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Austrian fiction reached a monumental peak with Robert Musil's three-volume, unfinished The Man Without Qualities which depicts Austria in the early years of the 20th century as the Habsburgs' power waned. Thomas Bernhard's seamless text is surprisingly readable and verging on cult status. Cutting Timber is an incisive and scintillatingly dismissive portrait of Austrian society. Peter Handke's bleak and beautiful writings include The Goalkeeper's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick and The Left-Handed Woman and should be compulsory reading for anyone not thinking of committing suicide.Austria has proved fertile turf for foreign penpushers: Graham Greene set The Third Man in a rather spooky Vienna; Christina Stead's The Salzburg Tales is a Chauceresque novel about gatherers at the Salzburg Festival in the 1930s who tell each other stories; John Irving's Setting Free the Bears is a finely spun tale about releasing the animals from Vienna's zoo.Mozart & the Wolf Gang by Anthony Burgess is a learned but enjoyable celestial fantasy in which the great composers discourse on music and Mozart. Mozart and the Enlightenment by Nicholas Till is a scholarly work placing Mozart in historical context, with detailed analysis of his operatic works. Mozart and Vienna by HC Robbins Landon focuses on Wolfgang's Vienna years.A History of the Habsburg Empire 1526-1918 is a large authoritative tome by Robert A Kann that you would not want to lug around in a backpack.

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