This remarkable collection of interviews with the 18 most important Austrian, Hungarian and Romanian contemporary artists serves as a key to understanding the political situation in Europe today. The conversations with artists such as Marina Abramović, Michael Haneke, Péter Esterházy, Péter Nádas and Herta Müller sharpen the reader’s awareness for the challenges that define life in post-communist or post-fascist Europe. The interviews explore the impact of politics and censorship on art. It is striking that most of the artists featured do not see themselves as political artists, but their work can almost always be traced back to a specific political situation or event. A short introduction at the beginning of each section serves to shed light on the political environment in the respective country.

Conversations oscillate between privacy and professionalism. Coming from neutral Sweden, Cecilia Hansson’s approach helps make some difficult topics accessible and numerous amusing and remarkable anecdotes ease reading and lighten the burden of historical truths. Nevertheless Hansson’s skillful questioning still does not demand answers, she is aware and informed of the artist’s respective situation and the context of the specific artwork.

The book’s interdependencies render it unique, as all interviews are directly or indirectly linked to  each other. Although the Artist’s initial situations do not differ to any great extent, their answers and opinions most certainly do.

Rights sold to: Serbia (Albatros plus)

non-fiction, 320, Hardcover
originally published by Natur och Kultur (Sweden) 2017

Rights available for: Worldwide

The Author

Cecilia Hansson, born 1973 in Luleå, is a writer, poet, journalist and translator from German into Swedish, including poetry by Nora Gomringer and Monika Rinck. She has published several books of poetry herself. Hansson has lived in Vienna and has a Master in German Literature/Aesthetics/Philosophy. Today she lives in Stockholm.

»A certain sense of humour can rise from resignation, this is also what the title can tell us. The quotation stems from World War II, a German and an Austrian report the situation: „The situation in Berlin is serious, but not hopeless; the situation in Vienna is hopeless, but not serious.” A possible interpretation would suggest the assumption that the Prussian fights until the end whereas the Austrian would admit the defeat and enjoy the good sides of life.«

– Dagens Nyheter

»The book contributes to an understanding of today’s Europe; it documents a development and a developing path, Europe could follow in the future.«

– Björn Sandmark, Dalademokraten

»The conversations drift in very different directions, but we learn very soon that culture plays an essential role in these countries and enjoys a natural status compared to Sweden. Writers and Intellectuals are of a significant value and art is more than political agitation.«

– Nils Forsberg, Svenska Dagbladet