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The System of Vienna: From Heaven Street to Earth Mound Square

3.48  ·  Rating details ·  50 ratings  ·  14 reviews
An astonishing and fantastical autobiographical novel—reminiscent of Italo Calvino and Laurence Sterne—The System of Vienna details Jonke’s travels through Vienna by streetcar, reporting the bizarre and frustrating encounters he experiences as he progresses—and meanwhile moving not just from trolley-stop to trolley-stop, but through life as well, from innocence to ...more
Paperback, 120 pages
Published December 3rd 2009 by Dalkey Archive Press (first published 1999)
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Jan 17, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sahibim-sahiptim
Okurken bir türlü konsantre olamadım nedense. Doksanlar (Freed From Desire) dinlemeye çok odaklandığımdan mı... Yoksa iş yorgunluğundan mı anlamadım. Kitap da göz açıp kapayıncaya kadar bitti zaten.
Justin Evans
Jun 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
This book wins my prestigious "most ridiculous afterword of the 21st century" badge of honor. SoV is a nice collection of bits and pieces mostly about Vienna. Supposedly some of it is based on Jonke's life, but that seems pretty unlikely, except in the broadest, least informative sense. There is some trickiness to the writing, but it doesn't take a genius to work out. Most importantly, it's funny, smart, and just strange enough to be compelling. It's as if Beckett decided to take it easy for ...more
Monica Carter
Dec 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
Gert Jonke is one of the preeminent authors who can create an illusion that slyly seduces the reader and then dismantles it right before our eyes leaving us to wonder what part of the fiction was fiction. This may sound confusing or obtuse, and at times reading Jonke is just that - a confounding, vertiginous description of a story that turns the idea of story on its head. Jonke died this year and I wanted to explore his place among the philosophical literary surrealists that include some of my ...more
I had to give this up with only a few chapters left. It got tedious and sort of left me empty, when I really wanted to be filled with Vienna. It's experimental I guess, with the repetition (Gertrude Stein-ish?), which at first was amusing, but then I wanted to rush past it and get to the better stuff, which never really came. I'm sorry.
Therein was to be sought the reason and the cause why things are sometimes, mostly sometimes, rather often, sometimes rather often, mostly sometimes rather often,
Nov 23, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
yarısını okudum, sıkıntıdan ölmeyeyim diye gerisini bıraktım...
Mar 03, 2010 rated it it was ok
This novella reminded me a bit of Calvino in its terse style and bizarre images. Like the bulk of his work, this novel is musical, innovative, and difficult, not in a dusty academic way, but as a delightful puzzle, as a well-constructed argument, as a challenging game of chess. Innocence devolves into disillusion and the paranoid appear in unexpected moments.
Beginning with a recounting of the narrator’s birth, and how his skin was tinged blue, the novel proceeds with descriptions of events that
Laylay l
Apr 15, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Elfriede Jelinek hatrına okuduk peh
May 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
In his Translator's Afterword, Vincent Kling describes The System of Vienna as a "parody-tribute to the art of autobiography as construct," which is a good way of putting it (109). The book starts with the story of the narrator's birth, as told to him by his mother: the language of it makes you aware of the story-as-story, the way lived experience gets remembered and told and re-told: "The story begins with a description of that cold winter night and how my mother allegedly started out not being ...more
Jun 02, 2010 rated it liked it
This is probably more like a 3.5.

Definitely an acquired-taste kind of thing; if you're into crazy Austrians, then Jonke is for you. I'm mostly into them, but not fully, and so therefore -- 3.5.

A sample of what you're in for, prose-wise:

"Since that time I don't put flowers out onto the hallway window any more; I've given up on putting flowers onto the hallway window because it makes no sense to put flowers onto the hallway window, no, it's not just senseless, but impossible, for that matter,
Mar 03, 2010 marked it as to-read

From "The Quarterly Conversation," via

Most chapters in this autobiographical novella focus on a spot in Vienna, and they're recalled in sequence from the narrator's birth through adulthood as he meets odd people who strive to convey knowledge about politics, society, love, and human perception. Jonke's writing isn't difficult, though his sentences can stretch on into multi-page masterpieces, and he's a fan of word games and surreal imagery. But beneath these formal surfaces and
Nancy Davis
Oct 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Did a "speed read" of this compact novel as I am on a river cruise in Europe and will be stopping in Vienna next week, so though this would be good. It is an existential, mind gaming read and at first I was annoyed by it (due to the lack of travelogue I was expecting) but then, as I read up on the author, I became intrigued with his style, and the thoughtful, almost mind bending scenarios he portrays, which all take place on streets in Vienna. He also writes the longest sentences I have ever ...more
Jul 22, 2014 rated it liked it
Loopy and beguiling, but I kept missing the beat. The structure, which seems such an important element, did not entrance me, alas. I read this while in Vienna, among the street names and cars mentioned here, an attempt at immersion. It didn't really work.
Emprise's Review Editor Ben Stein reviews The System of Vienna here,
Feb 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2010
A delightful little book that grows increasingly absurd with each vignette. Recommended to fans of Raymond Queneau and Samuel Beckett who are looking for something brief and whimsical.
Luca Dipierro
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Jul 29, 2010
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Gert Jonke was an Austrian poet and playwright.