La Valse and Foreign
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Ten short stories and a dramatic monologue by one of contemporary Austria's most important and provocative writers.
Elisabeth Reichart is one of the most important and provocative writers to emerge from postwar Austria. This book includes a translation of La Valse, a collection of short stories in which Reichart directs her critical gaze at the hidden power struggles and unacknowledged hierarchies that dehumanize interpersonal relations. In the title story, the narrator, raped as a child by her father, spins wildly to Ravel's "La Valse" until she falls from dizziness, suggesting the will to escape patriarchal abuse, but also the difficulty of such an attempt. Each of the subsequent stories follows the movements of a waltz gone brutally awry.
Also offered here is Foreign, Reichart's first stage piece which dramatizes the struggles of a woman who refused to fall silent, who continued to write in the face of complete powerlessness. The work is based on the historical figure Helene von Druskowitz, a female Wunderkind, who wrote prolifically, usually under a pseudonym, one of which was "Foreign." A classic example of the "madwoman in the attic," her genius earned her not recognition but internment in an insane asylum, where she remained until her death twenty-seven years later.
Elisabeth Reichart was born in 1953 near Linz in Upper Austria. She became instantly well known upon publication of her bestselling first novel, Februarschatten (1984; translated in 1985 as February Shadows). Since then, she has written numerous novels, short stories, and dramatic works, and has received many of Austria's most prestigious literary prizes, including most recently the Musil-Stipendium and the Würdigungspreis. Linda C. DeMeritt is Professor of German in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages at Allegheny College. She is the author of German Grammar and New Subjectivity and Prose Forms of Alienation: Peter Handke and Botho Strauss.
"Reichart belongs with the top Austrian authors of her generation. With radical stubbornness, she writes against the forgetting of everyday violence and oppression with a language that is often hectic, breathless, as if time is running out. The stories in La Valse expose Austria's complicity in fascism and the Holocaust, as well as the everyday anti-Semitism and xenophobia. Foreign specifically addresses the oppression of a patriarchal culture that destroys women's psyche and genius." — Gisela Brinker-Gabler, coeditor of Writing New Identities: Gender, Nation, and Immigration in Contemporary Europe