With its echoes of fellow Austrian novelist Robert Musil’s novella Young Törless, and of Günter Grass’s The Tin Drum, Florjan Lipuš’s Young Tjaž, first published in 1972, helped moved the critique of Germanic Europe’s fundamental social conformity into the postwar age. But Lipuš, a member of the Slovene ethnic minority indigenous to Austria’s southernmost province of Carinthia, wrote his novel in Slovene and aimed it not just at Austrian society’s hidebound clericalism, but also at its intolerance of the ethnic other in its midst. When Austrian novelist and fellow Carinthian Peter Handke resolved in the late 1970s to explore his Slovene roots, the first book he picked up was Lipuš’s Young Tjaž, which served as his Badeker through the Slovene language, and which he faithfully translated into German and published in 1981.
Original title: Zmote dijaka Tjaža
Edition: Dalkey Archive Press
Price: 12,50 EUR
Tjaž is a character the likes of which had not previously existed in the novel as a genre: not a villain, not an innocent, not a self-realizing personality, not a hero, not a victim, not a defendant, and not a stranger, but both less and more than all of these things: a ‘cosmic pawn’ . . . When, at the end of the century, a reckoning is made of the great books that came out of our part of the world, Young Tjaž will be one of them.