Austria’s Literary Present
Present-day Austrian luminaries of literature include Elfriede Jelinek, Peter Handke, Marlene Streeruwitz, Robert Schindel, Robert Menasse, Friederike Mayröcker, Josef Winkler, Michael Köhlmeier, Arno Geiger, Peter Turrini and – a few years earlier - Erich Fried, H. C. Artmann, Ernst Jandl or Thomas Bernhard. At first glance, the historical publishing situation seems not to have changed greatly, seeing as many of the more notable Austrian writers still have their publisher in Germany because of the larger market. In Elfriede Jelinek, the country also has its own female Nobel Laureate for literature (2004), next to the Bulgarian-Austrian writer Elias Canetti - who had a British passport and lived in Zurich – who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1981. Unlike in former years, when Austrian authors were mainly published by German publishers but had their plays performed in Austria, Austrian authors are now performed and published in both Germany and Austria, and the Austrian publishing system has become more international. Last but not least, the knock-on effect, in terms of self-organisation, of the German writers’ association has placed the Austrian writer Josef Haslinger at the helm of the German PEN-Club and the Austrian author Katrhin Röggla in the position of Vice-President of the Deutsche Akademie für Sprache und Dichtung. If the main issue is market success, however, authors will still seek out German publishers.
Apart from names such as Daniel Kehlmann, Thomas Glavinic, Anna Kim, Valerie Fritsch or Clemens J. Setz, there is currently a growing circle of Austrian authors with a mother tongue other than German, including Dimitré Dinev, Carolina Schutti, Michael Stavarič, Radek Knapp, Vladimir Vertlieb or Didi Drobna, Barbi Marković and Julya Rabinowich, who left the Soviet union for Vienna at the age of seven and leads a very interdisciplinary life as a novelist, playwright, painter and conference interpreter.
Many of them started out within the context of the Wiener Wortstaetten, an intercultural playwriting project with authors who live in Vienna and write in German although it is not their mother tongue. Other important institutions in this context are the Exil-Literaturpreise and Edition Exil.