Walking Through History (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2013)
My first monograph, Walking Through History: Topography and Identity in the Works of Ingeborg Bachmann and Thomas Bernhard, was the winner of the 2011 Peter Lang Young Scholars Competition in German Studies and was published in 2013.
The post-war landscape of Europe is unthinkable without the voices of the Austrian writers Ingeborg Bachmann (1926-1973) and Thomas Bernhard (1931-1989). Their work, coming after the devastation wrought by the Second World War and the Holocaust, is rooted in a specifically Austrian context of repression of this traumatic historical legacy. In post-war Austria, discourse on the recent past may have been dominated by silence, but the legacy of this past was all too apparent in the country’s ruined and speedily reconstructed cityscapes.
In this book I investigate Bachmann’s and Bernhard’s treatment of two fundamental aspects of the Austrian historical legacy: the trauma of the war and the desire to return to an ideal homeland, known as ‘Haus Österreich’. Following a methodology based on Freud and Benjamin, this comparative study demonstrates that the confrontation with Austria’s troubled history occurs through the protagonists’ ambivalent encounter with the landscape or cityscape that they inhabit, travel or return to. The book demonstrates the centrality of topography on both thematic and structural levels in the authors’ prose works, as a mode of confronting the past and making sense of the present.
"Krylova’s theoretical grounds are clearly laid out in her introduction. Her analysis is engendered by and contributes to what is called ‘the topographical turn’ [...]. Events, then, are written into and retained within the landscape, but also written into and retained within the psyche; to walk the landscape is, therefore, to explore the psyche; and the landscape, as well as the mind, can be a site of traumatic inscription — a Symptomkörper [body of symptoms] in search of the talking cure of a walking tour. Krylova, in pointing to all of this, is that curative walker, reconnecting displaced symptoms with their traumatic origins. And her analysis goes further: the landscape is not a passive receptacle of traumatic affects, nor is it a mere mirror of individual and collective trauma; for Krylova, it is ‘pathologizing and pathogenic’ (Topography, p. 22), infecting those who inhabit it. For this reason, as she later argues, protagonists elicit a complex range of what are termed ‘psychotopographic’ responses to their environments (Topography, p. 20). It is the aim of the book to unfurl and ground those responses. [...] The book is structured in a clever and reader-friendly way. [...] ‘Österreich — das ist etwas, das immer weitergeht für mich’ [For me, Austria is something that continues, on and on] (Topography, p. 249), says Bachmann, says Krylova, before extending her ‘peripatetic working through of topography’ (Topography, p. 250) to present-day Austria, including in her framework the burial of Otto von Habsburg and Vienna’s contemporary Holocaust memorials. Krylova’s walk through history is, logically, ongoing; the uncovering and re-covering of the past in the present, a process that ‘immer weitergeht’ [continues, on and on]." Caitriona Leahy, ‘‘Drei Wege zu Bachmann’: The Topography of Recent Criticism’, Austrian Studies 21, 2013, 201-215.
"Katya Krylova [...] shows how the suppressed Austrian war trauma may be traced through the literary depiction of land- and cityscapes, enhancing understanding of the present." Ulrike Zitzlsperger, ‘German Studies: Literature, 1945 to 1990’, The Year's Work in Modern Language Studies 75, 2015 (survey year 2013), 476-486.
Please visit this Peter Lang webpage to order the book or to request a review copy.