…is an Austrian novelist and literary essayist. He also writes poetry and plays. His satires and aphorisms are witty, contemporary and often controversial. Richard’s restless creativity and search for provocative and original forms of literary expression on a broad range of subjects has led to something quite new in modern German-language literature, balancing humour, profound observation and intellectual rigour.
Eurolitnetwork would like to recommend Richard Schuberth to you for publication in English by presenting an overview of Richard’s work and a small selection, translated from German into English by Joe Weinkirn: a scene from a play and some aphorisms. Joe has also translated a whole chapter of Chronicle of a Jolly Conspiracy, Richard’s seminal novel, which he’d be happy to send you, on request.
If you enjoy Richard Schuberth’s work and are interested in translating and publishing him, please email me or visit his website www.richard-schuberth.com.
Warmly, Rosie Goldsmith,
Director European Literature Network
Please note that Eurolitnetwork is not responsible for the content or for the translation of this author’s work. However, we are delighted to provide this platform on our website and to showcase the work of European authors we consider suitable for publication into English.
RICHARD SCHUBERTH: BIOGRAPHY
Richard Schuberth was born in 1968 on the Austrian banks of the Danube river. A jack-of-all-trades but master of many arts, he is above all a writer of controversial novels, plays, essays, aphorisms, screenplays, satirical pieces, songs, poems, and of his own artist’s bio. He is also a cartoonist and world music aficionado, DJ, actor, director, and ethnographer. In his writing he is known for his combinations of profound dialectical analysis, social criticism, stylish provocations and – naturally – frivolous feminism, light-footed wit, and bleak sarcasm. More than most German-language writers, he is fond of Anglo-Saxon and Irish influences; echoes of Swift, Byron, Wilde, Bierce, Behan, Pinter, Laurie Penny, Monty Pythons and the Simpsons can be heard in his unique works. Additionally, and unmistakably, he is strongly influenced by German-Jewish critical theory and the Viennese satirist Karl Kraus. Richard has written a book about Karl Kraus.
Another focus of Richard’s artistic and literary activities is the Balkans and the former Ottoman regions. For eight years he was the organizer of the renowned Balkan Fever Music Festival in Vienna, which in 2006 branched out into London. He is a three-time winner of the Carl Meyer Screenplay Award of the Diagonale Graz film festival.
Currently Richard is attempting to deconstruct national stereotypes and mythologies of the Balkans in a work of historical fiction based on the adventures and delusions of the philhellenes in Greece, Lord Byron’s Last Trip. He is also writing a novel set in contemporary Turkey, Bus to Bingöl, and a philosophic handbook for young people called, How Not to Become A Zombie – A Vampire Lady’s Guide to Nonconformism.
As an introduction to Richard’s work why not start with his boisterous and anarchic novel Chronicle of a Jolly Conspiracy (Chronik einer fröhlichen Verschwörung), which would surely delight British readers and translators?
SELECTIONS OF RICHARD SCHUBERTH’S WORK
(Translated from German into English by Joe Weinkern)
CHRONICLE OF A JOLLY CONSPIRACY (2015)
The seventy years old and slightly cranky philosopher Ernst Katz hates the media exploitation of the Nazi era and the holocaust. On a train he meets Biggy, a clever tomboy of seventeen, bristling with criminal energy. Together, they come up with a daring plan: to obstruct the writing of a novel by a young bestseller author – a book having as subject a woman whom Katz knew intimately and with whom he shares a secret. The scheme is executed by employing numerous feints and trapdoors and succeeds in a totally different way than originally planned. A bildungsroman and at the same time picaresque novel about an exceptional love relation and the chances and contradictions of radical non-conformism.
Chronicle of a Jolly Conspiracy made it into the final round both at the Aspekte Award for best first novel in German of ZDF (German State Television Channel Two) and at the literary award Alpha.
Dear reader! To presume that we have here in front of us the umpteenth rehashing of Lolita, would be entirely wrong. For the odd duo Biggy and Ernst don’t become a couple but evolve into a team which is set on preventing Mackensen’s holocaust prose project. (…) Fat chance you’ll find another contemporary novel which hits the zeitgeist so accurately while transcending time so boldly. With unparalleled wit Schuberth incorporates meditations of unfathomable depth into his work. What a book! Richard Schubeth surely has written the novel of the year with this. Except perhaps, he follows up with another one before the year is out!
Joseph Waelzholz, Literarische Welt
THE NEW DEVIL’S DICTIONARY (2013)
One hundred years after Ambrose Bierce, the author of The Devil’s Dictionary, disappeared into the turmoil of the Mexican revolution, Richard Schuberth is publishing his New Devil’s Dictionary, calling forth in his miniatures of meanness the literary form of the aphorism from its beauty rest and enlisting it in Bierce’s memory against the commonness and meanness of our world.
750 aphorisms, and as bonus tracks three essays on Ambrose Bierce, Karl Kraus and Richard Schuberth’s relationship to satirical and aphoristic writing.
The cover illustration is by the author.
The alphabetically arranged entries are disarming dissections of our facebook, wellness, and celebrity zeitgeist. At the same time, topics of domestic and foreign politics like “Europe”, “Foreign Aid” or “Ethnic Group” are untangled with a somewhat cynical approach which is yielding more truth than any scientific or journalistic way of writing ever could.
Olja Alvir (dastandart.at)
JUST WAIT TILL CAPTAIN FLINT SHOWS UP – A Pirate Burlesque (2006)
This flamboyant stage-grotesque is set in an upscale Vienna apartment where four representatives of an urban left-liberal art & culture-consuming smart set are celebrating themselves. Dorothee, the host, is a film maker; Lucy, of sunny disposition and eternally young, studies Ethnology; Carl, a burned out writer. And lastly, Axel, the spring chicken among them. He is a museum curator. This illustrious evening gathering becomes aware by TV bulletin that three dangerous schizophrenics have escaped from a nearby psychiatric institution. Their leader, a one-legged woman, thinks herself to be the infamous pirate captain Flint, his adjutants believe to be Oscar Wilde and the Ottoman pirate Jimmy Fish. It is Dorothee’s apartment of all places whither the three lunatics force their way.
Two thirds of the play’s “Wildisms” were penned by Schuberth himself.
The play is set in a nautical insane asylum of truthfulness which is a truly commoditized realm. Art is no exception; in fact, it is the epitome.
F R O N T E X – Nobody Will Get In Here Alive!
A Mediterranean grotesque in two acts (2013).
A vessel of the border security agency Frontex rams a boat of refugees. The only survivors LeBoeuf, a lachrymose Frontex officer, Swantje van Eycken, an ARTE investigative journalist, Flo Hagenbeck, a Berlin performance artist and a mute refugee (The Black Solid) are stranded on an uninhibited island. There is no meat — and at some point one of the survivors has to pick the short straw…
The Black Solid turns into the most bizarre projection surface for the three Whites, as sexual object and as cultural cuddly toy, before he finds his powerful voice in a frightening dream soliloquy outlining the future of Europe.
But their odyssey is far from over. They encounter the German Federal Chancellor (Mama Merkel) in her flesh and at an asylum casting show on Lampedusa the stand-up comedian Denis Quartermain, who is working for Frontex and is a demonic Monty Python-paraphrase: system-conforming, cynical and yet popular with African refugees and European intellectuals alike. But the world has turned upside down: the White castaways are deported as black refugees to Nuova Esperanza in the Libyan desert where the liberal dream of Europe takes shape — a fully climate-controlled refugee camp run like a service sector company coaching clients on their quest for reintegration, meaning, and job opportunities — in a word: true hell! Richard Schuberth wrote this grotesque closet drama on racism and identity cannibalism and the conforming power of bad humor already in 2011, long before the so far biggest refugee tragedy off Lampedusa two years later.
In addition to bizarre turnarounds and musical interludes Frontex – Nobody Will Get In Here Alive! presents a world where everybody — the good and the bad, the critical and the adjusted — use each other up to the last fiber of their identity and sometimes even to the last fiber of their tenderloin.
The cover illustration is by the author.
FREITAG IN SARAJEVO (2003)
What appears to be a theater play, reveals itself in the best manner of a Karl Kraus, as a highly original mixture of essay, report, slapstick and literary criticism, reads the book cover. Schuberth’s topics are after all the “cultural collateral damages” of what is euphemistically called humanitarian interventions. Furiously and virtuously, he settles his hash with the attitudes and platitudes, the arrogance and impotence of a culture jet set which as crusaders of Western civilization shows up wherever it reeks of gunpowder and blood.
The New Yorker star intellectual Fiona Freitag (modeled after Susan Sontag) produces Waiting for Godot in besieged Sarajevo. The French intellectual in combat fatigue Jean-Pierre Leaud ( B-H Levy) shoots the principal actor, the Bosnian Tahir Tahirovic by mistake dead and is punished to take over the parts of Vladimir and Estragon together with the German protector of culture, Hanuman Knuelch (T. Zuelch). These two are engaged in a bloody controversy and a civil war en miniature threatens to erupt.
A wonderfully wicked, clear-sighted play.”
HOW BRANKA CLEANED HER WAY TO THE TOP (2011)
Master-slave narrative redux: Magistra Moser, social scientist and PR manager for organic energy drinks from fair trade ingredients, doesn’t really get out much of her proscribed circles, her parallel society in Vienna’s 7th District. She hates dust and disorder and feels physically threatened by them in her beloved loft apartment. But she likes immigrants, and that is her undoing. When she hires Branka as a cleaning lady, her life takes a dramatic turn. Branka is totally different – not the way Magistra Moser wants her to be… Will the demonic Captain Clean, who is intruding into Magistra Moser’s delusions via TV ad and from the label of the household cleaner bottle, be able to reestablish order in her life? An identity cat-and-mouse game and satirical distorting mirror of migration discourse. In his fourth play (his second one for Drava after Freitag in Sarajevo) Richard Schuberth points out in a horrifyingly entertaining way how little separates us all from fascism. Stylistically, this is a hybrid between farce, fairy tale, and social reportage. In May 2011 “How Branka Cleaned Her Way Up” was a great hit with the audience in the stage production by Asli Kişlal and her theater ensemble daskunst. Now finally, the original and longer closet play has been published as book. For Richard Schuberth’s brilliantly-bizarre comedies are not only a must see but a must read.
30 INCENTIVES FOR A REDISCOVERY of KARL KRAUS (2008)
In his incentives for a rediscovery of Karl Kraus, Richard Schuberth sets out on an unconventional and deeply rewarding quest to bring us closer to the eminent Austrian writer, satirist, lyricist, dramatist, and culture critic Karl Kraus (1874–1936). In his 30 “attempts” he throws light on the persona of Karl Kraus and his relationship to various socio- and cultural-political issues of his days, e.g. National Socialism, “psycho-sciences”, journalism, satire, women and sexuality.
At the same time these essays underline the significance of Kraus as a precursor of Critical Theory and the importance of his language critique for contemporary social criticism. — “To learn to understand Kraus would necessitate to learn to think within language — not only leading to rewards of unimagined riches but to possible there, within language-thought, encounter the last fortified asylum of an individuality which alone would merit to be called that.
Richard Schuberth is one of the few authors — be it within our outside academic discourse — who in terms of literary quality measures up to Karl Kraus. The reviewer hasn’t encountered for a long time now academic or near-academic prose which was more thoroughly crafted and nevertheless appears so relaxed and nimble. Extremely high stylistic standards are set here. Schuberth’s unrelenting and almost always rewarded effort to find the mot juste seems to originate in a temperament very similar to that of Kraus — one capable of wrath and hate.
Daniel Krause, Kakanien revisited
Schuberth has at his command an unerring sensibility to detect the ideological traps which lie hidden behind certain words (…) or within the structure of certain sentences. This nowadays rare ability is another connection he has with Kraus. Without being an imitator, this admirer of the aphorist Kraus (and of relevance in this context , Oscar Wilde) succeeds in writing passages which themselves are aphorisms of the highest order.
And thus these thirty essays which are meant to illumine Kraus’s pet peeves, turn into a manifesto against the shortcomings of our time, be they in journalism or academia or beyond, a manifesto as rigorous and nearly as determined as the original. In his literary forensics, Schuberth manages to track Karl Kraus and his time more closely than many a Kraus pundit and he elegantly bridges the gap to our time.
He uses language as an instrument and means of evidence.
Armin Sattler (ORF online)
BEFORE NATIONS KNEW THEY WERE NATIONS
Ethnicity, Nation, Culture. An (Anti-essentialist) Introduction (1996/2015).
With Before Nations Knew They Are Nations, the novelist, essayist, and satirist Richard Schuberth presents a daring scholarly work. The author discusses such concepts as nation and ethnicity, the genesis and history of these terms, their metamorphosis, as well as their real-life consequences, all the while offering subtle glimpses into the ideology of culturalism, meaning the reduction of human beings and their behavior to a prescribed collective culture. Culturalism is alive and kicking and still informing our daily experiences and political discourse. Essayistic & scholarly & witty & provocative!
Schuberth’s discourse on ethnicity and nation is a scholarly work and doesn’t shy away from scientific terminology. Even so, being by Schuberth, this text – which in lesser hands might be dry & overly theoretic — still is a page-turner and is also recommended for interested folk without an academic degree.
Mario Koch, Amerindian Research
CROSSROOTS – A Directory to Irish, English, Scottish & Breton Folk, World and Roots Music (2002)
Crossroots – an encyclopedia of Irish, Scottish, English, Welsh, and Breton folk, world, and traditional music – is a crazy idea turned reality. And in retrospect, Richard Schuberth’s idea to write this encyclopedic compendium, was certainly that. His response to inquiries on this matter has always been that he had to get all this useless knowledge out of his head to free memory space for more interesting topics.
Be it as it may, the outcome is an unconventional accomplishment that goes far beyond the generally accepted ideas of what comprises “folk music” or “Irish Folk”, providing detailed information on American folk music and songs of the civil rights movement, psychedelica, different English guitar styles of the 60s, John Martyn, Nick Drake, Tim Buckley, the Dublin-Sofia connection, British Jazz, David Grisman & jazzfolk, the tenor John McCormack, composers like Ralph Vaughan-Williams and Benjamin Britten, the leftist outlook of the British folk music movement of the 50s (A.L. Lloyd, Ewan MacColl), famous musicologists like Alan Lomax, Francis Child, Cecil Sharp and Séamus Ennis, the music of British gypsies, Gaelic rap, Billy Bragg, the French bourdon music scene and poets such as Robert Burns and Brendan Behan.
As far as I know, no encyclopedia of this quality and of such depth exists even in the respective countries of origin of these musics. No serious German-speaking lover of the musics of Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales, and Brittany should ignore (it).
Mike Kamp (Folker)