Author(s): Eva Menasse
Sparkling and panoramic novel of three generations of family life in Vienna and England
Vienna is an acclaimed saga covering three generations of a partly-Jewish Viennese family. Although it progresses from the female narrator's father's birth to the end of his life, there is constant movement backwards and forwards in time, while each chapter tends to concentrate on one particular family member or group. Grandfather married out, to the sandy-haired beauty Frieda, and his sister Gustl married nice-but-dim 'Dolly' Konigsberger, the non-Jewish bank manager beloved for his malapropisms. Aunt Gustl's only son Nandl is in trouble with the police yet again for fraud. In wartime the narrator's father settles in England - near Luton, in fact - with his foster parents Tom and Annie, and develops a talent for football. His brother, only just young enough to qualify for the Kindertransport on which they arrived, is interned on the Isle of Man but later joins the army and fights in Burma. Their sister, beautiful blonde Katzi, will go to Canada and die of TB aged 21. After 1945, the action returns to post-war Vienna. The footballing father will become an Austrian international - the uncle goes into the import/export business and does well until he wastes his talents. Character-led rather than plot-driven, Vienna is a panoramic and sparkling novel of family life in Austria and England. There are delightful vignettes of Vienna with its coffee-houses, bridge parties and tennis clubs; and vivid descriptions of wartime and post-war England. Vienna is arguably the most influential German novel since Das Parfum.