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Austria’s Ambiguous Smile: Transnational Perspectives on Austrian Belatedness in the Fiction of John Irving

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNew Perspectives on Contemporary Austrian Literature and Culture
EditorsKatya Krylova
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherPeter Lang
Publication statusPublished - 7 Oct 2018

Publication series

NameStudies in Modern German and Austrian Literature
PublisherPeter Lang

King's Authors


This chapter undertakes a transnational reading of Austria’s post-war belatedness and Vergangenheitsbewältigung through an analysis of the representation of Austria in the novels of the American author John Irving. It explores how Irving’s works from the late 1960s to the late 1980s present post-war Austria as a site of both fascination and contempt in the international imagination, and argues that Irving’s transnational perspective forms a consistent, highly interventionist critique of Austria’s memory politics, especially in the years leading to the 1986 Waldheim Affair. It focuses on Irving’s literary representation of Austria and especially of Vienna: first as a post-war tourist idyll; then as a site of hidden but not repressed anti-Semitism; and finally as a relic of the Habsburg Empire. Ultimately, it argues that Irving’s transnational perspective on Austria’s past is critically distinct to that within Austria, marked by his ferocity, his focus on the capital, and his earliness.

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