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Austrians: A Thousand Year Odyssey

Austrians: A Thousand Year Odyssey

by Gordon Brook-Shepherd

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
How could the nation that produced Mozart and Schubert also have brought forth Hitler and served as accomplice to the Nazi genocide? "There is a pendulum built into the Austrian psyche," observes popular British historian Brook-Shepherd (The Last Empress and others) in this engrossing, elegantly written history. He views the Austrian national character as instinctively conservative, hesitant and ambivalent, with a tendency to brush unpleasantness of any kind under the carpet-a trait made glaringly evident with the Kurt Waldheim affair, when Austrians were forced to face up belatedly to their role as collaborators in Hitler's Third Reich. This dramatic, lively narrative is primarily a political, military and diplomatic history, with astute passing references to Biedermeier and baroque, to Freud, Klimt, playwright Arthur Schnitzler, satirist Karl Kraus, architect Adolf Loos. Brook-Shepherd persuasively portrays the Austrians as a people whose quest for national identity has been thwarted by their multinationalism-the sprawling Hapsburg Empire was a loose confederation of Danubian peoples-and, even more so, by their fateful ties to Germany. Stalin ironically emerges as the founding father of Austria's postwar independence-the U.S. and Britain initially opposed Austrian self-rule, while Stalin insisted on it, the author speculates, because of secret plans to roll in the tanks later, an option never taken. Austria's 1994 decision to enter the European Union, the author opines, was a major turning point away from isolationism and neutrality. Photos. (Apr.)
Library Journal
Brook-Shepherd (The Last Empress, HarperCollins, 1991) attempts to give an overview of 1000 years of Austrian history in one volume. Because he was posted by the British Army to Vienna during the post-World War II occupation and personally knew many important Austrians, it is hardly surprising that he takes only 150 pages to cover 996-1914 and 362 pages to cover the final 82 years. Sadly, a disdain for footnotes and attribution defeats a lively writing style, and the work also suffers from annoying generalizations about national characteristics (e.g., "the endemic slackness of the Austrians"). Brook-Shepherd's inside knowledge, however, makes the book worthwhile. When he finally attributes new documents from the Hapsburg family archives, such as Empress Zita's previously unknown diary from the final days of the empire, he reveals new information. For public and undergraduate libraries but a frustration to scholars.Randall L. Schroeder, Wartburg Coll. Lib., Waverly, Iowa

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HarperCollins Publishers
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5.12(w) x 7.87(h) x (d)

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