a strange dream


My long-term platonic love affair with Austria, Vienna in particular, began when I was still a boy. Every Friday many families in Bratislava would buy the Austrian daily Volkstimme. On this day the Austrian Communist Party’s official mouthpiece included the weekly programme of Austrian TV which was unavailable elsewhere in Czechoslovakia. The Voice of the People, hardly read in its country of origin, enjoyed a cult status sixty kilometres to the northeast. I am quite sure that the weekend edition had more, and certainly more loyal, readers in Slovakia than in its homeland. The hard-to find copies would immediately disappear from newstands and were often sold under the counter. In blocks of flats each copy would travel from door to door and was cherished by German-speaking families like some sort of holy relic. Who knows if the staff at Volkstimme’s modest little editorial office had any idea of this devoted following – if they had, they would surely have been spurred to work with greater enthusiasm and may even have extended the TV programmes. Neither myself nor my parents had ever been to Vienna and we did not expect we would ever get there. For me Austrian television and radio epitomized the whole of Western civilization.

more from Michal Hvorecký at Salon) here.