Photo: R. Winkler


Ludwig Laher


is that
my writing
was it me
who said that
oh yes
I've got it
my god
when was that

(Translation: Andrew Duncan)

About Ludwig Laher:

lorn in Linz (Upper Austria) in 1955 +++ Since 1974 studies at the University of Salzburg (German, English, Humanities) +++ Dr.phil. +++ Teacher both at university and high-class secondary school levels, writer in Salzburg +++ In 1993 Ludwig Laher moved to Sankt Pantaleon / Upper Austria, where he still lives alternately with Vienna +++ 1998 to 2008 only free-lance writer +++ 2005 - 2007 President of the European Council of Artists (ECA) +++ Board member of the Interessengemeinschaft österreichischer Autorinnen und Autoren (IGAA), the Austrian UNESCO Commission +++ Numerous awards and scholarships +++ Prose, poetry, essays, radio plays, film scripts and academic texts +++ Translates texts from the outskirts of the English language



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Books in English:

Heart Flesh Degeneration. Novel. Ariadne Press. Riverside 2006.

And Take What Comes. Novel. Ariadne Press. Riverside 2013.

Further information:

Publications (selection):

+++ Books: nicht alles fließt. Poems. Vienna 1984. Out of print. + Always beautiful. Grenada. Vorstellung eines Landes im Hinterhof der USA. Berlin – Vienna - Mülheim/R. (Guthmann Peterson) 1989. + Ed.: Der Genius loci überzieht die Stadt. Berlin – Vienna – Mülheim/R. (Guthmann Peterson) 1992 + Im Windschatten der Geschichte. Näherungen und Zuspitzungen. Salzburg (edition prolit) 1994 + unerhörte gedichte. Poems. Baden (Grasl) 1995. Out of print + Selbstakt vor der Staffelei. Innsbruck (Haymon) 1998 + Wolfgang Amadeus junior: Mozart Sohn sein. Novel. Innsbruck (Haymon) 1999 + Herzfleischentartung. Novel. Innsbruck (Haymon) 2001 + feuerstunde. Poems. Klagenfurt (Wieser) 2003 + Aufgeklappt. Novel. Innsbruck (Haymon) 2003 +  Ed.: Uns hat es nicht geben sollen. Rosa Winter, Gitta und Nicole Martl. Drei Generationen Sinti-Frauen erzählen. Grünbach (Edition Geschichte der Heimat) 2004 + Ed.: Europa erlesen: Oberösterreich. Anthology. Klagenfurt (Wieser) 2004 + Folgen. Novel. Innsbruck (Haymon) 2005 + Herzfleischentartung. Novel. Munich (dtv) 2005 + Quergasse. Essays. Klagenfurt (Wieser) 2005 + Und nehmen, was kommt. Novel. Innsbruck (Haymon) 2007 + Herzfleischentartung. Novel. Innsbruck (Haymon TB) 2009 + Europa erlesen: Linz. Anthology. Klagenfurt (Wieser) 2009 + Einleben. Novel. Innsbruck (Haymon) 2009 + Verfahren. Novel. Innsbruck (Haymon) 2011 + Kein Schluß geht nicht. Erzähltes und Reflektiertes. Innsbruck (Haymon) 2012 + Bitter. Novel. Göttingen (Wallstein) 2014 + was hält mich. Poems. Göttingen (Wallstein) 2015 + Überführungsstücke. Novel. Göttingen (Wallstein) August 2016 +++ Translations (only books): Jacob Ross: Ein Lied für Simone. Berlin – Vienna – Mülheim/R. (Guthmann Peterson) 1993 (Original: Song for Simone) + Lindsey Collen: Sita und die Gewalt. Novel. Reinbek b. Hamburg (Rowohlt) 1997 (Original: The Rape of Sita) + Ed. (with W. Görtschacher): So also ist das / So That's What It's Like. Eine zweisprachige Anthologie britischer Gegenwartslyrik. Innsbruck (Haymon) 2002 + With Katharina Laher: Hans Reichenfeld: Bewegtes Exil. Autobiography. Wien (Verlag der Theodor-Kramer-Gesellschaft) 2010 (Original: On the Fringe) +++ Films: Durst nach Widerstand. Short feature film. ORF 1995 + Wolfgang Amadeus junior. Film essay. ORF 1999 + Herzfleischentartung. Film essay. ORF 2001 +  Sinti ob der Enns. Film essay. ORF 2006 + Ketani heißt miteinander. Sintiwirklichkeiten statt Zigeunerklischess. Film essay. Ketani/ORF 2006 . +++ Radio plays: Das Linie-M-Märchen. ORF 1994 + Warme Körper. ORF 1998 + Humanitatis causa. ORF 2000 +++ Ultimative Annäherung. ORF 2004 +++ Radio features: Grenada ging den Dritten Weg. ORF 1983 + Tote Grenze. ORF 1983 + Der Weg ist schon das Ziel. ORF 1987 + 30. April 1938. Der 50.Tag nach dem Einmarsch. ORF 1988 (Co-writer) + Öffentliche Haltungsschäden. ORF 1989 + Wie schnell die Zeit vergeht. ORF 1990 + Grenzerfahrungen. ORF 1991 + Kein echter Tscheche bin ich nicht. ORF 1992 + Dr. Borneman und Mr. McCabe. ORF 1994 +++ Numerous publications in anthologies, magazines, newspapers +++

Heart Flesh Degeneration is the first of Ludwig Laher's novels to be published in English (October 2006)

Heart Flesh Degeneration. Novel. Translation: Susan Tebbutt. 187 pages. Ariadne Press (Riverside, USA) 2006.
ISBN: 1-57241-150-3.

The English translation of Heart Flesh Degeneration, Austrian Ludwig Laher's novel about the Nazi concentration camps, (...) a must-buy. (Patrick Langston, The Ottawa Citizen)

"Heart flesh degeneration" is a term used by a camp doctor of a Gypsy detention centre during 1941 in the Austrian countryside of St. Pantaleon to describe the 'harmless' cause of death of (...) inmates in the camp. (...) The author finely sifts the material at his disposition and presents the veracity of the events that took place in the camps to cover up or justify their vile acts. The author also opens another window of the denazification of Austria. Nazism had become a way of life. (...) This book is priceless as it presents the truth. (Anthony Zarb Dimech, The Sunday Times, Malta)

Translated as Heart Flesh Degeneration, the Austrian author's novel is a chilling account of the persecution of gypsies during the Nazi era. The files relating to the legal investigation form the basis of this literary work. (Ieteke Oggel, Limerick Leader)

In 1940 the SA build a "labour education camp" at the village St. Pantaleon in the Upper Austrian Innviertel, which is hastily closed down in 1941 and replaced by a "temporary detention camp for gypsies". Hundreds of people arrested arbitrarily are kept there, many of them tortured, some of them  murdered. The doctor of the camp is the village physician, who has been coerced into cooperating. Over a long time he diagnoses harmless causes of death (even though the "heartflesh degeneration" of a gypsy woman is not his invention); but one day he eventually informs the public prosecutor's office. The files of the investigation triggered by this step are still available and formed the basis of Ludwig Laher's literary work, which sometimes achieves an oppressive quality by employing the language and logic of the murderers.

"The sentences so splendidly rounded and "speakable" appear as though they had been composed à haute voix, thereby generating an irresistible pull." (Christiane Zintzen, Neue Zürcher Zeitung)

" exceptional book.... The novel is a highly convincing literary construction for this suppressed chapter of Austrian national-socialist history; its discovery is only the first of Laher's accomplishments. He reports the appalling events with the greatest possible distance, lets the facts speak for themselves, and the sarcastic language typical of him generates the shock and concern in his readers he has probably hoped for." (Gerhard Moser, Literatur und Kritik)

"The book is both the protocol of a political criminal case, and told with plenty of suspense at that, and a social history of the 1940s and 1950s, as well as a merciless diagnosis on human nature. ... The book, for the very reason that it sticks to the actual facts of a regionally limited case, which through the author's treatment nevertheless obtains the universal validity inherent to literature, succeeds in making a statement on the nature of national socialism and its persistent survival in an unambiguous and convincing quality that has rarely been achieved before." (Anna Mitgutsch, Der Standard)

Herzfleischentartung has rightly been acclaimed by critics, yet the predominant focus in the reception is on the deeply shocking revelations of sadism and brutality towards forced labour and Sinti and Roma during the Nazi period in the Ostmark. The narrator makes it abundantely clear that he wishes 'so genau hinzuschauen, daß es wehtut'. (...) Laher juxtaposes different layers of discourse and presents historically documented evidence within the portrayal of landscape. By focussing on the importance of the landscape within the novel it is possible to to perceive the subtleties of the literary style and the bridges between the past and the present, and the intricacies of the Heimat-reader-landscape relationship. The use of the metaphor of restructuring of land and the nation, the romanticism of the countryside, later revealed as a pseudo-utopian Heimat, the use of irony to reconfigure the forest, the river and expanses of land as elements of a socio-political map of the past, are features which culminate in the focus on memory.

(Susan Tebbutt:. The Politicised Pastoral Idyll in Ludwig Laher's 'Heimatroman', Herzfleischentartung. In: Cityscapes and Countryside in Contemporary German Literature, S. 291 - 307)

It is, however, the essay “The Politicised Pastoral Idyll in Ludwig Laher’s ‘Heimatroman’ Herzfleischentartung by Susan Tebbutt that anchors this section with the clearest contextualization of Heimat in contemporary literature. Because of Laher’s nuanced depiction of the town/country dichotomy, which goes beyond the simplistic evil city dwellers and innocent country folk, Tebbutt describes Laher’s work as an anti-Heimatroman. This then, according to Tebbutt, allows Laher to redeem and reclaim the concept of Heimat despite its NSDAP tarnish.

(German Studies Review, 30/1/2007)

And Take What Comes). Novel. Translation: Susan Tebbutt. Ariadne Press (Riverside, USA) March 2013.

In his latest novel Laher breaks new ground and tackles one of the twenty-first century's growing problems: the intersection of the lives of Eastern European migrants and wealthier residents of Western Europe. The third-person narrator effectively acts as an interpreter conveying Monika's story, from the destitution of the primitive Romany settlement to a comfortable life with her new partner, Philipp. (...) Readers may well feel withdrawal symptoms after finishing the novel and begin to wait impatiently for the second part of the trilogy. Despite the fast pace of the plot, Ludwig Laher's heady, superbly crafted novel deserves to be absorbed slowly in order to be fully appreciated.

(Susan Tebbutt, Modern Austrian Literature,Vol. 41.2/2008)

And Take What Comes is a story of resilience and survival against all odds, a tale of great suffering that ends well: Monika, the novel’s protagonist, grows up in poverty in eastern Slovakia; at age ten, she loses her mother to sexual violence; she becomes suicidal and cuts herself; she then becomes addicted to drugs; she is sold into prostitution and suffers physical and mental abuse; finally, as she is nearing a complete and utter breakdown, she is able to leave that life behind with the help of Philipp, a former client. Avoiding clichés and sentimentality, Laher tells this harrowing story with a good measure of detachment but never gives us reason to doubt whose side he is on and never renders moral judgment. He is quite relentless when it comes to exposing the ills of Monika’s hostile environment—the sexual violence against women; the stigmatization of the Romany people; the male oppression as represented by clients and pimps alike in the red light milieu. Laher’s depiction is, however, not simplistic, as he not only shines a light on individual instances of injustice but also signals an awareness of the systemic problems that are deeply rooted in the Central European societies depicted in the novel.

(Thomas Ahrens, Journal of Austrian Studies, Vol. 48/2015))

Wolfgang Amadeus junior: Mozart Sohn sein (Wolfgang Amadeus Junior: Being Mozart Son).
Novel. Clothbound. 176 pages.

Even dedicated music lovers associate the name Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart only with the father. But one of Mozart's sons also was an important composer and a renowned virtuoso on the piano in his time. Wolfgang Amadeus, junior, who had been christened Franz Xaver at birth but later on officially "renamed" by his mother Konstanze in memory of his father, who died so untimely, eventually, to escape being constantly compared with the "great Mozart", gave up playing concerts and his attempts to become a successful composer. He left Vienna and became the "Polish Mozart".

Today his music (or a small part of it) is known mainly in Japan, where several CDs have been produced. In Europe W.A. Mozart Son is practically forgotten, even though his chamber music pieces, symphonies, piano concertos and songs are of a high quality and in terms of style anything but the works of an epigone.

"With great empathy, and on the basis of historical documents, Laher tracks the life and work of this misunderstood and underrated artist. ... Laher's essay develops its greatest power in the passages where he succeeds in distilling the dominant themes of this life into brief episodes, and where he puts them into their proper cultural and political context. In just a few lines the political situation of the Restoration is outlined as clearly and vividly as the tedious work involved in organising a tour in those days. ... On the whole the author has fully succeeded in his objective. He knows how to raise the readers' interest in the story of this life right from the first page."

(Neue Zürcher Zeitung)

"In Wolfgang Amadeus junior: Mozart Sohn sein Laher again proves himself a master of literary portraying and tracking. ... Already one and a half years ago, in his book on the forgotten painter Victor Emil Janssen, Laher proved how well-versed he is in the tracking of historical facts and their artistic rearrangement. ... The father-and-son story of the two Wolfgang Amadei is indeed far more than an artist's portrait, but also provides a sensitive picture of the age, its vanities and mentality."

(ORF - Austrian Broadcasting Service))