Manguel Reviews Winkler

During a lunch with WG Sebald in June 2000, I asked him, since he had written splendid essays on Austrian literature, which Austrian writers he recommended. Immediately he mentioned Josef Winkler, whose work he considered a counterweight to what he saw as Austria‘s moral infamy. I then read three or four of his novels, which all revolve around the same theme: the deep-rooted corruption of Austrian society, especially the farming society into which Winkler was born in 1953. The themes of medieval Catholic traditions, the hardships of rural life and a loveless family are explored over and over again. Winkler’s prose reads like a palimpsest of angry stories, each trying to outdo the previous one in increasing depth and relentless scrutiny. Reading Winkler is like peering harder and harder into one of those painted Flemish hells that seethe with horribly inventive details of sin and retribution.

. . .

Only three books by Winkler have been translated up to now into English. The third, cleverly translated by Adrian West, with an illuminating introduction, is a good example of Winkler’s powerful art. . . . The standing of Winkler in German-language literature is undisputed. The German writer Martin Walser was euphoric when he discovered Winkler’s work; Grass praised him for the intensity of his writing. He has won almost every major literary prize in Germany and Austria. It is to be hoped that this translation will bring his writing to the attention of a wider, curious and intelligent English-speaking public.


Albert Manguel, The Guardian (November 28, 2013)