The Greatest Austrian "Fiction" Books Since 1980

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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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  1. 1. The Piano Teacher by Elfriede Jelinek

    "The Piano Teacher" is a dark exploration of power dynamics, sexuality, and repression. The story revolves around a piano teacher at a prestigious music school in Vienna who lives with her overbearing mother in a state of emotional and sexual repression. Her life takes a turn when she becomes sexually involved with a young, self-assured student. The relationship, marked by sadomasochistic games and emotional manipulation, spirals out of control, leading to a tragic end. The book is a profound critique of bourgeois values and the oppressive structures of society.

  2. 2. 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.

  3. 3. 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.

  4. 4. 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.

  5. 5. The Afternoon of a Writer by Peter Handke

    "The Afternoon of a Writer" is a contemplative exploration of a day in the life of a solitary writer who, after a successful morning of writing, decides to take a walk through an unnamed European city. As he strolls, he grapples with feelings of alienation and existential dread, questioning his purpose and the worth of his work. The book delves into the writer's inner struggles, his observations of the world around him, and his reflections on the act of writing itself.

  6. 6. The Last World by Christoph Ransmayr

    "The Last World" is a novel that reimagines the exile of the Roman poet Ovid in a remote village at the edge of the Black Sea. The story is set in a mythical time and place, where the villagers are haunted by strange transformations and echoes of Ovid's metamorphoses. The novel blurs the lines between the real and the imaginary, the past and the present, and the world of the living and the dead, creating a surreal and dreamlike atmosphere.

  7. 7. 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.

  8. 8. Lust by Elfriede Jelinek

    This book is a provocative exploration of the dynamics of power and desire within the confines of a loveless marriage. Set against the backdrop of the Austrian Alps, it delves into the life of a woman trapped in a relationship with her abusive and unfaithful husband, a powerful paper mill owner. The narrative dissects the commodification of sex, the objectification of women, and the societal structures that perpetuate these themes. Through a stark and unflinching examination of the protagonist's degradation and the pervasive corruption in her world, the novel presents a scathing critique of consumerism, the patriarchy, and the hollow nature of modern relationships.

  9. 9. The Snows Of Yesteryear by Gregor von Rezzori

    "The Snows of Yesteryear" is a memoir that explores the author's complex and tumultuous upbringing in Eastern Europe during the early 20th century. Through a series of vivid and poignant anecdotes, the book delves into the author's personal experiences with war, displacement, and the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, offering a deeply introspective and nostalgic reflection on the fleeting nature of time and the enduring impact of one's past.

  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.

  11. 11. In The Storm Of Roses by Ingeborg Bachmann

    "In the Storm of Roses" is a collection of profound and evocative poems that delve into the complexities of human existence, exploring themes of love, loss, and the enduring human spirit amidst the backdrop of post-war Europe. The poet's masterful use of language and imagery weaves a tapestry of emotion and thought, inviting readers to contemplate the nature of reality, the pain of memory, and the possibility of redemption. Through a blend of personal introspection and universal resonance, the work captures the tumultuous journey of the soul seeking understanding and beauty in a fragmented and often harsh world.

  12. 12. The Children Of The Dead by Elfriede Jelinek

    This novel is a unique and haunting exploration of memory, history, and the legacy of the Holocaust in Austria, presented through a complex narrative that blends elements of horror, satire, and social critique. Set in a stylized and eerie version of the Austrian countryside, the story unfolds around a protagonist who embarks on a journey that intertwines with the lives of the undead, revealing the persistent shadows of World War II and the Holocaust on contemporary society. The narrative's challenging structure, incorporating dense streams of consciousness and a shifting perspective, serves as a vehicle for the author's incisive commentary on issues of national identity, collective memory, and the dangers of forgetting the past. Through its innovative use of language and form, the book confronts readers with the unsettling realities of history's impact on the present, making it a compelling and thought-provoking read.

Reading Statistics

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


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.