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What makes writing an intoxicating event? What fuels literature?

The new special exhibition in the Austrian National Library’s Literature Museum explores the states of euphoria and ecstasy that writing evokes. Moreover, it shifts the focus onto those literary texts that, in a variety of ways, deal with the intoxication, pleasure, trance, ecstasy and physicality of writing.

Various substances stimulate literary imagination. At the same time, utmost concentration and self-discipline can be the necessary preconditions of literary work. The spectrum ranges from the “hashish episode” in Ingeborg Bachmann’s fragmentary novel “Der Fall Franza” to Mela Hartwig’s volume of stories “Ekstasen”, or to those fits of rage and frenzy that are recurring motifs in Heimito von Doderer’s prose works. Franz Kafka’s ascetic, matter-of-fact style of language meets with Gert Jonke’s ecstatic text compositions; Josef Winkler’s obsessive writing is presented alongside some examples of Karl Kraus’ proofreading excesses.

Precious original exhibits, complemented by staged photographs and historical documents, illuminate the relationship between writing and literary ecstasy.

“The High of Writing” – an exhibition about literature between excess and ascesis.


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