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Voest, Austria’s most important industrial company, developed from the Hermann Göring Steelworks. The history of this plant has long since been researched by historians, and there have also been literary works dealing with this subject, the latest one being the novel "Die Voest-Kinder" (The Children of the Voest Steelworks) by the Upper Austrian writer Elisabeth Reichart. The novel is the story of a highly talented child who lives in a world which is shaped by a variety of deprivations and an economic development which her father is part of and in the course of which he eventually disappears in Africa, where he is the manager of a construction site. The two World Wars have left their mark on her grandparents and parents and yet at first the child lives a childhood full of magic. There are the sky, music, dancing, the church choir and Baldo, the grandparents’ intelligent dog. ‘The child’s father was a member of the volunteer fire brigade and the band, but above all he was a Voest man.’ From the security of what at least in the girl’s imagination is an unspoilt rural idyll, which corresponds to Reichart’s birthplace, Steyregg, the family moves to a Voest estate near the river Traun. The men are in the works or away on a job, the women live in the cellar with their washing machines and preserving jars. The children are left to their own devices for most of the time, are abandoned and yet under the influence of their parents’ wounded generation.
Reichart succeeds in making visible the way in which the legacy of the first half of the twentieth century penetrates deep into everyday life and determines people’s lives and mentalities. ‘Almost everyone left after this terrible war is mad!’ The author is convinced that in a globalized world even the process of growing up is no longer something individual. In an interview she states, ‘The children were all lonely, they all felt they were lost, that’s what they shared when their fathers were working on construction sites somewhere or other.’ That is also true of the highly talented nameless girl in "Die Voest-Kinder". The novel, and this is what makes it exciting, contains a great deal of poetry and a great deal of truth. Reichart, a history graduate, has thoroughly researched the Voest company and then written a story from which historians could learn a few things. The truth of poetry can be very exciting.
Abridged version of a review by Helmut Sturm, November 2011. English translation by Leigh H. Bailey.
Full German text: http://www.literaturhaus.at/index.php?id=9264
[ book info ] Reichart, Elisabeth: Die Voest-Kinder.
(Book language: Deutsch)
Otto Müller Verlag,
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