The Greatest Austrian "Existentialist" Books of All Time

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This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 280 'best of' book lists to form a definitive guide to the world's most acclaimed books. For those interested in how these books are chosen, additional details can be found on the rankings page.

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Existentialist

Existentialist literature is a genre that explores the meaning and purpose of human existence, often through the lens of individual experience and subjective perception. These books often delve into themes of freedom, choice, and responsibility, and may challenge traditional notions of morality and societal norms. Existentialist literature can be introspective and philosophical, and may offer readers a unique perspective on the human condition and the search for meaning in a complex and often chaotic world.

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  1. 1. The Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil

    "The Man Without Qualities" is a satirical novel set in Vienna during the last days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It follows the life of Ulrich, a thirty-two-year-old mathematician, who is in search of a sense of life and reality but is caught up in the societal changes and political chaos of his time. The book explores themes of existentialism, morality, and the search for meaning in a rapidly changing world.

  2. 2. Death of Virgil by Hermann Broch

    The novel explores the final hours of the Roman poet Virgil, who, while on his deathbed, contemplates the value and impact of his life's work, particularly his unfinished epic, the Aeneid. The narrative is a complex, stream-of-consciousness meditation on art, life, and death, with Virgil wrestling with his desire to burn his epic and the emperor's command to preserve it. The book delves into themes of the meaning of human existence, the role of art in society, and the clash between the individual's inner world and the external world.

  3. 3. Correction by Thomas Bernhard

    "Correction" is a complex narrative revolving around the life of a man named Roithamer, a genius obsessed with constructing an architectural masterpiece, the Cone, in the center of the Kobernausser forest. The story is told through the perspective of his friend who is reading Roithamer's notes after his suicide. The novel explores themes of obsession, isolation, and the pursuit of perfection, while also delving into the protagonist's troubled relationships with his family and society.

  4. 4. Extinction by Thomas Bernhard

    "Extinction" is a novel that explores the dark and complex themes of family, identity, and history through the eyes of its protagonist, a professor living in Rome. When he receives news of the deaths of his parents and brother in a car accident, he is forced to confront his past and his Austrian heritage. The narrative delves into his thoughts and feelings, his criticisms of his family and society, and his philosophical musings on life and death, all while he prepares to return to his family's estate for the funeral. The novel is renowned for its dense, stream-of-consciousness style and its unflinching examination of the human condition.

  5. 5. Woodcutters by Thomas Bernhard

    Woodcutters is a darkly humorous critique of Vienna's artistic elite. The story takes place over the course of a single evening, as the narrator attends a dinner party in honor of a recently successful actor. As the evening progresses, he reflects on the pretentiousness and hypocrisy of the guests, the mediocrity of their artistic achievements, and the tragic suicide of his former lover. The novel is a scathing indictment of the vanity and self-delusion of the artistic community.

  6. 6. I and Thou by Martin Buber

    This philosophical work explores the concept of relationships and the nature of dialogue. The author suggests that human life finds its meaningfulness in relationships, which he divides into two categories: "I-It" and "I-Thou". The "I-It" relationship is characterized by a detached and objective perspective, while the "I-Thou" relationship involves a deep sense of connection and mutual existence. The book argues that modern society, with its emphasis on individualism and materialism, often neglects the "I-Thou" relationship, leading to a loss of genuine human connection.

  7. 7. The Guiltless by Hermann Broch

    "The Guiltless" is a novel that explores the disintegration of values and the rise of fascism in Germany between the two World Wars. It follows the lives of several characters, including a businessman, a musician, and a murderer, whose stories intertwine to paint a picture of a society in moral and social decline. The narrative delves into their personal struggles and moral dilemmas, reflecting the broader societal issues of the time and offering a critique of the political climate that allowed for the rise of totalitarian regimes.

  8. 8. Wittgenstein's Nephew by Thomas Bernhard

    "Wittgenstein's Nephew" is a semi-autobiographical novel that explores the friendship between the narrator and his friend Paul, who is the nephew of the famous philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. The story takes place in Vienna and is set against the backdrop of the Austrian mental health system. The novel delves into themes of sanity, insanity, and the fine line that separates the two, while also offering a critique of Austrian society. It is a meditation on the nature of illness, both physical and mental, and the impact it has on personal relationships and one's perception of the world.

  9. 9. Concrete by Thomas Bernhard

    The book is a darkly introspective narrative that delves into the mind of a reclusive, obsessive intellectual who is struggling to complete his scholarly work on the composer Mendelssohn. As he grapples with his own ailments and the perceived mediocrity of his surroundings, the protagonist's stream-of-consciousness monologue reveals his deep-seated anxieties, self-loathing, and profound isolation. The narrative is a relentless examination of the protagonist's psyche, showcasing his critical view of society and his own personal relationships, which are fraught with tension and dysfunction. Through this, the novel explores themes of artistic creation, intellectual elitism, and the suffocating nature of expectations and familial obligations.

  10. 10. The Loser by Thomas Bernhard

    "The Loser" is a philosophical novel that revolves around the complex relationship between three friends who are all piano virtuosos. The narrative is driven by the protagonist's obsession with his friend's suicide, which he believes was triggered by the realization that they could never surpass the genius of their third friend. The book delves into the protagonist's psyche as he grapples with themes of talent, ambition, failure, and the destructive power of comparison.

Reading Statistics

Click the button below to see how many of these books you've read!

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If you're interested in downloading this list as a CSV file for use in a spreadsheet application, you can easily do so by clicking the button below. Please note that to ensure a manageable file size and faster download, the CSV will include details for only the first 500 books.

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