Saturday, May 4, 2013

Austrian Novelist and Poet Ludwig Laher Enthralls Students and Faculty

Ludwig Laher read from his book Herzfleischentartung (Heart Flesh Degeneration) on Tuesday, April 30, 2013, at 7 PM in the Gorecki Center. the following day he also met with a student-lead book discussion group and Mark Thamert's upper-division German Poetry class. Here is a description of his book from
In 1940 the Nazi Storm Troopers set up a Work Education Camp in St. Pantaleon near Salzburg and then, after its overhasty closure in 1941, a Gypsy Detention Center. Hundreds of arbitrarily incarcerated prisoners are tortured there, some murdered. The Camp Doctor is the parish doctor who has been called in specially. For a long time he records some harmless cause of death or other. (The 'heart-flesh degeneration' of a gypsy woman is, however , not his invention). But one day he calls in the State Attorney's Office. The files relating to the ensuing investigation are extant and form the basis for Ludwig Laher's literary work. It makes use -- in a sometimes chilling way -- of the language and logic of the murderers, but at the same time introduces a collective narrator and lets him follow the horrific events once again from the 1940s point of view, and then again from today's viewpoint. Laher also pursues the perpetrators into the resurrected Austria, and unfolds the later court proceedings: the judges are mild; in 1955 the principal perpetrator profits from the amnesty to mark the tenth anniversary of the founding of the Second Republic. The reader, who is drawn into the midst of events, may well feel his heart miss a beat when he witnesses how quickly the incursion of bestial conditions into the every-day life of the Austrian provinces becomes normality, and how quickly everything can be forgotten.

  Special thanks to our colleague, Dr. Greg Schroeder from the History Department, who arranged Laher's visit and packed schedule!