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Journal of Austrian Studies 45:1-2
David S. Luft, trans. and ed., Hugo von Hofmannsthal and the Austrian Idea: Selected Essays and Addresses, 1906–1927. West Lafayette: Purdue UP, 2011. 201 pp.
This landmark translation of essays, which in its very process demonstrates the qualities and theories of the author, should, as Luft suggests, “open up issues for both Austrian and German historians and for Europeanists” (25). The reduction of regional culture by perceived geopolitical dominion and, more specifically, limited subjective examinations of post-imperial Central Europe were Hofmannstahl’s great concern in his critical work. His ideas are no less useful today in approaching these areas of discourse—past and present.
Robert Dassanowsky University of Colorado at Colorado Springs
October 2011 Vol. 49 No. 02
A publication of the Association of College and Research Libraries
A division of the American Library Association
Language & Literature - Germanic
Hofmannsthal, Hugo von. Hugo von Hofmannsthal and the Austrian idea: selected essays and addresses, 1906-1927, ed. and tr. by David S. Luft. Purdue, 2011. 201p bibl index ISBN 9781557535900 pbk, $24.95
At the turn of the 20th century, Hugo von Hofmannsthal was well aware of the contradiction that was Austria, in cultural and intellectual terms. Vienna was fast becoming the hub of Western European civilization while wrestling with its tradition and image as a provincial, almost insular community. Hofmannsthal's pride at the accomplishments of Mozart, Grillparzer, and Stifter, among others, was tempered by his acknowledgement that in terms of international reputation and respect, Austria was still living in the shadow of Germany and France. As Luft (Oregon State Univ.) indicates, Hofmannsthal wanted to share his outlook through not only his famous literary endeavors, his plays, poems, and libretti for Strauss, but also his essays. The challenge: how to both laud Austrian aptitude and recognize its limitations. In selecting essays, Luft intentionally avoided introspective discussions of playwriting and focused instead on work that looks at subjects with broader ramifications. His translations are fluid yet precise, a difficult task given the often-stilted, pedantic German of that age. Thanks to his consummate understanding of his subject and the ideas involved, Luft opens a window to the innermost thoughts of Hofmannsthal for the benefit of Anglophone readers. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers. -- C. L.Dolmetsch, Marshall University