Inside Austria: New Challenges, Old Demons

In This Review

Inside Austria: New Challenges, Old Demons (Columbia/Hurst)
By Paul Lendvai
Columbia University Press, 2010
320 pp. $40.00
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To most foreigners, Austria is an enigma. Measured by trade, immigration, or diplomacy, it is among the world's most open countries. Yet its politics and society, not to mention its unintelligible dialect of German, remain closed to outsiders. What most people know are traditional clichés. Austria markets itself with The Sound of Music, Mozart, and Alpine skiing. Critics attack it the same way: the recent success of a provincial right-wing party led many to view Austria as a land of incorrigible neofascists, for which it was sanctioned by the EU. Lendvai, a top journalist with 50 years of insider access to Viennese circles, offers a more sober perspective on Austrian political life. He unpacks the backroom deals, personal idiosyncrasies, and, above all, partisan maneuvering behind successive governments. This gossipy approach leaves one wishing to know more about social and cultural trends, rising immigration, economic globalization, European enlargement, and the other things that have transformed Austria into one of contemporary Europe's most successful countries. For understanding elite party politics, however, there is no better place to start.

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