My reading was all over the map in 2011. I picked some things up and put them back down again, tried others; I didn’t really have a plan (there’s a plan for 2012 which involves Homer and then Joyce. We’ll see if I can stick to it.) This is not a comprehensive list.
Hanne Egghardt, “Maria Theresias Kinder: 16 Schicksale zwischen Glanz und Elend” (Maria Theresia’s Children: 16 Fates From Splendour to Misery). While the Austrian Empress was busy ruling the country and waging war abroad, she nevertheless made time to keep an eye on her offspring in great detail, writing them letters with reminders concerning their habits and behaviour, arranging their marriages for the benefit of the Empire, and generally remaining in charge of everything. From Emperor Joseph to Maria Antonia (who’s name got frenchified when she moved to Versailles) to spinster “goitered Liesl”, every child gets a chapter.
Carol Schloss “Lucia Joyce: Do Dance In The Wake”. Schloss has researched her subject to great length and in great detail. Schloss makes the argument that Lucia, every bit a genius as her famous father, was seen by just about everyone (with the exception of her father) as a hindrance to his writing, and in the end she was basically sacrificed to facilitate the completion of his last book by both well-meaning supporters and unfeeling family members. Joyce was trying to get his daughter out of an asylum when he unexpectedly died; this sealed her fate, as her mother and brother abandoned her after that. A moving history of a young free spirit who could not be made to fit into the accepted role society expected her to fill, and paid the consequences.
Gertrud von le Fort, “Die letzte am Schafott” (The last to the scaffold). A novella about the 16 Carmelite nuns who, sentenced to death during the French Revolution, went to the guillotine singing praises to God, and the basis of Poulenc’s most excellent opera “Dialogues des Carmelites” While the story is fiction, it is loosely based on the memoirs of one Marie who, as a young Carmelite nun, took leave from the convent to tend to some family business and therefor escaped arrest and execution. I would most like to find a copy of her memoir if possible.
Michael Wieck, “Zeugnis vom Untergang Königsbergs” (Testimony of the Downfall of Königsberg). Wieck, a distant, distant relation to both Clara Wieck Schumann and Olof Palme, tells of his growing up half-Jewish in a highly musical family, and the suffering brought upon them by the Nazis, but also from the Russians afterward. Wieck managed to get to West Germany and played for years as concertmaster of the Radio Symphony Orchestra Stuttgart. Königsberg is now Russian Kaliningrad.
Tom Matzek, “Das Mordschloss”. This was a real eye-opener for me. A highly detailed, thoroughly researched book about the origins of the Nazi euthanasia program at one of its main center of operations, the mental institution at Schloss Harteim in Upper Austria. This was where the death industry got honed and tested — if it hadn’t worked so well here, there may never have been an Auschwitz as we know it to have been.
OK, onto a more pleasant topic — how about archaeology?
Norbert Mantl, “Vorchristliche Kultrelikte im oberen Inntal” (Pre-Christian Cult Relics in the Upper Inn Valley). Discussed here.
Publication of the Tyrolean State Museum, “Ur- und Frühgeschichte von Innsbruck” (Prehistoric and Protohistoric Archaeology in Innsbruck). Interesting reports of the excavations at Bergisel, Wilten, and the Kalvarienberg.
Alfred Watkins, “The Old Straight Track”. Watkins was one of the first Englishmen to look at the dolmens, mounds, barrrows and ancient trackways on the English countryside and form a theory as to their relationship with one another. Some of his ideas have since been disproved, but I think he was really onto something with his idea of ponds and other bodies of water possibly acting as reflecting beacons for travelers on the hills above. Watkins keeps his theories utilitarian, and stays mostly clear of spiritual or esoteric purposes, which I appreciated.
Martin Bernstein, “Römerstraßen und Kultplätze” (Roman Roads and Ritual Sites). Specifically deals with Bavaria. The book contains 16 excursions to local prehistoric sites with directions and maps. I have made good use of it four times already, and will surely turn to it again.