Day 07: Top five favorite historical figures.

As you might notice from the portraits above, I’m quite a fan of the late 19th, early 20th century. All my favorite historical figures lived at this time – the beginning of the modern spirit and the start of psycho-analysis.

  • Sigmund Freud. I discovered Freud when I was about fifteen or sixteen, after visiting his apartment at Berggasse 19 in Vienna with my older sister. The era around the turn of the century had fascinated me for some time by then and I had discovered especially the art of this time. Freud gave my view on this special decades a second, deeper relevance. I started to read his biography, tried to understand a little bit more about psycho-analysis and was deeply intrigued by its modern spirit, or by the fact that our present-day life was so much influenced by him and his work. He of course also is, as most of the big minds in history, also a difficult and critisized person. But I wouldn’t want to think about, what our life now would be without him and his work.
  • Vincent van Gogh. My admiration for Gogh came a little bit earlier on, as you get in contact with him and his work quite easy nowadays. He is more or less everywhere. There are postcards and fridge magnets with his art, books about his life and people with “Starry night”-printed umbrellas on the streets. Van Gogh’s art always was very approachable for me and I love the clarity in his work, even though he brought twirly lines to perfection. And his life also fascinated me very much – the archetypel struggling artist who, in the end, just couldn’t manage life even though he cherished it so much with his drawings and his work.
  • Gustav Klimt. I just notice, that my selection is quite Austria focused – but for my defence, at my favorite era Vienna was an important and thriving center of art and culture. So it’s not really a surprise that many of my favourite historical ficures come from that time. Even though it may be the other way around, which would leave me a little narrow minded, but I don’t think that this would be the case. But now to Klimt – as much as van Gogh I also admire his work a lot. Again he is very clear and also very playful in his art and this seems to be something that really speaks to me. He is one of our greatest minds and we can be very proud to have him.
  • Oscar Wilde. At first I have to say, that I surely know too little about this amazing character. I mostly know things about his life, read his biography and soaked in every film made about him. His life is popular material for movie plots and books because it was so dazzling and tragic. I always related to him very strongly, because he was such a fragile and beautiful human being and he knew how to live his life well. But sadly the time he grew into wasn’t ready for him and chose to destroy this special man.
  • Rudolf, Crown Prince of Austria. Maybe my fascination for this man is kind of an strange monarchic impulse embedded deep into my Austrian soul. I really don’t know. But I know that Rudolf, son to Franz Joseph I of Austria and his infamous wife Elisabeth was one of the big modern minds of that century. He was very interested in foreign countries and had liberal views and ideas that didn’t match to those of his conservative father. But he also lived a wild life filled with affairs, alcohol and drugs which finally lead into suicide. Again a misunderstood and very free spirited character that had to leave this earth much to early. And all this holds a deep fascination for me and makes him to one of my favourite historical figures.

Talking ’bout my generation.

I live in Austria, was born and raised here – in this old small country that used to be so great and important. People tend to talk a lot about “soul” when they talk about Austria – the Austrian soul, the Viennese soul. Italians got temperament, Germans got their preciseness, the French got passion and inveted love and we got Sigmund Freud and grumpy waiters.

We Austrians like to feel blue and like to wallow in our sorrows surrounded by everybody who likes to listen, preferrable accompanied by a lot of alcohol. And that’s all it takes to invent “Heurige”, all those Viennese songs and our whole approach to art and literature. But this is not meant as a fiery monologue against this beautiful country – quite on the contrary. I guess we’re kind like that kid in the last row in school, that dresses weirdly and doesn’t talk much. But when it begins to rely on someone and opens up, you may see, on a good day, an intelligent and loveable person in front of you.

One of my favourite Austrian things is cabaret – not the french dancing thing, but the, again very Austrian, one man standing alone on a stage and talking about all the things he hates in his life and in this country in a very funny, amusing and contemplative way thing. I grew up with people like Alfred Dorfer, Josef Hader and Günther Paal, listening to their programmes on CD, watching them on television, in their movies or live. They always talked to me in a very special way – it felt good that there were people that had the guts to discuss certain things openly, when most of us couldn’t be bothered or didn’t have the courage. But even if it got very, very dark and serious they would bring you back with a witty joke. Going home with this certain feeling of having grown a little bit in the last two hours.

I haven’t been to cabaret in a while now but decided to see Manuel Rubey and Thomas Stipsits in “Triest” – not really knowing what waited for me there. I don’t know this two young Austrian actors very well I must admit – even though a quite strong enthusiasm for Rubey hit me when I saw him on my way to work in the subway this fall. I kind of noticed him but wasn’t sure why. Then it returned to me, that I saw this guy in one of the “Mundl” movies (another very Austrian thing, but that’s another story). When I reached work that day I did a massive Google search on him. I started watching “Fauner Consulting”, an Austrian online series that airs every Tuesday on the website, in which he plays a self-proclaimed life consultant, surrounded by strange but interesting people. I listened to some of the songs he did with his former band “Mondscheiner”. And I really liked all that – so I just bought tickets to see him live.

It’s funny how things sometimes come together in strange, obscure ways, but I guess that’s how life is supposed to be. Truly, it was quite unlikely for me to see “Triest” – ever. But I was late for work and everything added up to me seeing Rubey on the subway and in the end sitting in this audience waiting for the show to begin. And it was amazing.

Rubey and Stipsits do a brilliant job bringing this wild story to the stage. A film crew is on the ship to make a big, new Austrian movie with Rubey in a minor part. The comedian Stipsits, hired to entertain the holiday makers. They end up sharing a small cabin on the ship and becoming friends. And this setting gives this new generation of soulful, grumpy, angry, outright, disappointed, witty and charming Austrians the perfect stage. They feel so fresh and straight forward and go through it all with such ease that you just have to be totally magnetised by them. This two guys are about my age, Stipsits a little bit younger and Rubey four years older than I, and this may be another reason why they got to me so much. It’s strange but also liberating when someone talks about the things that bother you, that steal your sleep at night and that make you laugh.

We are a new generation of Austrians with all our soul. We wallow in our sorrows from time to time and like it a lot. But we also have new voices and new ways to handle things, allthough the subjects may stay the same. But we reinvent, we create and we’re having a damn good time. Hopefully.