Austria, a small country that was once part of a great empire, rarely makes an appearance in the US media. In the past few decades, only Kurt Waldheim (1918-2007), the former Secretary General of the UN accused of war crimes, Jorg Haider (1950-2008), the populist politician associated with the rise of the far right, and Elfriede Jelinek (1946-), who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2004, have been deemed worthy of more than fleeting attention. The Haider-Jelinek confrontation was one of the significant manifestations of the search for national identity in postwar Austria. The culture wars that have raged in the country since the 1980s revolve around a fundamental question: Should the country's role in the Third Reich be dismissed as an amaly, or was it an expression of innate characteristics that still lie beneath the surface of the seemingly idyllic Alpine Republic?
Jay Julian Rosellini (Ph.D., Indiana University, 1976) is Professor of German and Humanities at Suffolk University in Boston, Massachusetts. He has taught at Haverford College, Washington University, MIT, and Purdue University. His publications on German literature and society include monographs on Thomas Muntzer and the radical wing of the Reformation, East German dissident writers Wolf Biermann and Volker Braun, and most recently the reappearance of conservative intellectuals in reunified Germany. His study Literary Skinheads? Writing from the Right in Reunified Germany (Purdue University Press, 2000) was awarded the 2002 DAAD/German Studies Association Prize for the best book in German language and literature, cultural studies, and the humanities.