Robert Menasse – Austria

Robert Menasse – Austria, a political writer. Thrust reversing in history: Sound and smoke for the one, fate for others.

Robert Menasse

If one is called e.g. Menasse, then it carries obviously heavily to it. Until it makes itself on the search, after its roots, its family history. If he is then still a writer, then a book a quite thick become sometime from these searches.

There is no beginning. Each history already begins with the sentence “which so far happened” and is a continuation … it means at the beginning of the history, which is enough from the Portugal of the yearly 1604 into the Vienna of an undated present. What so far happened? In Portugal rages the Inquisition, the pig hunt for baptized Jews, whom its religion secretly attach. The small Mane knows nothing from its origin and follows the crowd, until its father is exhausted. Lying in coffins the escape finally succeeds to the family into the liberty, after again Jerusalem, to Amsterdam.

In Vienna in the rejoicing around the convention 1955 on the road a boy is relieved in the middle by a butcher. The small Viktor knows nothing from its origin and follows the crowd, which torments a Jewish school colleague. . . Parallel lifeline Robert Menasse draws crosswise over the centuries, links her to similar fates and experiences, the experience to belong to not to be allowed, where they nevertheless at home were.

Time pictures: Transition lot zappt Menasse between the scenes, the epochs back and forth and spreads thereby much knowledge, history, in addition, many stories. Up to the hysteria mentally loaded the atmosphere of the Portuguese-Jewish municipality in 17. Century, which ben from the small Mane, the large Rabbi Menasseh Israel make, which becomes the teacher Baruch Spinozas, are alive after-drawn, after felt.

Probably felt at the own body the nervous spirit climate in the Vienna of the late 60’s and 70’s-years, where Viktor accumulates ideological and erotic frustration only as a high school student, later in the leftist student movement. Itself fall brook-like in a fatal class meeting to 25. Maturajubilaeum unloads. It outet its teachers as NSDAP members and sits on it with his worshipped schoolfriend lifelong alone before thirty covers.

Hells : The stickige small civilness with parents and grandparents, the Sadism in the school, the narrow-mindedness in the home community. The tightness of the religions, the ideologies … of the necessity for driving out from such hells, which we regard as a kind of homeland, as long as we are imprisoned in them, tell this novel. And of it, how we deal later with it. Word realm, episode-rich, figure-rich, sometimes with joke and irony.

Uncle Erich e.g., a slot ear and a be suited-being suited nothing, and its grotesque funeral in the circle of prostitutes, black priest and Rabbiner is a piece of cabinet for itself. But the author before its humor seems somehow to back-frighten, as waer’s a Sakrileg. Many years Robert Menasse worked on this novel of the personal records. The sweat, which perhaps flowed it thereby from the forehead, seeped deeply into the book. Less sweat, less freight, would have been more.

The “blessed times” the “sensuous certainty” yielded the “thrust reversing”. Backwards and forward in history. But: Starting from when is history history? . . . “on the one hand tomorrow, on the other hand never!” …

Laudatio for Robert Menasse – of SIGRID LOEFFLER:

(on the occasion of the award of the Johann Jacob Christoph of Grimmelshausen price 1999) – If I am correctly informed that the Johann Jacob Christoph is lent here and today to Robert Menasse for its novel “thrust reversing” by Grimmelshausen price, then this honor can be based only on a misunderstanding.

Hegelianer think dialectically. For a Hegelianer therefore the three-set is the appropriate philosophical way of thinking. The appropriate poetic way of thinking of the author and Hegelianers Robert Menasse is the Trilogie, the three-set in novel form. “thrust reversing” is the third and locking part of a Romantrilogie.

I would like to energize to extend the area of application of the Grimmelshausen price of this year a little so that it covers the entire Trilogie. We want to inform ourselves on it, perhaps at least for the duration of these Laudatio that this evening Robert Menasses vierbaendiges pro SA project “Trilogie of the Entgeisterung” is to be distinguished.

Of course the novel “thrust reversing” required that “remarkable contribution as conclusion volume of this project for artistic argument with contemporary history carried out”, the statute of the Grimmelshausen price of each winner. That is so evident for Menasse readers that we do not have to be thereby further. Price-technically it has its correctness with this honor already. To everyone calming it is said, so that we can turn now in all peace the disturbing aspects of Robert Menasses work.

With this work it has its completely own Bewandtnis. The irritation, which proceeds from this work and distinguishes it, begins already with the fact that the “Trilogie of the Entgeisterung” is a Trilogie not in three, but in four volumes. It consists, like itself for a Trilogie belonged, of three connected novels, in addition however of a longer essay. The essay is as it were the uncoupled and specially delivered philosophical core thesis of the three novels.

Which is unfolded narrativ at the same time and left blank in the three novels, “Phaenomenologie of the Entgeisterung” takes, its quite serious-meant, but perfectly spielerische form in the fourth volume, the treatise. That treatise contains the poetic program of the Trilogie. It is like that something like the spring, the intellectual unrest, which holds this three-part novel clockwork in mental motion. An unrest however, which is paged out from the actual clockwork and which novel mechanism propels from the outside ago.

On the one hand. On the other hand this form play has however still another further behind-intimate aspect, which does not contribute few to the intellectual and aesthetic pleasure at this work. The novel “blessed times, fragile world”, the center piece of the Trilogie, tells of nothing different one than of a moerderischen write blockade.

Its hero is the philosopher Leo Singer, which dreams its life long about the large philosophical throw, of the total systematization of the world, of the one, universal theory, which no more phenomenon entschluepft. This one, universal theory is to put their paw again on the whole world and to define it systematically perfectly to end, to bring it in their Totalitaet on the term. Leo Singer would like to complete Hegel at the same time and to confirm it by reversal of its theory dialectically.

Leo Singer can only dream about this work and schwadronieren at bars about it, it can it not write. Writer’s block. Twenty years long it is appropriate for work with this not existenten named “Phaenomenologie of the Entgeisterung” of all world in the ears, above all its hate-loved friend and MUSE Judith Katz. That it about it only talk, it however not to write can do, that is the amusing disaster of its life. To that extent the novel can be read also as scholar satire, as philosophical Burleske, as hoehnische exposing of the schaumschlaegerischen Scharlatanerie and the intellectual size illusion.

Thus however not enough. This work, which the novel hero Leo Singer cannot write – his author Robert Menasse wrote it. The treatise, which is not led into “blessed times, fragile world” incessantly in the mouth, but anywhere sonstwo – Robert Menasse submits this treatise, as Addendum to its Trilogie, however under his own name, not under that its novel hero. Its title reads naturally: “Phaenomenologie of the Entgeisterung”, sub-titles: “history of the infinitesimal knowledge”. And naturally this essay only one person can be dedicated, Leo Singer of loving, MUSE and murder victim: “Judith Katz, in grateful memory”.

Robert Menasse established here, as one sees, not only a refined system of the reflections, cross fades and reflexiven concerningnesses, he does not only play, in all post office-modern Virtuositaet, with the various reflection areas and echo chambers of his text worlds; it accounts for also with the size illusion its novel hero. That it submits as an author evenly that text, because of which it lets its novel hero fail, that is a really subtle Pointe.

This trick makes it for it possible on the one hand to demonstrate the size illusion of its Protagonisten persiflierend and dissociate themselves spoettisch from while it huldigt on the other hand the own author size illusion on the hintergruendigste. Is a finer self benefit of own intelligence at all conceivable?

More still: Upper away this author informs itself the head of his regret-worth and ridiculous novel hero on the schmeichelhafteste with the heads of his readers. Is a netteres radix complement of a writer at all conceivable to the intelligence of its readership?

Robert Menasse is, as we see, a dazzling author and he terriblly much read – which one is to also mark to its books. By designing its novel work after a quasi hegelianischen model for further discussion, he does not shrink from himself, itself as Hegelianer, more exactly: as anti- Hegelianer to give to recognize.

If an author operates in his novel work with Hegel and in particular with Hegels writing “Phaenomenologie of the spirit” as its guidance motive, then he can dazzle its reader either, intimidate him or flatter to him, ever after. If an author admits today to come from Hegel’ historical philosophy then he must have good-developed and crisis-resistant a self-confident its.

One must be convinced already much of itself, in order to choose itself in times calculated like these Hegel as guidance motive, the totesten all dead philosophical dogs. Because if, at the latest with the turn of 1989, Marx fits is, then Hegel is true a dead dog. Finally we have everything still the notorious request of Botho bunch in the ear, with dialectic thinking must finally conclusion be now. Without dialectic one thinks at first attempt more stupidly, meanwhile: “it must be!”

Robert Menasse however thinks further dialectically – and he is proud on it. Thus we would be with a characteristic characteristic of this literary work and its author – with its captivating intellectual pride. This work is really marvelously arrogant. In the seventies, as Menasse at the Viennese university Germanistik, philosophy and political sciences studied, there was considered he as the intellectual scourge of the seminars. I know a Viennese professor, today a large Bewunderer of the author Menasse, which remembers the word messages of the student Menasse from at that time with fear and fright. A young man of more arduously, of almost fear-exciting brilliance, then goes the Fama. In Vienna.

In the full consciousness of the own superiority it can the writer Robert Menasse today even afford to write perfectly simply and perfectly luzide. Without stylistic Imponiergehabe he can do, to the Gestus of intellectual Angeberei can he pinch, on the impression maltreating is dependent he. Which a less more pronouncedly – and less entitled – pride could never afford, Robert Menasse demonstrates completely loosely: indeed on the one hand generally comprehensibleness and on the other hand self irony. First provides for the easy legibility of his texts and latters makes the reading amusing in addition. It witnesses from sovereignty, if one is able to in-permit itself so relaxed on the literary kind of the scholar satire.

Robert Menasse therefore keeps thus at dialectic thinking firmly, without concern whether he in-acts with it under mode philosophers and spirit of the time with runners the reproach of the anachronism or not. He raises dialectic even for the form principle of his Trilogie.

It may be that here various Hegel and Lukaecs seminars of its Viennese university Universities of its novel work through spirit, may be that he waives his seminar work from once now in belletristischer form, in order to say it hegelianisch. There is not – see Thorsten Beckers “endorsement” – the worst literary texts, which owe their origin to the spirit-scientific seminar nature. Presupposed naturally, succeeds, gaining from the academic rubble a good-built Narrativ.

And evenly this succeeded to the author of the “Trilogie of the Entgeisterung” very convincingly: it has from a prezioesen philosophical basic idea, i.e. from the quibbling idea to invert Hegels “Phaenomenologie of the spirit” and to tell it quasi backwards forward, made three uncommonly unterhaltsame novels.

The “Trilogie of the Entgeisterung” is a loose consequence of development novels, which are put on as retrogression novels. They tell the “history of the infinitesimal knowledge”, as was by program announced in the sub-title of the uncoupled treatise, and this on a reality foil, which between eastreach and Brazil one stretches. The Protagonisten of all three novels “Sinnliche certainty”, “blessed times, fragile world” and “thrust reversing” oscillate between Vienna and Sao Paulo, have two origins to feel only in order in none of the two worlds, neither the Austrian, nor the Brazilian, undoubtedly associated or resident.

Leo Singer, the as clever as failed philosophical head, and its friend enemy Judith Katz are the children of Jewish emigrants from Austria, who grew up in Brazil and returned then to the study to Vienna, only in order thereafter again after Sao Paulo to back-drift – Leo Singer, in order not to write its phaenomenales work , and Judith Katz, in order to log and in writing waive this so nevertheless at the bar zusammenschwadronierte work of their friend secretly.

“driving out from hell”Read sample … They will ignite the house. We will burn. If we run out, they are killed us.
It saw the torches/flares before the window shops flashing, it heard the Radau, which humans made outside, it sang, to schrien, groelten.

That was a mourning course. By the roads moved the largest mourning course, which the small town Vila DOS Comecos had ever seen, and which strangest: A mourning course, in which nobody trauerte.

Two black horses, decorated with lila Stoffrosetten, pulled the corpse cars, on which a so small coffin lay that it seemed limited for a newborn child. Behind it, holding with both hands a crucifix walked up, cardinal Joao d’Almeida from Evora, in blood-red robe and with red Birett, over the shoulders the hermelinbesetzte Cappa Magna, whose schleppe was carried by four cathedral gentlemen in lila robes. The ministers of Comecos and the surrounding municipalities in black Soutanen, with white choir shirts and violet Stolen followed. The aristocrats, in purpurnem velvet with broad leather belts, carried their swords gezueckt, with lowered point. The representatives of the local administration and the citizen conditions, in black suits and large black hats, carried torches/flares, whose soot flags drew a Trauerflor around the sun.

All this Pomp, which would have been appropriate a state funeral, could not emislead about the fact that the tendency was coined/shaped by rage, hate and murder desire. Comecos was nearly completely on the legs and joined this removal, with which a cat was carried to grave. They did not murmur prayers, but wishing, them folded not the hands, but vibrated their fists. Their faces were turned red not of the sun, but of the high-per cent Bagaco, and not by mourning drawn, but from greed to homicide, plundering and plundering.

The Klerus sang now the Choral Martyrium Christi, which was over-sounded however by humans, those, if they by-pulled on certain houses, forward to the Fackeltaegern schrien: “on this roof with your torches/flares!”
There the mourning course bent Consolacao into the Rua in, in the tiny coffin a cat, which had not become older than eight or nine months, a small black cat with white marks around the eyes like a mask. “lot! On this roof with your torches/flares!” That was now the house of the Soeiros.

Antonia Soeira was one of the few, which were not on the road. It stood with its children Estrela and one oil behind the window, looked carefully by the cracks of the closed window shops, pulled, when the noise swelled outside ever more threateningly, the children the inside the room back and said: “this erring the cat still as God will explain. It is to eat the pigeon in the catholic sky!”
The reason for the large excitation, which had seized Comecos and environment, was that this cat had been gekreuzigt. She was found there, with heavy iron nails on a wood cross struck, before the Casa Misericordia. The men of the church it was presently/immediately clear that they would obligate the population with a largely produced funeral, which the Kreuzigung their holy would return should closed and fanatisch on the fight against Ketzer and Haeretiker to be able – two weeks before the Inquisition into Comecos had drawn … (S. 11f.). © 2001, Robert Menasse.


Born on 21 June 1954 in Vienna, Study of the Germanistik, philosophy and political science in Vienna, Salzburg, and Messina.

1979 joint founders of the student magazine “central executive body of herumstreunender Germanists” in Vienna.

1980 graduation to the Dr. phil with a work “the type of the outsider in the literature enterprise. To tape Hermann Schuerrer “.
First poem publications “headache courage” 1989 in the magazine “literature and criticism”.

1981-88 lector and guest lecturer at Institut in literature theory of the University of Sao Paolo.
Since 1988 freelance writer and translator from the Brazilian Portuguese.

1990 first winner of the Heimito of Doderer price.

1994 stay in Berlin in the context of a scholarship of the DAAD.

1999 stay as “Writer in Residence” in Amsterdam.

Member of the Grazer author meeting since 1981, the Austrian P.E.N. Club since 1993.

Novelist and essayist. Numerous contributions to (kultur)politischen situation in Austria.

Prices and honors:

1987 and 1991 – state scholarship of the Federal Ministry for instruction and art for literature

1989 – Literature promotion price of the city Vienna

1991 – Heimito of Doderer price

1992 – Promotion price literature of the Hans Erich Nossack price

1992 – promotion price for literature of the Theodor grain Stiftungsfonds for the promotion of science and art

1993 – Berlin artist programs of the DAAD

1992-93 – Elias Canetti scholarship of the city Vienna

1994 – Marburger literary award

1994 – Price of the Alexander Sacher Masoch donation

1995 – Promotion price of the Austrian appreciation price for literature

1994 – Promotion price of the Federal Ministry for instruction and art for novels

1996 – Hugo ball price

1998 – Austrian state price for culture journalism

1999 – Grimmelshausen price

2002 – Marie Luise Kaschnitz price of the Evangelist academy Tutzing

2002 – Friedrich Hoelderlin price of the city Bad Homburg

2002 – Lion Feuchtwanger price, Joseph Breitbach price.

2002 – Joseph Breitbach price Mainz

2003 – Erich Fried price


Robert Menasse;


Tour Literatour;




Lives today in Vienna.

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