Mr Shelf and I are off on a semi-spontaneous winter trip this week. We’re heading to Vienna, Austria with a plan to visit as many Christmas markets as possible and consume as much pastry and Austrian hot chocolate as possible (that last part might just be me).
But it would be impossible for me to take any trip without doing copious amounts of research about what literature comes from there and what books I can justify buying whilst there.
I’m somewhat hampered this time by speaking no German whatsoever, but I can still enjoy Vienna’s proud literary history and hopefully check out a few cool book-related locales while I’m there.
Coffee House Culture
As café hopping usually makes up about 60% of my holiday activities anyway, imagine my delight upon discovering that Vienna’s coffee houses are famous for feeding and watering some truly great literary minds.
Writers would become attached to the coffee houses because of their particular atmosphere – and your choice of coffee house said a lot about the kind of person you were.
Famous Viennese writers who frequented the coffee house were Peter Altenberg, Arthur Schnitzler, Karl Kraus. Perhaps you have heard of them? Me neither. But I had heard of both Sigmund Freud and Leon Trotsky who were both keen patrons of Vienna’s cafes.
A duo of important authors
Whilst I’m totally ignorant about Viennese literature, two heavyweights who keep popping up in my googling are Stefan Zweig and Joseph Roth.
Zweig was very well known in the 20s and 30s for writing detailed character studies of real figures like Charles Dickens and Honoré de Balzac, but also published poetry and novels.
Joseph Roth is most famous for his novel ‘Radetsky March’ which tells the story of the Trotta family over the course of generations, during the decline of the Habsburg empire.
I’m hoping to find out more about these two of Vienna’s most famous sons on our trip.
Any twentieth-century literature junkie like myself has probably come across psychoanalysis during their reading life.
Although still quite controversial as a psychological practice, its influence on C20 literature is undisputed and evident in some of my most favourite novels (for example, ‘Zeno’s Conscience’ by Italo Svevo).
I’d also recommend the surprisingly readable ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’ by Freud himself, which features his real cases and is absolutely fascinating.
Very high on my to-do list is a visit to the Sigmund Freud Museum. Based in his old home, which he was forced to leave after the annexation of Austria to the Nazis in 1938, the museum promises to cover Freud’s own life and the history of psychoanalysis.
Super excited to be visiting Vienna – hopefully, in between Christmas market-hopping, I’ll be able to grab a bit of time for books!
Anyone been to Vienna and have some bookish recommendations?