribution to sf has been rather modest. True, there is the one Utopia that became true: the Zionism of Theodor Herzl (1860-1904) and his desire for the foundation of a home country for the Jews found a literary expression in Altneuland (1902; trans as Old-New Land 1947). A utopia of a more parochial sociopolitical character is Osterreich im Jahre 2020 ["Austria in 2020 CE"] (1893) by Joseph von Neupauer. The utopias Freiland (1890; trans as Freeland 1891) and its sequel Eine Reise nach Freiland (1893; trans as A Visit to Freeland 1894) by the economist Theodor Hertzka were internationally successful, although the utopias of the first woman winner (1905) of the Nobel Prize for Peace, Baroness Bertha von Suttner, such as Der Menschheit Hochgedanken: Roman aus der nächsten Zukunft (1911; trans as When Thoughts Will Soar: A Romance of the Immediate Future 1914), found little resonance. Under the pseudonym Ludwig Hevesi, Ludwig Hirsch (1843-1910) wrote MacEck's sonderbare Reise zwischen Konstantinopel und San Francisco ["MacEck's Curious Journey between Constantinople and San Francisco"] (1901) as well as humorous sketches of Jules Verne's adventures in Heaven and Hell in his collection Die fünfte Dimension ["The Fifth Dimension"] (coll 1906). Hevesi was a collector of utopian literature, and upon his death his library was catalogued as "Bibiotheca Utopistica" (reprinted Munich 1977) by an antiquarian bookstore, the first such listing in the German language. In Im Reiche der Homunkuliden ["In the Empire of the Homunculids"] (1910), Rudolf Hawel (1860-1923), another humorist, has his protagonist Professor Voraus ["Ahead"] sleep into the year 3907, where he encounters a world of asexual Robots.

A curious Future War story is the anonymous Unser letzter Kampf ["Our Last Battle"] (1907), presented as the "legacy of an old imperial soldier" who describes how the Austro-Hungarian Empire perishes in a heroic fight against Serbs, Italians and Russians. There is the occasional sf story among the writings of Karl Hans Strobl and Gustav Meyrink. Strobl's big, sprawling novel Eleagabal Kuperus (1910) is an apocalyptic vision of a fight between good and evil principles that involves a science-fictional attempt by the Villain to deprive humanity of oxygen; his Gespenster im Sumpf ["Ghosts in the Swamp"] (1920) is a nationalistic, anti-socialist and antisemitic account of the doom of Vienna, and is certainly closer to sf than is the visionary novel of the great illustrator Alfred Kubin (1877-1959), Die andere Seite ["The Other Side"] (1909; trans Mike Mitchell as The Other Side 2000).

At this time important work was being done at the fringes of sf. Highly ranked in world literature are the metaphysical parables of Franz Kafka, one of a group of Jewish writers from Prague writing in German who included also Max Brod (1884-1968), Leo Perutz and Franz Werfel, who wrote his spiritual utopia Stern der Ungeborenen (1946; trans as Star of the Unborn 1946) during his US exile. Kafka's texts combine a total lucidity of prose with a sense of the equally total impenetrability of the world as a whole, usually seen as having a totalitarian-bureaucratic character, as in Der Prozess (1925; trans as The Trial 1935). The story In der Strafkolonie (1919 chap; trans 1933; trans Edwin Muir and Willa Muir as title story in The Penal Colony coll 1948; vt In the Penal Settlement 1949) might be considered an anticipation of the Nazi concentration camps. Also of note is the expressionist writer Robert Müller (1887-1924), whose Camera Obscura (1921) is a many-levelled futuristic mystery novel. Two of the fantastic novels of the great writer Leo Perutz could be considered as psychedelic sf: Der Meister des Jüngsten Tages (1923; trans as The Master of the Day of Judgement 1930) and St Petri Schnee (1933; trans as The Virgin's Brand 1934). Both involve consciousness-altering Drugs. The books have a hallucinatory quality, and currently Perutz is undergoing a revival.

An acquaintance of Perutz was Oswald Levett (1884-1942), a Viennese Jewish lawyer who died en route to the Nazi extermination camp at Maly Trostenets (near Minsk) in October 1942. His two sf novels have recently been reprinted. Verirrt in den Zeiten ["Lost in Time"] (1933) is a Time-Travel novel of a journey back to the Thirty Years' War and an unsuccessful attempt to change history; as in Perutz's works, the harder the heroes try to change their fate, the more they are stuck with it. Papilio Mariposa (1935) can be read as a fantastic allegory of the fate of the Jews: an ugly and strange individual is changed into a vampiric butterfly; feelings of inferiority and the desire for a fantastic harmony with an inimical environment result in tragedy. In Die Stadt ohne Juden ["The City without Jews"] (1925) by another Jewish writer, Hugo Bettauer, the expelled Jews are finally recalled to restore the prosperity of the city. Otto Soyka (1882-1955), a best-selling mystery novelist in his day but now forgotten, wrote a novel about a chemical substance that influences people's dreams: Die Traumpeitsche ["The Dream Whip"] (1921).

After World War Two, Erich Dolezal (1902-1990) wrote a series of a dozen successful, although stiffly didactic and boring, juveniles about rocketry, starting with RS 11 schweigt ["RS 11 Doesn't Answer"] (1953). Somewhat better are two books by the chemist Friedrich Hecht (1903-1980) which combine space travel with discoveries about Atlantis and a civilization on an exploded planet between Mars and Jupiter (see Asteroids): Das Reich im Mond ["Empire in the Moon"] (1951) and its sequel Im Banne des Alpha Centauri ["Under the Spell of Alpha Centauri"] (1955). But the best Austrian sf juvenile is the anti-utopian Tötet ihn ["Kill Him!"] (1967) by Winfried Bruckner. Der U-Boot-Pirat (1951-1952), Yuma (1951), Star Utopia (1958) and Uranus (1958) were all short-lived Juvenile Series. Ernst Vlcek (1941-2008), a professional writer since 1970, wrote hundreds of novels in the field, especially for the Perry Rhodan series.

The physicist Herbert W Franke, considered the most important living sf writer in the German language, is also Austrian. He began his career with a collection of 65 short-short stories, Der grüne Komet ["The Green Comet"] (coll 1960), in the Goldmann SF series which he at the time edited. His first novel was Das Gedankennetz (1961; trans as The Mind Net 1974). Two other novels that have been translated into English are Der Orchideenkäfig (1961; trans as The Orchid Cage 1973) and Zone Null (1970; trans 1974). Franke has written more than a dozen sf novels, collections and radio plays, and has edited a number of international sf anthologies.

Among younger writers are: the physicist Peter Schattschneider (1950-    ), author of the two collections Zeitstopp ["Time Stop"] (coll 1982) and Singularitäten ["Singularities"] (coll 1984); Marianne Gruber, author of many short stories and two anti-utopian novels, Die gläserne Kugel ["The Glass Sphere"] (1981) and Zwischenstation ["Inter-Station"] (1986); Barbara Neuwirth (1958-    ), who writes brooding fantasy tales, sometimes with sf elements, her first collection, In den Gärten der Nacht ["In the Gardens of Night"] (coll 1990), being one of the best to appear in many years; and Ernst Petz (1947-    ) and Kurt Bracharz (1947-2020), both writers of satirical stories.

Further Austrian authors given entries in this encyclopedia are Ludwig Anton, Otto Basil, Karl Bruckner, Walther Eidlitz, Joseph Delmont, Egon Friedell, Thomas Glavinic, Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Jakov Lind, Thomas Glavinic and Christoph Ransmayr.

Austria's most important (and most curious) contribution to sf Cinema is a propagandist effort called 1 April 2000 (1952; vt April 1st, 2000), directed by Wolfgang Liebeneiner. In 2000 CE Austria is still occupied by the USA, the USSR, France and the UK. When, on 1 April, she declares her independence she is accused of breaking the peace. Forces of the world police, equipped with death-Rays, descend upon her, and in a public trial she has to defend her right to exist. This is a charmingly naive period piece, sponsored by the Austrian Government and with a high-class cast, including the Spanish Riding School and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. [FR]

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