PRINT December 2016

Books: Best of 2016

Jessica Morgan


Picked up at my excellent local bookstore, McNally Jackson (long may it last!), Maja Haderlap’s novel Angel of Oblivion (Archipelago; first published by Wallstein Verlag as Engel des Vergessens in 2012) is inflected with a staccato rhythm—a rush of present-tense observation—that reveals the writer to be a poet at heart. Set in the Carinthian countryside, which harbors a lesser-known European history—that of the Slovene-speaking minority in Austria and their resistance to Nazi occupation—Haderlap’s first-person story is authored with the intense sensorial recollections of a child. Caught between the earthy, pagan spiritualism of the narrator’s grandmother’s existence, which would have remained unchanged but for the violence wreaked on her family and their neighbors during the war, and an increasing desire to enter the modern world through education and urbanity (represented by the German language that was also spoken by her parents’ and grandparents’ oppressors), Haderlap underscores the significance of language and the barrier it presents to forgetting. The book’s relevance is its articulation of the long-lasting burden of cultural and semantic chasms that—even generations later—are far from resolved.

Jessica Morgan is the Director of Dia Art Foundation in New York.