Pictures and Stories from a sunken world – the rare joy in the recollection of a preserved past.
Moustache-trainers, spittoons, plaster cast busts of Beethoven, the iceman delivering weekly, the lamplighter – Ilse Helbich, born 1923 in Vienna, remembers objects, professions and societal manners long forgotten. Not only the hateful family walks on Sundays, but also the secret outings to the spooky spots in the shantytowns and other socially unfamiliar environments are called to life in this panorama. Without nostalgia, without minimisation, those memories gradually draw a comprehensive picture of a Viennese childhood, a girl’s childhood, slowly grow into an upper-class family portrait and eventually, by the 1930s, depict the political horrors of National Socialism.
And just as only a calm and clear sea allows you to catch a glimpse of the houses of sunken Vineta, only a calm and clear mind can produce such precise, graphic and intense pictures. Ilse Helbich’s empathy, the distanced yet compassionate look she casts at the girl she used to be are a real reward for every reader. Her craftsmanship in bringing out the light and dark colours of her story makes for undiminished reading bliss.