Dreamers & Demagogues: Letter from Vienna


Instructions for the dreamer:



Herz / Heart

Wo ist Zweig?

In March 1938, the whole of [Vienna’s] Hotel Imperial, from the café to the uppermost suite, was requisitioned by Nazi authorities for the reception of Hitler. … And the Imperial remained the domain of Nazi officials throughout the war. Today the chairs, booth backs, and carpets of the Café Imperial are midnight blue and pale gold shades. When I went there in the middle of a Saturday afternoon, there were almost no customers. … Waiters whisked in and out, zipping from one deserted room to the next. When I asked about the café’s history in the 1930s and 40s, waiter after waiter shrugged and made a face as though I’d asked where the bathroom was in too loud a voice. — George Prochnik, The Impossible Exile: Stefan Zweig at the End of the World. p.193

Of the hundreds of thousands and even millions of my books which had their secure place in the book shops and in innumerable homes in Germany, not a single one is obtainable today. … Everything, or almost everything that represents my work in the world during forty years has been destroyed by one and the same fist. … I could not adequately describe the fall into the abyss which I with countless others equally innocent suffered, if I did not indicate the height from which it occurred, and the singularity and consequences of this destruction of our whole literary generation, an occurrence unique in history.

Stefan Zweig

Ein Traum Gescheitert / A Failed Dream

In Full Sun

Surveys show that most Austrians continue to deny that 200,000 people welcomed Hitler’s troops as they marched into Austria, despite the overwhelming evidence that ecstatic crowds gathered at Heldenplatz in Vienna’s city centre to hear him deliver a rousing speech. The view most commonly held still is that the Anschluss was forced on a reluctant people. — The Telegraph, UK, April 12, 2006


The Ages

You are every age in your dreams.— Micah Sadigh, “Dreams and Creativity”



Ring Road



The question of whether one or several political parties are in power, and how these parties define and label themselves, is of far less importance than the question of whether or not it is possible to live like a human being. … A genuine, profound, and lasting change for the better … will have to derive from human existence, from the fundamental reconstitution of people in the world, their relationships to themselves and to each other, and to the universe. … This is not something that can be designed and introduced like a new car. A better system will not automatically ensure a better life. In fact the opposite is true: only by creating a better life can a better system be developed.

Is one not an integral part of the other from the start? Does not the bare fact that a work of art has meant something to someone — even if only for a moment, perhaps to a single person — already somehow change, however minutely, the overall condition for the better? Is it not itself an inseparable component of that condition, transforming it by its very nature? And does not a change in conditions mediated by a cultural achievement open the door to further cultural achievements? Is not culture itself something that is a common good? Is not some ‘improvement in conditions’ — in the most general, the deepest, and, I would say, the existential sense of the word — precisely what makes culture culture? … Can we separate the awakening human soul from what it always, already is — an awakening human community?

Instructions for the dreamer:

Author of the novels Q&A, Perpetua’s Kin, The Green Age of Asher Witherow, Lost Son (about Rilke), Partisans. Founder of Atelier26 Books. MAllenCunningham.com

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