Literature - Ubiquitous in the Alps
We love to read! In this section we will introduce you on a monthly basis to different novels, criminal stories, fairy tales, short stories or any other literaturary style, which take place or were written in the Alps. We will try to give you a broad overview of renown authors as well as newcomers and contemporary writers. And we will mention which of these books are suitable as a companion to your next trip to the Alps.
SimilaunHaid, Hans: Similaun. Skarabaeus. 2008
This time we have a very recent book reviewed. The novel, by the alpine researcher Hans Haid, published in February 2008, promises on the book cover to be a combination of alpine and biblical myths, time criticism and apocalyptic visions of the future from the perspective of a shepherds from the Ötztal: Virgil.
In recent years sheepherders seem to be a literary theme and no, not those in the distant Anatolia, in the dry areas in Asia or high tech sheep farming in New Zealand, no Austrian shepherds. At a time in which many Austrians hardly even know their own sheep-breeder culture, domestic sheep wool, sheep's milk cheese or other sheep products. 2006, it was Sam Apple's "Schlepping through the Alps: My Search for Austria's Jewish Past with Its Last Wandering Shepherd" and now said "Similaun" by Hans Haid.
Similaun, Glacier in the Tyrol
In the Ötztal Alps in the southernmost area of Tyrol (Austria), the Similaun is a mountain with 3,599 meters. The glacier covered mountain is located on the border between Austria and Italy, separates the Tyrol from the province of Bolzano, South Tyrol. The meaning of Similaun could be seen as a variation of "Sam-Alu-Ana" - "white goddess Ana", with "sam" for white and shiny, "alu" for the Divine. We know the area by an archaeological find in the glacier, the glacier mummy is better known as the "Ötzi the Iceman". Near Similauns is the village Sölden, a big winter resort. To set this in relation: after Vienna and Salzburg, Sölden has most overnight stays per year, especially in the winter tourism. Sölden is not only beautiful, with a huge ski area, but also with the massive Oetztal Alps, with many mountains and mighty glaciers and two-maintained glacier ski areas, that allow year-round skiing.
Hans Haid, born 1938, is familiar with the legends of the Ötztal. He finished his study of ethnology with a dissertation on the folklore in the Ötztal and its changes through tourism in the middle of the 70ies. Being close to home and nature is his life's paths: the founder and pioneer of many initiatives around language, culture and nature of the Alps. He is a dialect poet and mountain farmer.
This book is an indictment - against modern life, the mass tourism, the lack of harmony with nature. Who has seen huge destinations such as Sölden in the Tyrol or Obertauern in Salzburg, can understand how a local feels. A village that is mere scenery for the party, the fun and events for many people and in the off-season it feels like a ghost town. In the novel of Haid the words used differ.
Reading it hurts, symbols that are more then obvious, the varied repetitions, like a mantra, a rosary, sorrowful, very sorrowful. About 200 pages we read over and over parts of the Apocalypse, the analogy to alpine legends of Dananä, under the eternal ice, which is comparred to Sodom and Gomorrah. Looking away is easier than not-reading, over-reading. The book and its content is legitimate. Only, for whom was it written? Not for tender minds, that is clear: porn, sex, whore appear as terminology probably more often than sheep. Already the first chapter sets the theme well, followed by repetitions, some interesting facts, but we certainly wish that this is condensed and summarized in a nicer way. There has been much researched and interesting facts have been gathered. As a frequent reader, I would have normally put the book aside and probably not even the have read the usual 50 pages.
What disturbs: A general misanthropy to the book, as well as a disappointment and resignation of huge dam projects, blown away mountains, changed pasture area, built up villages and spectacle.
The women are anonymous - or creatures from another world, the so-called "Saligen" and wild women. Only in a short story there are acting women, the sister and niece of the old shepherds.
And the men, they are in the indictments horny bucks, Alpine bucks, glacier voluptuaries, village bossees. But are more often personified, get character, and especially in the role of the protagonist, the shepherd Virgil.
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