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unBURIED Authors A-D > Heimito von Doderer

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message 1: by Nathan "N.R." (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 985 comments We finally find among our CORPSE=RANKS an adVOCate for BURIED=deutschmann Heimito von Doderer. His most outrageously popular book, Die Strudlhofstiege oder Melzer und die Tiefe der Jahre, has 88 ratings which almost makes him look like an honest to gods BREATHing breastseller ; but low, it exists in NO ENGLISH translation.

His meisterstueck available to us mono=lings, The Demons, is poorly represented -- more than just undREad, it's pretty much BURIED.

Henry, take it away!!!


message 2: by Henry (new)

Henry | 40 comments Thank you, Nathan.

Heimito von Doderer made it on the cover of Germany's most important news magazine DER SPIEGEL in June 1957. They called him "a successor to the abandoned throne of German literature" (Thomas Mann had died in 1955, Gottfried Benn and Bertolt Brecht in 1956). The headline of the article was "The late bloomer".

The 60 year old Heimito had just released his magnum opus, the 1345 pages tome The Demons (Dostoyevsky reference fully intended) on wich he had worked since 1929. Knowing that people are reluctant to read such a long book, Doderer decided to build the reader a „ramp“ (his own words), so as to make the entrance easier – and wrote another 900 pages book: The Strudlhof Steps.

If you want to put it simply, you can say that these books are about the Viennese society of the 1920s (The Strudlhof Steps are set in 1923-1925, The Demons in 1926-1927, and the personnel is largely the same), but they are actually about life itself and the way, different people deal with it. They are about changes, obsessions, challenges and luck, about the interconnectedness of things, about revelations and the decisive moments, that give our lives new directions. And above all, Doderer writes the most beautiful prose I have (so far) read in my life (plus: he is funny and doesn’t shy away from jokes).

So if you can get your hands any of these two books, I highly recommend them. Of his shorter works, I have only read The Merovingians which is the odd one out in his output as it is an intentionally nonsense-ical book though still brilliant.

If you want to have a taste, the Doderer Society provides the first 79 pages of The Strudlhof Steps in an English translation, apparently done by a certain Vincent Kling in the 70s or the 90s (somehow a full translation seems never to have been published): http://www.doderer-gesellschaft.org/e...


message 3: by Nathan "N.R." (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 985 comments Henry wrote: If you want to have a taste, the Doderer Society provides the first 79 pages of The Strudlhof Steps in an English translation, apparently done by a certain Vincent Kling in the 70s or the 90s (somehow a full translation seems never to have been published): http://www.doderer-gesellschaft.org/e... "

Many Danke's for digging up that excerpt.


message 4: by Henry (last edited Sep 12, 2015 02:50AM) (new)

Henry | 40 comments Since I recently read "The Waterfalls of Slunj", I thought it'd be a good idea to champion Doderer once more.

As the novel is much shorter than his magna opera, yet still of the same quality, I can gladly recommend it to everyone wanting a taste of Doderer's style, before delving into his longer works.

The story traces the rise of an English industrialist's family in Vienna around the turn of the century and Doderer manages to cover nearly every aspect of emotional life, from sadness to joy, tragic love to fear of the future, the pursuit for happiness.

One could criticize that there is too little grit and dirt in the book as even the prostitutes are reasonable enough to change their lives for the better, but I guess there is other books for that.

Used copies of the English translation start at 0,01 $ at Amazon, so what are you waiting for?


message 5: by Nathan "N.R." (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 985 comments Henry wrote: "Used copies of the English translation start at 0,01 $ at Amazon, so what are you waiting for? "

Oddly enough, I'm waiting for my next trip to The Village Bookshop in order to pick up Die Dämonen. Thanks for the update and word about Slunj.


message 6: by Henry (new)

Henry | 40 comments Cool. I'm curious to know what you think of it. Although I'm a little worried that Doderer might appear too old-fashioned to you.

I'm going to Vienna in two weeks and hope to do some Doderer-related sight seeing. C. H. Beck published a new edition of the Strudlhofstiege last year that included an essay mapping out some of the more prominent places in the story, so I'm looking forward to see them in reality before rereading the book in the hopefully not so distant future.


message 7: by Nathan "N.R." (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 985 comments Henry wrote: "Cool. I'm curious to know what you think of it. Although I'm a little worried that Doderer might appear too old-fashioned to you."

I'm suspecting the same thing. Thus, forewarned is forearmed. I look forward to hearing about Doderer's Vienna from you.


message 8: by Nathan "N.R." (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 985 comments Oh, and here's the new edition :: Die Strudlhofstiege oder Melzer und die Tiefe der Jahre. Apparently no English at this time.


message 10: by Henry (new)

Henry | 40 comments Yes, I've seen this before. Good to hear that Mr Kling is doing some translation work. As I am very much interested in translations myself, I might even inspect parts of his work at some point in the future.

BUt for now, the next step is to attend a meeting of the Heimito von Doderer Society in Berlin. I wonder whether they are old men.


message 11: by Henry (new)

Henry | 40 comments By the way, Vincent Kling is still laboring on his translation. He will report on it in a session at the International Comparative Literature Association conference in Vienna in July.


message 12: by Henry (new)

Henry | 40 comments I just received word that Vincent Kling finished his English translation of „Die Strudlhofstiege“ two weeks ago. I'm not sure exaclty what „finished“ means in that case, but I guess, in 1 or 2 years it might become available.


message 14: by Burgmann (new)

Burgmann | 1 comments Absolutely love Heimito - I'd highly recommend the bizarre novel "The Merowingians; or, The Total Family", saw that there is a translation from 1996.


message 15: by Henry (new)

Henry | 40 comments Thanks for the heads up, Nick. I'm curious to see how the Strudlhof Steps will be received in the English-speaking world.


message 16: by Griffin (new)

Griffin Alexander | 23 comments Henry wrote: "Yes, I've seen this before. Good to hear that Mr Kling is doing some translation work. As I am very much interested in translations myself, I might even inspect parts of his work at some point in t..."

Something I wonder as someone who bought The Demons before knowing much about Doderer—is there stigma around him in germany due to the fact he was in the SS? That the early drafts of The Demons were explicitly anti-semitic? Sits strangely with me, and has put me off from sitting down to read the thing, but unable to find any english-language sources on the matter.


message 17: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 53 comments Griffin wrote: "Henry wrote: "Yes, I've seen this before. Good to hear that Mr Kling is doing some translation work. As I am very much interested in translations myself, I might even inspect parts of his work at s..."

was he really a member of the SS? i'm finding references to his membership of the nazi party and being drafted into the wehrmacht, but not the SS(which would indicate a serious ideological commitment, seemingly at odds with other information I'm seeing which indicates he started to become disillusioned with the nazis around 1940 or so). perhaps someone who reads german can clarify?


message 18: by Griffin (last edited Aug 23, 2021 05:45AM) (new)

Griffin Alexander | 23 comments Thomas wrote: "Griffin wrote: "Henry wrote: "Yes, I've seen this before. Good to hear that Mr Kling is doing some translation work. As I am very much interested in translations myself, I might even inspect parts ..."

Ah, excuse me—he was not a member of the SS (I was misremembering), though he did join up with the Nazi party willingly more than once before his alleged Catholic "disillusionment." Just makes me a little leery—same with Celine's full fledged collaboration, though at least he embraced being a monster, there was no self-styled moment of reform for him.

The whole thing reminds me of Sebald's essays on the postwar German writers in his collection On the Natural History of Destruction and the way they tried to recharacterize their wartime activities of complicity in order to seem morally righteous in the context of the postwar cultural stage. He does not mention Doderer, but I have been wondering.


message 19: by Henry (new)

Henry | 40 comments As you have already rectified, Doderer was not in the SS. But he joined the Austrian national-socialist party in April 1933 and subsequently became a member of the German NSDAP when the Austrian NS party was incorporated into the NSDAP after Germany’s annexation of Austria in 1938. As a reserve officer, who participated in World War I, he had to fight in World War II as well (as most men of his generation did, I think). The whole issue is rather complex.

I do believe that he harboured an anti-Semitic attitude for years that was probably influenced by the general public mood in Vienna at that time, his social origin and a couple of wrong friends. Which is not to deny his personal capacity or agency in that matter.

But I also believe that his anti-Semitism is one of the reasons why, later in life, he wrote so well about being led astray by wrong ideas, living in a false „second reality“ (as he calls it) and how individuals are realizing the falseness of their ways and changing their lives.

It is also true that he started „The Demons“ as „The Demons of the Ostmark“ (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ostmark... ) and in 1936 tried to „pitch“ the novel to the Reichsschrifttumskammer, a subdivision of the Reich Chamber of Culture that had to decide who was allowed to be a writer in the Third Reich and who wasn’t. Do note that he was a rather unsuccessful, 39-year-old, aspiring writer at that time and that his first novel was published only in 1938. Traces of this origin story and of anti-Semitism can still be found in the book.
I think he got indeed disillusioned with national-socialism in the 2nd half of the 1930s. And I also think that he tried to downplay his membership after the war and the Third Reich had ended. He only became a successful writer with the Strudlhof Steps in 1951 and very likely lost a Nobel prize nomination to this dark chapter of his past.

I would say that Doderer’s anti-Semitism is being a subject of discussion in the German-speaking public, as far as Doderer is publicly discussed at all. Which is to say: In Austria probably a bit more than in Germany, where he is quite a niche author.

I did a quick Google search and found this article, published just 3 months ago: https://www.derstandard.de/story/2000...
Of course, quite a few essays and even a full book about the topic have been produced in the world of literary studies. I couldn’t find anything about it in English though.

Hope this helps!


message 20: by Michel (last edited Nov 26, 2021 10:27AM) (new)

Michel Castagné (castagne) | 8 comments Some more in translation:

Das Geheimnis des Reichs (1930). The Secret of the Empire: A Novel of the Russian Civil War, trans. John S. Barrett (1998)

Ein Mord, den jeder begeht (1938). Every Man a Murderer, trans. Richard and Clara Winston (1964)

Two novellas translated by Vincent Kling in Chicago Review, vol. 26, no. 2 (1974): The Trumpets of Jericho / Under Black Stars. https://www.jstor.org/stable/i25303137

A Person Made of Porcelain and Other Stories (2005). A selected compilation of short stories translated by Vincent Kling.


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