Bad Words: Selected Short Prose
“I now no longer use the better words.”Ilse Aichinger (1921–2016) was one of the most important writers of postwar Austrian and German literature. Born in 1921 to a Jewish mother, she survived World War II in Vienna, while her twin sister Helga escaped with one of the last Kindertransporte to England in 1938. Many of their relatives were deported and murdered. Those losses make themselves felt throughout Aichinger’s writing, which since her first and only novel, The Greater Hope, in 1948, has highlighted displacement, estrangement, and a sharp skepticism toward language.
By 1976, when she published Bad Words in German, her writing had become powerfully poetic, dense, and experimental. This volume presents the whole of the original Bad Words in English for the first time, along with a selection of Aichinger’s other short stories of the period; together, they demonstrate her courageous effort to create and deploy a language unmarred by misleading certainties, preconceived rules, or implicit ideologies.