Unlikely Escapes: Ecological Counterculture in Franz Krahberger’s Humbolts Reise

Paul Buchholz


Since the “explosion” (Radkau) of environmentalist discourse on both sides of the Atlantic around 1970, primitivist fantasies of a ‘return to nature’ have played an ambiguous role in green movements. Even if grassroots and parliamentary green movements did not seriously advocate an exit from technological civilization, Arcadian visions nonetheless established themselves as a consistent feature of green thought. This article examines how the Austrian writer Franz Krahberger’s experimental 1989 novel Humbolts Reise [sic] negotiates such an ambivalent attachment to primitivism, and considers how this negotiation resonates with Austrian and West German green activism of the 1970s and 1980s. Humbolts Reise, as a work of so-called Katastrophenliteratur that was typical in German-language letters of those decades, tells the story of a depressed Viennese intellectual who both grapples with a troubled personal life and ultimately transforms his urge to “live outside technological civilization” into a mode of literary communication. (PB)

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